21.07.1929 – 21.01.2018 – Volunteer – “You only have words of eternal life.” (John 6.68) Leave everything and come and build my city”. The life of Luigi Balduzzi can be summarized in this single sentence.

“I was 14 or 15 years old and one Sunday morning I was up at my father’s house, close to the mountain. And there, while I was grazing the cows, I do not remember if I was praying the rosary, but looking out over the plateau of Clusone, my hometown, I spontaneously said to Our Lady: when I grow up I will build you a cathedral.  So that afternoon of March 8, after having heard Chiara speak about Loppiano, how it could take shape, how it could have all the elements of a city, with civic authorities, religious, families, otherwise it would not be a city, and even factories, in short, I imagined I was there and I saw this extraordinary project that was coming to life.

I used to go to the chapel to pray and one day while I was there, something inside me shook me up and I felt I heard the voice of Mary telling me: leave everything and come and build my city.

I went back home and I spoke to Matteo, my brother, and to Maria, my wife, about what had happened to me. We thought a little about how we could do it, we considered how to fix things at work, how to deal with the children who already had their lives, friends, the church group. In early July, during the holidays, loading some of our things on a van, the whole family left to live permanently in Loppiano “.

Born in 1929, Luigi was the fourth son of a family of farmers in Val Seriana. In the beginning of the first post-war period, Luigi began working, first as an apprentice, then he went on his own. He opened a mechanical repair shop that, in the space of a few years, would become one of the most successful in the entire valley: Ducati, Moto Guzzi and a multitude of motorcycles would come under his roof.

He was a municipal councilor, was involved in Catholic Action, in Unitalsi, a volunteer worker in pilgrimages to Lourdes. He led an almost frenetic life and was perfectly integrated into the local community. In ’63 there was a new impulse to work and he planned to build a new mechanical repair shop. But Tino Piazza, his brother-in-law, who was construction manager of the building project, besides talking about reinforced concrete, spoke to him of an exciting life he discovered through young people he went to visit in Milan. This was Luigi’s meeting with the Focolare Movement which led him to his first Mariapolis in Merano, and then the totalitarian choice of God in the branch of the Volunteers, that culminated in that move to Loppiano during  the first week of July 1968.

Loppiano would become a real turning point in Luigi’s life. When his brother Matteo also moved to Loppiano a few years later, they closed their Bergamo office, sold the repair shop, and the two brothers for more than forty years became the car repairers of the permanent Mariapolis. This workshop became a hub, a crossroads for encounters, not only for the work they did for all the people of Loppiano, from members of Gen Rosso to the schools of formation, from the Ave Center to Gen Verde, from Azur to Claritas and to Fantasy. And together with the other first families that came to Loppiano, they formed the backbone of the nascent town, the pioneers of this adventure.

“Since the families who had moved to Loppiano had no home, Ivan, a Volunteer from Arezzo, and I came up with the idea of getting funds from the Italian Volunteers in order to build houses for families already living in Loppiano and for those who would come later. We talked to Turnea and Augusto, who wrote this suggestion to Chiara. Then Turnea told me that … I can still hear his words: “Chiara read this letter carefully … then she stopped for a moment, and she said … this is an inventive idea of Mary, to build her city.” Thus the idea of creating a cooperative that would buy land and even houses came about.”

Luigi lived an intense life, full of crucial points and courageous choices, strengthened by an adamant faith and an unshakeable adhesion to the ideal that had fascinated him. “Grandpa has fulfilled his dreams, and few people can say that,” his grandchildren said at the funeral. “It is a funeral that a priest would never want to do: it’s something that has never happened to me, because Luigi was born in paradise, already from this earth he was there, and so he is here with us, alive,” Fr Mario Bodega recounted during his homily, also recalling Luigi’s Word of Life “You alone have words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

On the night of January 21, 2018, Luigi fell asleep and from that sleep never woke up, silently passing from one life to another. Just as it was in his style.

Although it might be just a coincidence, we would like to consider the subsequent announcement of the Pope’s visit to Loppiano, scheduled for May 10, almost as if it were Luigi’s gift to the city that he had loved so much.

Luigi’s children – Barbara, Maras and Mite

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