“Networking – The Church’s Touchbase”: a four-day event together, with meetings, debates, workshops for young priests and seminarians who want to be at God’s service, active in facing the challenges put to them by people and society today.
Fr Justin Nary is 42 and comes from the Central African Republic. He talks so calmly, as if he were referring to someone else, and narrates of those over 2,000 Muslims he had taken in, risking his own life to save them from the deadly violence that has recently bloodied his country. Just before this, Fr. Josef Pal, a Romanian, had recounted his own efforts to set up a number of ecumenical and social events in his city, where people of non-religious beliefs, were able to dialogue with civil institutions and also in the parishes. These fragments of true life, the stories of priests “passionately dedicated to humanity,” were shared with the 268 participants of the “Net-working – The Church’s Touchbase” meeting for priests, seminarians and individuals oriented towards priesthood and held in Loppiano from 19 to 22 August.
“We wished to address the new generation of priests – Fr Alexander Duno of the Focolare’s Center for Priests, explained – and there was a massive response: the participants spoke 12 different languages and came from 38 countries, mostly Europe, with representatives from Africa, Asia and the Americas. There were great expectations for these four days, focused on the image of the “network” and all were eager to learn, participate and share the lives and dramatic experiences lived by their own people.
Also the International Centre of Loppiano gave its support for the dual theme of dialogue-communion and welcomed the participants with that typical warmth which has become the distinctive mark of its 50 years of existence. This was an open workshop where experts, teachers and participants formed an only working team, and who not only attended the plenary sessions but also the 27 thematic workshops emceed by international professionals. The themes focused on the family, economy, politics, cultural and religious pluralism, dialogue with Islam and the great religions.
Open debates were held on the Church’s going out towards the existential outskirts and the present-day profile of the parish as a “community network.” Great attention was paid to the crucial issues in the lives of priests today: their life balance, the gift and challenge of celibacy, solitude and ways of living a community life, capacity to dialogue in the midst of conflicts and social challenges. A first series of these workshops centred on the modern-day scenarios and unveiled the fact that beyond the crises, there are realities that give concrete examples of brotherhood, and communities that give their response full of hope. Also the workshops on the current realities of the Church today were fully booked. All resulted in drawing the profile of the Church as a lively body, open to dialogue, and which does not retreat in face of contemporary novelties, but pushes itself deeply into the crossroads of history, to enlighten it with the perspective given by the evangelical Word of Unity, lived through relationships and groups that make of communion and sharing, their very strong point.
“During these days,”remarked Fr Stefano Isolan, a young priest of Fiesole, in Florence, “we experienced the beauty of our being priests and not isolated individuals, full of commitments and meetings; we really lived the experience of being the knots of a net, important for one another.” “I experienced the joy of having so many brothers,” an evangelical pastor from Serbia commented, “It made me feel that love which unites us, even if we belong to different Churches.” A young seminarian declared: “The idea of communion is not just a notion in my head, it penetrates into my life.” Another said: “Though we are so different from one another, we were able to confide in each other. The workshops were really a great help.”
The atmosphere that reigned was joy and new hope in having experienced what Pope Francis said before all the Asian Bishops in his recent trip to Korea, when he wished “authentic dialogue” would rise from “a capacity to empathize with others (…) which is the fruit of our spiritual outlook and personal experience which brings us to consider each other as brothers and sisters.”
Now that the meeting has ended, the challenge continues on a national, European and worldwide level: in the parishes, communities, side by side with the people, and in the cities where the priests and seminarians returned to, with the desire to continue putting into practice the phrase of St. Paul which was chosen as the meeting’s motto: “Receive one another the way Christ has received you».
Visit website: networking2014.focolare.org