Mario is 23 years of age, Alessandro 22 and Tiziana 44. This summer they left for Cuba, Romania and Peru respectively for a missionary experience. Three profoundly different stories and destinations; Three projects with a common denominator: more than physical work, encounters of solidarity, and commitment to build bridges of friendship.
Mario: Destination Cuba
Mario has a degree in philosophy and a job in a large publishing house. The desire to leave for the mission grew over the years. “I wanted to experience a world about which I heard, to return to life, to stop and love,” he recounts. The dream came true on July 29 arriving in Havana together with about 50 young people from all over Italy who accepted the initiative of the Student Missionary League, a youth branch of the “The Christian Life Communities” (CLC), which has been working in Cuba for 20 years. The objective is to offer formation and support activities directed towards the people of Cuba, meditating in the morning on the words of Don Lorenzo Milani.
A first group is being offered service at the Italian school, hosted at the Community of Sant’Egidio Headquarters in Havana and within the walls of the splendid former Jesuit college in Belém. Five classes were set up for four different audiences: children, adolescents, youth and the elderly. A second group was involved in parish animation activities while the third group carried out activities to support the disabled people housed at the Edad de Oro care centre. The celebrations at the end of the day and the evenings where everyone gathered were occasions for sharing and reviewing ongoing experiences, such as the weekend of relaxation spent together in Varadero.
“Sheltered from any tourist experience and in harmony with the place that hosted us, we were able to reflect on the many daily problems that almost tear our time apart. The war waged by the European world was continually a topic of reflection, alongside the many thoughts devoted to the country visited, testifying that the everyday problems cannot – nor should – be separated from an understanding of the macroscopic dynamics of our time. In this way, the inside and the outside, Cuba and the world, never strayed far from the group’s reflections. The message is clear: “I care”. There is still a light, “a burden to value,” “a time to gather.” In a world marked by conflict and fear it is still “the good man” of the book of Sirach (29:8-14) who vouches for his neighbour.”
Alessandro: destination Romania
“I left in July for Sighet. These were fifteen intense days spent in the different volunteer works, the family homes in Batrani, and the psychiatric hospital in Sighet. Together with my other companions, I was able to create a smile, a relaxed moment, a chat with the guests of these different facilities, experiencing the joy of service and total freedom during these moments. These are simple gestures that make people love life and their neighbour much more. It was a strong experience of solidarity with the poorest and most marginalized in communion with the Latin Catholic community that hosts the volunteers in their homes.
And then experiencing the mission, through service activities, in the pursuit of a personal and community journey of faith. Among the proposed activities were assistance to Ukrainian refugees, who were the first to be welcomed in the Family Houses founded in Sighet in recent years, Italian and English language courses, animation with disabled children, assistance to the elderly, and animation at the municipal hospital. A time of common prayer in the morning and evening punctuated the days, along with the celebration of Mass.
They say eyes are the mirror of the soul. In the eyes of these people I met, I was able to recognise and experience the suffering, but at the same time the joy that each of the children and the elderly living in these facilities gave me.”
Tiziana: destination Peru
“Titti”, a psychotherapist seconded to the notarial office, left in August for Peru for the 11th time. “A homecoming,” she explains, alongside street children in the project sponsored by the Christian Life Community and Society of Peru.
“The camp was launched by a group from the Student Missionary League of Turin after meeting Judith Villalobos Vargas, a woman from Trujillo who decided to dedicate her life to niños abandoned and victims of family violence.” Thus 25 years ago the Centre for Family Care and Education was set up, which over the years has taken in more than 700 children from 0 to 18 years, assisted entire communities on the outskirts of Trujillo such as Taquila and Torres de San Borja, and now, in the aftermath of the pandemic, assists about 60 families through the “Compartir” project, distributing food donated by a large Peruvian supermarket and organising formation meetings for mothers on issues related to running a home and daily life.
“The home currently houses 21 children, some of whom are very young. The operators, all Peruvian, are about a dozen and every day they work in an unimaginable way so that the child who enters the home begins a personal journey re-claiming their life, their age, discovering that adults can be trusted and that there is free love that they have every right to receive.”
There are so many volunteers from all over Italy. “Going there, although amidst many difficulties, makes me happy and gives me fulfilment. The responsibilities have increased, and it seems we never do enough, the worries are many, almost always related to economic aspects. Getting my hands dirty for me is prayer, an encounter with God. The Lord makes my heart vibrate with the humblest people.”
This article was first published in Italian on Il Santo dei Miracoli