The experience of the Manaus focolare in helping the homeless. A way of being a Church that reaches out and going to the existential peripheries to seek out the most needy
A few months ago, a focolarino from the focolare in Manaus, Brazil, felt the desire to do something to help people in difficulty. So, he got in touch with various priests and nuns to make himself available. After about a month, the possibility arose to help with the “pastoral care of the street people”, that is to help the homeless. The whole focolare was involved: Renzo, Daniel, Francisco, Valdir and Junior.
Every Sunday evening in the square in front of the church “Nossa Senhora dos Remedios”, in the historic centre of the city, one of those places that is very crowded during the day and very dangerous at night, we help with a short Celebration of the Word, then we give the homeless a meal and stay with them to listen to them. They pray with us and share what they experience during the week.
Other volunteers give them a meal and quickly leave. The homeless recognise us and thank us because for them, being together, praying, talking, sharing their lives, being listened to, fills their souls as much as meals fill their bellies. They have told us this on several occasions.
Our presence is shaped by love, by always being available to exchange a few words and build relationships with everyone, including the pastoral team.
But all this is not enough. So, every Friday afternoon, we offer to help the homeless with a shower or a change of clothes, donated by generous people.
We have also involved the Focolare Community to collect clothes, shoes, slippers… and it is great to see the understanding towards this action and to receive very positive echoes every time we communicate this experience: many encourage us to continue or come to help.
Unfortunately, with the lockdown for covid, various activities to help the poorest people have stopped.
So, we met online to work out what to do, and Archbishop Leonardo Steiner was also present. He was impressed by the situation and donated a sum of money to continue to offer one meal a day, for 20 days, for two hundred people, divided between two large squares in the city centre.
Of course, working for two or three hours with all the necessary safety equipment and the heat of Manaus is tiring, but it is also a concrete way of going to the existential peripheries, to seek out the neediest, the Father’s favourites, offering the pain of being able to do so little in the face of these Abandoned Jesuses with so many needs, and we cannot do more for them than to give them a smile, a listening ear and our love.
Providence is not lacking: the authorities of the Public Ministry (of Labour) have sought us out to give us money and resources to guarantee three hundred meals for 15 more days. This means more work for us volunteers, but you can’t say no to such providence and then we believe that God will manifest Himself to give us the energy and health or other volunteers to help us.
This experience makes us live even more our vocation and as a Church that reaches out, which puts us in direct contact with the “real world”.
The focolarini of the focolare of Manaus