We know Francesca better. She is 25 years old, from Solagna, in the province of Vicenza, and she is one of the young people who are living the experience of the Youth Project in Loppiano.

“I have never been part of the Focolare Movement, even though I have always known of it and of Loppiano from my father, who is a volunteer in the movement…”. This is how Francesca begins, trying to tell us how she decided to spend this year in Loppiano, thanks to the experience of the Youth Project. “When I grew up, I actively got involved in the parish to help my father with catechetical work. Then, four years ago, I began to be part of the ACR (Catholic Action for Children). I was the contact person of the coordinators in the Parish Council Center and, last year a member in the Parish Council itself,…”. Parallel to all this vivacity of commitment, Francesca studied and graduated from the Agricultural Institute and then enrolled at the University of Padua, where she obtained a three-year degree in “Education and Training Sciences”. She decided to continue her studies to become an educator in the social sciences.

Well, that was her life, in brief, at least until two years ago, when… “One evening two years ago, my father said to me: “Do you know that in Bassano there will be a meeting with Benedetto Gui who will talk about the Economy of Communion? Gee, I guess…How interesting! And I found myself going there”. Perhaps, one can’t really speak of “a shock” but something must have triggered a desire in Francesca to know more about that thing that her father gave witness to with his life: “I always saw in my father a different way of relating to God that fascinated me. He has a capacity for trust and knowledge of God and the Christian life that other people do not have. This vision of God as Love… I realized that the youth of my age do not have this vision of Him! I wanted to understand where he got it from, and the meeting with Benedetto Gui was just right in line with this desire of mine…”.

So, Francesca contacted some of her father’s old friends, Franco and Beatrice Cardinali, a family from Loppiano, who in turn put her in touch with Paola Serafini, of the Youth Project. “I came down to Loppiano for the first time to stay for twenty days between April and May 2019, during our university break. I was very tired because we had lived an intense period at the parish,with lots of changes… But as soon as I entered the church alone, I felt like an embrace, something from deep within, that I never felt before, I felt, I really understood how much God loved me for who I was with my strengths and weaknesses”. Francesca then asked Paola if she could live those days like any other inhabitant in Loppiano, without having to attend big meetings, just daily living. “I felt at home. Everyone knew me and greeted me, introduced themselves, even if it was not hard to recognize me, because in those days, I had purple hair! Then, on Palm Sunday, I understood that I wanted to come back and stay for a longer period, perhaps also to work…”.

As soon as Francesca returned home she started to find different ways to come back. Not even ten days had passed when she received a message from Beatrice Cerrino, from the Lionello Bonfanti Industrial Park.  Beatrice told her about the chance of making her dream come true, that is by doing civil service work with the association “SALVE! – HEALTH TO SHARE ONLUS” an association which has its headquarters at the Industrial Park close to Loppiano. “Even though I was in the middle of our exams I left to fill out the request and all the documents that I needed and … on September 24 I came back! All things came “to a head”: I found out more about the association “Salve!” which is essential to my profession. Then my thesis supervisor proposed that I write my dissertation on the pedagogy of the Focolare Movement, and it seemed to me as if someone was showing me the way, the way that I had to go”.

And, at the end of this long journey, what is your experience like  with the Youth Project in Loppiano?

“I feel that this is the right place to deepen my vocation as an educator. I realized that I cannot separate the religious aspect of who I am. Can I be enriched by this spirituality that has always been a part of me? I live in continuous research, both at the level of studies and of life. And the encounter with the “other”, that I make starting from home helps me! I live 24 hours a day with other girls whom I did not know, who have cultural baggage completely different from mine and who, like Debora from Brescia and Tereza from the Czech Republic, are not part of the Focolare Movement. Only Catalina from Ecuador and Clara, who is part Panamanian and part Colombian, are Gen (Youth of the Focolare). Here, we live a daily experience of fraternity and love. It is an experience that gives you so much that you have to live it because words cannot describe it. Even with the guys of the Youth Project we live like brothers and sisters. And it is the relationship with the other that  helps you to know more about yourself.”

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