«I had been unjustly accused before the entire parish council. My answer was: silence, tears. After three days there was a phone call from that person, broken with emotion: “Will you forgive me?” and the answer, “I have already forgiven!!! Then a thought came to mind: it was not enough to forgive, but I could do more. So I invited that person to dinner, and a friendship was born, which will never be broken.» This is the story of Berenice, mother of three children, and a catechist for over 20 years, and then a minister of the Word in the five communities that make up the parish of Immaculata Conceção, in one of the peripheral districts of the immense city of Sao Paolo.
These were flash backs of the many experiences recounted during the two “Schools of Communion” of the Parish Movement – branch of the Focolare Movement in the local Church – held from 22 to 24 January in the Ginetta Mariapolis, in Vargem Grande Paulista (SP) and from 30 to 31 January in the Mariapolis (Igarassu-Recife).
The encounters focused on: Unity, the specific charism of the Focolare, with a particular stress on Mercy in this Holy Year. These were attended by 300 people consisting of the youth, lay adults, religious, seminarians, deacons and priests of 116 parishes in 27 dioceses from 16 Brazilian states. Together they testified to the force of forgiveness and mercy of evangelical love, which make the parish a community of communities, when this force and mercy are lived among the members of the movements.”
There were numberless fruits of the Word of God put into practice: in the districts of the outskirts where the laity took charge of finding the facilities to host the growing numbers of the faithful and the youth, who dedicated themselves to the various pastoral activities in the prisons or parish social works where the priority is to listen and pay attention to the person rather than to organization and material aid. Some undertook to initiate small encounters in the parishioners’ homes, bringing the Word of Life to the lives of families that are oftentimes far from the Church as in the case of Maria Hélia from a community of Marechal Deodoro. Bernadete lives in João Pessoa and is a catechist in the parish of Baby Jesus and a member of the archdiocesan team of catechists. She tries to share what she lives with a great openness to dialogue, starting from her family and relatives who belong to the evangelical church and Pentecostal associations. On Christmas Day she managed to involve everyone – including her husband who is not a Church goer – in a sketch of the birth of Jesus. “A spirit of dialogue and unity was established among all of us. We had a real Christmas!”
During the conclusive meeting, the commitment declared by all was to become builders of unity within the communities, creating relationships in which, through mutual love, the Risen Christ is present and attracts and transforms everything, irradiating peace and joy. The objective was this: to have an open heart and fulfill “Jesus’ dream” when he prayed to the Father ”that all may be one.”