A Missionary Experience with the Young

“That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched concerning the Word of life (…)  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. (1 John 1-4)

At the end of our service-camp in Albania, lived together with the high school students of the Vincentian Youth of Central Italy, these simple words from John’s first letter express well the desire to share what we have in our hearts.

The group was made up of 16 boys, a Vincentian seminarian (Brice), Father Francesco Gusmeroli, CM and three Daughters of Charity (Sister Elisabetta, Sister Gresi and Sister Costanza). We left without knowing exactly what and who were waiting for us; we had been asked to split up into service groups but we weren’t clear what we were called to do.  However, we had a certainty in our hearts: we knew that the Lord was waiting for us there, in that land, in that people. We prepared by asking the boys to pack a good dose of “adaptability” and a lot of trust in Providence. Even before leaving, we felt the strong need to convey to the young the importance of “clearing” their lives of all that was unnecessary, it was important for all of us to “leave empty-handed,” it was important to “remove,” “clean up,” and “make space”: the essentiality and purity of a gaze… St. Vincent would like to call them humility and simplicity!

We arrived in Scutari in the middle of the night and we immediately experienced the hospitality of this people in the warm welcome of the Mission Fathers who were really like “brothers.” The Missionaries, together with our sisters, the Daughters of Charity of Scutari and the Daughters of Divine Charity, opened their homes and their hearts; they took us by the hand and on tiptoe, accompanied us to an encounter with God, a God who is relationship and who manifests Himself in the relationship!

Yes, Mission is first of all “establishing contact” and realizing that whoever is before us is not a stranger but a “brother/sister.” Thanks to the service carried out for several years by our Vincentian missionaries and our Sisters, it was very easy for us to make contact; we didn’t have to struggle to establish relationships with the people we met, we didn’t have to “enter,” we were already inside! It was not necessary to wait for introductions … we immediately understood that even before knowing each other’s names, we could feel we were among brothers and sisters by the joy with which we were welcomed and the hugs we received.

We have been…

Brothers and sisters in Golem, a small village in a poor area where we joined the Vincentians and the young Albanian animators for the service to the children of the village. The music, the dance, the colours, the songs, the games have allowed us to experience fraternity despite the language barrier.

Brothers and sisters in Scutari where we came face-to-face with different forms of poverty that have shaken and provoked us. The psychiatric hospital, the retirement home, the orphanage, the center for those who are disabled have become our meeting places.

Brothers and sisters in home visits. The afternoon was devoted to home visits. Divided into 9 groups of 4-5 people (both Italian and Albanian) the home visits were a great opportunity to encounter the poverty of this place and at the same time, the richness of this culture and this people.

Brothers and sisters in the footsteps of the Albanian martyrs. We lived a day in the footsteps of the Albanian martyrs. During the years of communism, the regime stole everything but not the soul and faith of this people.

Brothers and sisters meeting the elders of the parish. A family moment that certainly warmed the heart.

– Brothers and sisters among young Albanese Vincentians. We too experienced our little WYD … we followed the Pope on television, we shared moments of service and celebration with the young people of Albania and this really made us feel part of a Whole that is much more than the sum of the individual … we felt Church!

Brothers and sisters, therefore responsible for one another’s life, one with the other’s history!

At the end of this experience we can say that the Lord has truly touched our hearts and the hearts of the young people. We set out trying to free up space and that space was filled up by faces, names, stories… which today we want to give back to you and to those who live next door. Now what can we do?

Perhaps the greatest suffering is realizing that we can do little; we are often powerless in the face of certain political systems and social structures but in the “little” that we are called to do: surely it is important to “denounce,” to speak out, to engage and then, in the Vincentian style with humility, simplicity and charity, we must do what the Missionaries and Daughters of Charity do in that land: be there!

Sister Elisabetta, Sister Gresi, Sister Costanza

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