RIARIO SFORZA FAMILY HOME:
HERE, UNBOUNDED LOVE SAVES THE WOUNDED
The Bible and her mobile phone are Blessing’s loyal friends. Blessing has been living in the family home “Riario Sforza” for six years. “She’s our princess,” one of the operators jokes. For some time she moves thanks to a wheelchair. She went from Nigeria to the Camaldoli district of Naples, in this three-storey house where, since 2003, those looking for a home to live in, have found acceptance and a proposal for life.
The House was born as a work of the diocesan Caritas for terminally ill HIV patients, and it was entrusted to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Surrounded by greenery, in a suburban area of the city, it is not far from “Cotugno”, the hospital that specializes in infectious diseases. Once a week, a team of the hospital specialists, dedicated to domiciliary hospital service, follows the guests of the facility. When the family home was opened, it was a “candidate” to be a host for those who had only chance on the road. Twenty years ago that meant dying abandoned in some dark corner. “We have always favoured the last of the last”, says Sister Marisa Pitrella, who has been coordinating the house since 2016.
Today, thanks to progress in care, the center mostly offers guests a path of recovery, for total or partial autonomy. “The greatest joy is having girls who have taken their lives in their hands and, thanks to stable relationships they have managed to raise a family and today they also have children and a happy life ahead.” Four girls have had children; a couple has formed in the family home. “Twenty years ago, thinking of being able to have a” normal” life after HIV infection was impossible; today by following the therapy and staying under control they can have children without risks.”
Sr Marisa is a specialized nurse and with Alessandra and Cecilia, sisters who have the same qualification, leads the building. Although the House has changed its purpose over the years – not only for terminally ill patients – the criterion for reception remains unchanged. “Demand far exceeds supply. We had to say no to so many, knowing that someone could still die in the street. In the region ‘Campania’ there are only two structures, ours and another around the station in Naples. In all there are about twenty places “.
The ten current guests, men and women, are from 28 to 64 years old but in the past, says Sr. Marisa, “we also had 73-year-olds and 18-year-olds who became HIV-positive because of unprotected occasional sexual intercourse.” The hardness of the experience, the fact of having accompanied several people until death, forms an undiplomatic and very concrete language. Both by the Sister and the guests of the house, who do not have problems in getting photographed and telling their stories, because “what happened to us can help others not to fall into the same mistakes,” says Ciro, who occasionally needs the respirator.
Leafing through the calendars of the various years, which tell the life of the small community, Ciro shows the friends present, those who left the house to raise a family, others who did not make it. Moments of parties and trips to the sea or in the mountains, now postponed to a date to be allocated, because of the presence of four guests confined to bed. “When we can always have a party here, every occasion is good,” says Sr Marisa.
Initially welcomed with great suspicion and some protest, the House and its small community – the guests, the three Sisters, plus seven operators and some volunteers – over the years has become a presence to which even the neighborhood has become accustomed. The guests attend the local parish, and local farmers have donated a small plot of land for the cultivation of cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes as well as giving some suggestions for garden care.
“The service with people affected by HIV only requires more attention, but the demand of tenderness is the same as those who live in suffering: they need a gratuitous love that takes care of the wounds,” says Sister Marisa. “At the center of our charism, as Daughters of Charity, there is the service of Christ in those who are poor, with humility, charity and simplicity. The poor are our teachers, Lords and Masters “.
A charism that the three sisters live concretely in the House at Camaldoli, where their guests follow a specific program, with personal paths. “The first proposal, which is the same for everyone, aims to restore health: if you are a drug addict, you will scale down with methadone until you are free from addiction. Then, if needed, to the recovery of the affections, to mend a link with their families. The stay at the House is temporary until they can walk alone and have acquired autonomy.” About 60 people have passed through in 14 years. The days at the home include personalized programs and common workshops from decoupage, to kitchen work, to sewing, to the vegetable garden. an occupation on which the Sisters invest so much. “The sense of this last laboratory is very important,” says Sr Marisa. “If a small seed can bloom, they too, with a lot of patience and care for themselves, can do it.”
Source: the magazine “Famiglia Cristiana”