“We had gone to give a course in Goma, Congo (RDC). Forced to flee because of a volcanic erruption, he had to sell all the furniture quickly, unaware that his wife had hidden her life savings in the family divan! And these periodic misunderstandings caused by a lack of communucation between the couple were not uncommon.” The ones speaking were Diudonne Gatsinga, gynocologist, and Emerthe, economist who live in Kigali, Rwanda. They had been invited by the Synod on the Family as the people in charge of accompanying young families of the Focolare Movement in Congo, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
When they were young they had met a group of people who were living the Gospel in a radical way, drawing on the Focolare spirituality. “We took that spirituality for our own, also as a couple,” says Emerthe. “When we married we promised that we would not be closed in on ourselves, but giving of ourselves to others. That was 26 years ago. Now we have eight children, four are adpoted following the Rwandan Genocide. It wasn’t easy to raise eight children in such a difficult and critical social and economic period for our country, and with our painful past experience. But God helped us and now they’re all grown: two of them have already made us the proud grandparents of three children.”
They run a clinic together with twenty beds. “Because of my work,” Dieudonne recounts “I’m often in contact with mothers facing difficult pregnancies who would rather have abortions. Even though my days are quite busy, I felt that I should take all the time necessary to listen to those women, reassuring them and telling them about the sacredness of life. I have become the godfather of so many children who were born because of what I had said to their mothers.”
Problems in families are quite common in their area. Women who for many years have been subjected to submission would now like to assert themeselves. “Nowadays in Africa too,” Emerthe underscores, “many young women have access to a higher level of quality education and they no longer tolerate being submitted to men. But the men are not yet ready for a relationship of equality and do not know how to face this new situation with serenity.
Whenever we meet a young family,” Dieudonne says, “we try to offer them the good news of Christian matrimony. We recall the promses we made on the day of our marriage, that is, to be one, to walk together following four directions: deep communication, sharing family finances, sharing in the raising the children, and family prayer. This announcement offered through our daily experiences of living out the Gospel, produces a blossoming of hope for a more shared experience, a more joyful experience for married couples and children. I recall one man who had built a house without letting his wife know about it. He wanted to show his wife that he was able to do something. But she remained totally unaware of this desire because they never talked, and she continued in judging him. When they discovered this new vision of marriage they sought each other out and were reconciled.
“It’s always a joy to see young people who have conciously followed the faith,” says Emerthe, “then they decide on a Christian marriage with a sober reception, usually with the support of a community. When it happens despite their Christian preparation for marriage, they are not able to give up their previous lifestyle, we try to keep the relationship with them open. Then, when they feel ready to celebrate the sacrament, they feel more naturally inserted in the community and together they return to walking with us.
(Video in Italian)