[Province of Saint Vincent – Italy] The Pastoral Ministry of the Vincentian Youth of the Province of Saint Vincent-Italy organized, as usual, the “Exercises of Charity” from the 27th of December 2013 to the 2nd of January 2014. Twenty young people participated in this encounter, directed by a Daughter of Charity, and a Vincentian Priest. The exercises of Charity are a “full immersion,” which take place during Christmas time. This experience joins service, prayer, fraternal life and formation in charity. They are called “exercises” because they evoke spiritual exercises, that means to “exercise themselves” in order to grow in the relationship with God and, according to the Vincentian spirit, to be open to their neighbor and to share some time in their lives with the poor.
Here is the testimony of Anna and Lara, two young people who participated at the Exercises of Charity:
“The Exercises of Charity were a really new experience for me; it was a blessing and an unexpected gift being able to participate in this kind of experience. Having no terms of comparison or particular expectations, it was the first time I had such an experience, I lived those few days taking advantage of all those little gestures and kindnesses that I was able to receive. Each moment of prayer together was precious and unique … the exchange of gifts, the meeting with the Community of Bose, ‘our’ Te Deum and the familiar atmosphere of fraternal life have warmed up my heart with joy, but especially with gratitude for each person present in these moments. The reading and the sharing of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ has been my first approach to the documents of the Church; I had never had the chance to personally read the writings of Pope Francis and doing it this way helped me to perceive more clearly and more closely the invitation the Pope addressed to each and every one in particular. I was amazed and astonished the first time I did the service at ‘Caritas’, but having had the opportunity to celebrate the New Year’s Eve with and among the poor has undoubtedly enriched my already extraordinary experience by adding to it an indescribable value. The encounter with new persons has been another strong reason for joy and gratitude. I finish by giving thanks especially to Sr. Raffaella and to all those who once again made me feel welcomed in the ‘right place and at the right moment’; this is a feeling that I didn’t have very often and for this I thank the Lord from the bottom of my heart. I am taking my first steps on the path of charity in Vincentian Youth Ministry. My steps are still weak, but I hope to continue this journey in the Vincentian spirituality and His company…
Thanks for everything!” Anna G.
“Yes, everybody was there this evening at ‘Caritas’ to wait for the start of the New Year. On this evening nothing was missing. There was a cook, a ‘piano bar’ singer, a family father who had left his country and others who would soon return to their countries. All these people were sitting around that big table at New Year’s Eve. And they were not just irrelevant people. All of them had a name and their own background. Maybe not a really nice one or one we wouldn’t like to be told. Anyway, they had their own stories. And we were there with them. We had left our refuges, our ego’s, to come together, to live together a new beginning and to start a great year with some more hope. We had left our refuges, some were from another continent. Somebody from other Italian regions, others from other regions of Tuscany … and we formed one family around that table. We all were involved on the 31st of December: with food, games, and, even if out of tune, we sang together and danced even without having a sense of rhythm. We were Church (or at least we tried to be). Yes, that evening around the table there were several religions, but God loves us all impartially. Jesus dined with sinners, he spoke with prostitutes, touched lepers. We have tried to give a smile. We had in our hearts the desire to show a Church of joyful people who are not afraid to dirty their hands, a Church that is not limited to its own parish or to their own friends and acquaintances. It could be that our dreams are too high, but you know … ‘you’ll see miracles, if you believe.’ And that night, in that room, we experienced plenty of miracles.
Throughout the activities of the Vincentian Youth the Daughters of Charity of the Province San Vincenzo-Italia with the Vincentian Priests desire to transmit the beauty of the Vincentian charism to young people and accompany them in their search for happiness in Christ, the Lord of Life.
Sr. Raffaella DC