The Gen boys and girls are young people who are part of the Focolare Movement. Those who attended the Gen School of Loppiano this year officially celebrated the conclusion of their formative period on Saturday, June 20th with a special ceremony. In addition to the traditional celebration, throwing the caps in the air, the Auditorium hosted strong moments of sharing – the stories of these ten months lived as a true family, which not even the isolation required by the pandemic could put into crisis. Here, below, are some of these experiences.
Arjae, from Thailand, recounts: «My family has been Buddhist since our ancestors. In time, however, I decided to become Catholic. It was a very difficult period because at heart I was afraid. I thought of how to build a united world and I admired what Chiara always repeated ‘may they all be one’. However, I couldn’t understand it clearly because I still didn’t know how to do it. Before coming here I didn’t know anything about the Gen School. But my experience made me clearly understand this sentence: how to be with others, how to spend my life with others, and how to understand each other». The formative experience lived in the little city was also very strong. «I am so happy that I would like to thank the focolarini and each person here in Loppiano, because they all helped to form me to be a new person, teaching me how to love, how to understand and how to be patient. I like listening to others’experiences of life because I can really understand how to apply them in my life too». And then, she gives us a pearl of wisdom good for all, to be lived in the “after” Loppiano: «A healthy life includes not only the physical aspect, but also mental and spiritual, with God’s love in our hearts. Thus, we are able to give others this precious gift that is in our hearts. My great-grandfather once taught me that “each of us is a diamond, no matter where you are, you will always be precious to others, but also precious to yourself”».
We asked George, who is originally from Lebanon, what his best memory of the experience at the Gen school in Loppiano is… he answered us with a long list of events, starting from his first day: «I arrived on October 12, 2019, right after finishing university. Working together with the other Gen for Chiara Luce’s event was my opportunity to easily get to know the others and their talents. It was the first time I danced in front of an audience!».
Then, there was the trip to Rome, with a visit to Chiara Lubich’s home, the Focolare Movement Center, the Gen 2 and Youth for a United World Center: «To share responsibilities and tasks, we divided ourselves into seven groups, one for each color of the rainbow. I chose the color green. The very strange thing for me was having to work without knowing what the other colors were doing, trusting that what they were doing was to create harmony». And then, December arrived: «The last week of the year was beautiful for me, with the celebration of Christmas and New Year. It was the first Christmas I celebrated without my parents and my brother, but the sight of all of Loppiano having lunch together gave me a sense of belonging to a family. And for New Year’s Eve, some prepared a dance, others sang and danced, others did a funny number. And then we met to celebrate the last moments of the year together».
Then, it was time to go to the Gen 2 Congress in Trent, on the occasion of Chiara Lubich’s centenary, with the beautiful exhibition dedicated to her: «Seeing in succession everything that happened before my birth impressed me a lot. I was able to see where and how our life began».
Then, the Coronavirus arrived, with the lockdown: «We stayed home doing what we could: we prayed and hoped that everything would go well, as soon as possible. Relationships outside of our home came to a stop and we began to miss all the contacts we had before. Today, thank God, the situation is improving and I feel that each one of these 20 Gen is part of my family».
George also has his pearl to give us before leaving: «A little before midnight, a few days ago, I was returning home after having done a job with other Gen, and I realized how precious every second is, especially how precious the present moment we are living right now is, together, here, in this place that I call Paradise».
«Truly, this is Paradise! Meeting a friend is meeting a love that gives light and comfort, and 10 months ago we met each other – and this is how, Elisa, Italian, introduces her experience of the Gen School in Loppiano-. We arrived with our suitcases here with the aim of participating in the Gen 2 School that Chiara Lubich has designed for the formation of the young leaders of the Gen Movement and for going into depth in this vocation of ours. Gen School 2019/2020: 54 young people from 30 nations who live the same ideal, but at the same time have very different lives. This diversity that apparently would have divided us was the strongest reason to build unity among us». But other surprises awaited the newcomers: «We soon discovered that this school is, in reality, an encounter with all the realities of the Focolare Movement and we immediately understood that we could not live this experience without living it together with everyone here in Loppiano. During these ten months we have experienced the presence of Jesus in the midst, we have embraced the pain of Jesus Forsaken and we have made room for Jesus the Teacher, because only He can make us truly enter into the beauty of the Gen life».
Even Elisa cannot help but talk about the lockdown experience: «Everything has stopped, all the programs, trips and events have been canceled: the event of May 1st in Loppiano, the dream of visiting Loreto and of seeing the Pope. Far from our families, feelings of worry, fear, and sadness set in, which were intertwined with a strong desire to return home, for many of us. But in your eyes, in those who are ready to give their lives for others, we saw the fire of hope and especially of Love. This period made us understand that the most important moment of our life is the present moment. We understood that by loving Jesus Forsaken without thinking too much about it, we receive a hundredfold. Jesus, in fact, made us capable of finding happiness in the simple things of every day and gave us creativity in love. Thanks to this moment, we all understood that Jesus offered us the opportunity to meet Him, to love Him and to spend this period of pandemic with Him in our midst».
And she concludes, not without being moved: «Because in reality, from the day we set foot in Loppiano, we began to be a family united in the bosom of the Father. Loppiano marked us deeply and now it is already time to pack our bags and go back to our countries, to our day to day living, so different and full of challenges. And when the sky seems to fall upon us, we are certain to meet again in the Eucharist, because Jesus who is in the Tabernacle is actually alive within us. Thank you, focolarini and focolarine, thank you priests, thank you, men and women religious, thank you, men and women volunteers, thank you, young people, thank you, families and all of you who have crossed our path, thank you, Loppiano!».