Daniele, 35, is a chemist. Agnese, 32, is a teacher. They have been in Parma since 2017 and 2019 respectively. Here the Jesuits, until 2008, owned a house, where CLC groups met and where the experience of the Spiritual Exercises was offered. In 2007 the Jesuits decided to leave this house. A group of adults and families, who circled around the building, committed themselves to keeping it alive, and founded the San Rocco Association.
“The house is in the centre, next to the rectory,” Daniele explains. Formerly, it was a Jesuit college.
Before the Society left, it renovated the space, turning the small Jesuit rooms into flats so that some families could live there and keep the place open and welcoming.
Several outsiders also supported the project. Fr Enrico Simoncini, who was almost always present even though he did not live there, directed this new reality.
“From the stories we heard, so many people were assisted here,” Agnese highlights. “Fr. Simoncini was an extremely charismatic person, but when he passed away there was a great emptiness, and the people present were not able to carry on alone. One of the families that lived in the house left”. From 2016 to 2018, the community and the Association went through a period of crisis that led to a gradual decrease in activities until a real break took place, which lasted throughout the period of the Covid pandemic. The Society decided at that time to support the project by relaunching it through a process of discernment. First Fr. Davide Saporiti and then Fr. Stefano Bittasi supported and accompanied the group’s journey with great willingness and competence in reviewing their own experience and rediscovering new desires and horizons.
Daniele and Agnese arrived at this stage. “We met in Santiago de Compostela, and we discerned in prayer that we wanted to spend our lives for others, with a strong desire for community life. I was in the Pietre Vive as a volunteer and Daniele was a pilgrim. Fr Mariano Iacobellis, who was not yet a priest at the time, helped us on our journey as a couple, while Fr Jean-Paul Hernandez oriented us towards the reality of the Jesuits in Parma”.
In 2021, Julia was born. Activities started to take place again. These included online meetings with Fr Giulio Parnofiello for Advent, with Fr Jean-Luis Ska for Lent and Easter time, then with Fr Vincenzo Anselmo for a retreat in person. In March 2022, the desire to use the large flat on the fourth floor of the building to welcome people in difficulty became a reality: a collaboration with the association for refugees, CIAC, was established and two Afghan refugee families, eight people in all, were housed in the house. “During Easter we live in the space that used to belong to the Jesuits”.
“There are two things we desire: to journey with all the members of the association, to grow together and propose new initiatives, and to build a community with the other people living in the house. In building the community, we are now being guided on the way forward by a couple who have been living this community style in ‘The Tent of Abraham’ for about 25 years. We have been experimenting with this accompaniment for a year. Now it is a question of putting into practice what we have learnt”.
Besides community building, which is currently in the running-in phase, there is a rich calendar of planned activities: Spirituality and Prayer with a biblical weekend from 25 to 27 November, the experience of the Spiritual Exercises during Advent and Biblical Meditations during Lent and Easter time. These activities also include biblical psychodrama with Fr Beppe Bertagna, the Enneagram and three meetings on “Fabrizio De Andrè, singer of the poor”. “We also want to open the house for young people and interested adults”. “Difficulties and profound intuitions alternate” they confide, “but there is something that pushes us forward”.