Laity meeting

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea...
 
Following a request by the International LSA Laity Commission and in response to our own desire, we programmed into our 2009-2010 community project some meetings to be held with the laypeople who are more aware of our life and who are close to our mission. 
Our missionary history in Catania and Palermo and the contacts we still have with some people there inspired us to invite them for a meeting at the end of the year in Naples. This meeting also involved the Fraternity of San Basilio and Franca Sessa, who participated with us in the preparation and running of the meeting. 
 
During the year we had some meetings in our house with the Naples group, following the themes of the papers: ’Look at the world with the eyes of the heart.’ 
 
We sent the guide for reflection and study we had prepared to a contact person in Catania and another in Palermo. 
The group in Catania undertook to follow this programme. 
Giovanna Giardina, on the occasion of a stay with her family, met the group in Catania and Rosaria met some friends from the mission in Palermo. 
 
During the months preceding the meeting we had moments of discouragement and uncertainty in the face of certain events, but the certainty that it was an inspiration of the Spirit and a challenge helped us to overcome the difficulties with faith and hope, encouraging one another in community. 
 
The meeting was held on the 29th and 30th of May in Naples. 
 
On Friday the 28th we received relatives of Giovanna Giardina, who had participated in our meetings on other occasions, and some friends for dinner. The dinner was prepared and offered by Carla and Rosaria, friends and collaborators of the LSA for many years past. 
 
On Saturdy the 29th, there were the other arrivals from Palermo and Rome: Franca Sessa and a French sister, Rose Marie, who was staying with the community of La Pineta. 
 
We had hired a minibus for a little cultural/touristic visit of the city. At lunchtime we were received by the St Egidio community at their reception centre for immigrants situated in the historic centre of the city. Together we ate the panini we had prepared and they told us about their activities. 
The whole day passed in a family atmosphere, one of joy and friendship, getting to know one another, enjoying and admiring the works of art, nature and noticing how dilapidated some areas are. 
 
The friends from Sicily stayed at the Pilgrims’ Hostel at the Shrine of the Madona dell’Arco, a few kilometres from our community. 
 
It was there that we met on Sunday the 30th with the San Basilio fraternity accompanied by Milla Bottero, and with Anna Chiapperini and the laypeople from Naples. The assembly numbered 57 persons.
The hall was decorated with posters showing the life of the Congregation. 
 
The theme of the meeting was: 
’Let us build a universal family,
a more human and fraternal world, 
a sign of the Reign of God.’
 
After the warm welcome we started with a time of prayer, reading the passage from Matthew 13:47 ’The Kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea...’ and together we wove a net using a ball of wool, mingling the history of each one and their encounter with the LSA. As we listened to one another the faces expressed emotion, joy, affection and great gratitude to the Lord as we remembered times of shared joy and pain. The community atmosphere facilitated the communication of the faith journey and the missionary commitment. 
This exchange highlighted aspects of our common journey. This was done by listening first to some short texts from our rule of life and from these emerged a common way of being together: the ’family spirit’ and the ’sense of belonging’. 
 
Here are some of those characteristic traits: 
 
The gift that Etienne Pernet and Antoinette Fage received and transmitted to those who desire to set out along the path of Jesus, Servant and Saviour, in order to build a world that is more human and fraternal so as to bring together the scattered children of God (Jn 11:52). On this journey we recognise that we belong to the large family of God. 
 
The diversity of the groups / common characteristics: a similar journey unites us: 
- people who are concerned about those who are in difficulty; 
- people who get together to carry out projects that seek to improve living conditions. 
“In a prayer that never ceases” (E. Pernet) – listen to the Word of God and let the spirit of Jesus change our outlook. 
 
With others, seek to create life settings in which each person is called by name, is invited to be creative and gradually to take part in the construction of the world. 
 
With a spirit of perseverance and hope in the certainty that God gives all persons the possibility of taking their lives in hand. 
 
After participating in the Eucharist at the Sanctuary we had lunch together, an occasion for discussing together; we had the feeling that we had been together for a long time!!
 
 
From the working groups: 
 
 – They expressed the desire to meet at least once a year so as to get to know one another and to compare notes. 
 – The net we had woven that morning stimulated a desire to continue supporting one another so as to be a sign and witness of the peaceful relations that are an opportunity for growth, this with the desire to strengthen our union.
 – Communication between the groups through the contact persons. 
 – Keep in mind the international meeting of the Fraternity in Rome in 2012.
 
We wrote out on a poster the keywords that came up at the meeting: 
Know one another better, mutual attention, journeying together, common action, support one another, witness, availability, challenge one another, make projects, meet one another, share :
 
- ’I was seized by the desire to help every¬body and to transmit faith, hope and love. I hope that my experience will be enriched by other meetings.’ (Ciro)
- - ’An experience that opened us up, we were a family.’ (Liliana) 
’We experienced a family atmosphere, as if we had known one another for a long time.’ (Anna)
- ’The affection I experienced during these days made up for the difficulties of time and distance.’ (Michela)
- ’So much joy and emotion in listening to the experiences of the others, the respect and the gratitude at having lived with the sisters some important moments in their life.’ (Rosaria) 
- ’The method with the ball of wool shortened the time of getting to know one another, at the end I had the impression that we had always known one another. We have a common aim: to be together in the name of the Lord, to break down all barriers of culture and customs so as to be at the service of others.’ (Fiorella)
 
Franca stressed that the Congregation is preparing to enter into the important time of the General Chapter. The laity from the countries where we have communities are involved in the preparation of the Chapter and some will participate.
 
The meeting concluded, in emotion and hope, with Psalm 84 and the prayer for unity, with a token in the form of a little dove given to each of us. 
We said our ’good-byes’ with songs typical of the various cities. 
 
We are grateful to the Lord who helped us to overcome our fears and uncertainties and led us to experience that the Reign of God is in our midst. We felt the power of the Spirit and the power of the Charism. 
 
We feel within ourselves greater strength to continue on this journey. 
We experienced, as the Rule of Life says:
’the love of God who saves in weakness and poverty.’
 
 
Sisters Anna, Rosaria, Giovanna and Franca 
 
12/04/2011
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