It is true, with the pandemic everything is more difficult, even getting to Loppiano to attend one of the seven formation schools located in the little city. But Immaculate’s journey was a little longer than others…
Immaculate is 27 years old, has a degree in economics and is one of the new inhabitants of Loppiano. She arrived recently from Uganda to participate in the formation school for focolarine. It is a very long journey that began in 2019… However, let’s start from the beginning.
The discovery of the focolare
«I met the focolare while attending high school. I felt the desire to give my life to God but I did not know how…». Immaculate is at ease, while she talks about herself, sitting at one of the tables in the Auditorium bar. «I studied with the nuns. And then, I had a friend, Sista Maria, who was a religious at “Our Lady of Good Counsel” (Mother of Good Counsel): I liked her smile, she was so happy! I wanted to follow her, but I didn’t like the nuns’ habits!».
Then, one day, passing in front of a classroom, Immaculate heard a group of students singing a song that attracted her: «It said: “Unity, unity is a new way of life”, “Unity, unity is a new way, if we live for unity, Jesus will be among us”. Those girls were having a meeting of the Word of Life. When I started to participate, they suggested that we do an act of love in order to live the Gospel. This meant also cleaning the bathrooms. I did it well. And from then on I continued to attend their meetings».
After some time, Immaculate was invited to a Mariapolis, a gathering of a few days for those who wanted to know the spirit and lifestyle of the Focolare Movement. «The first thing that struck me was to see the priests and also the bishops washing the dishes with us, cooking together. I liked this simplicity. Then, during a workshop in which they presented the various vocations of the Movement, I met a focolarina, who explained that she was a consecrated woman! Immediately, without thinking twice, I said: this is my way!». It must have been like a lightning bolt hit her, because even today, when she tells it, she still beats her fist on the table, with a surprising decision: that meeting is for her the fruit of God’s love, her call. And because of the confidence she had with her parents, she told them everything. Her mother, Mary, understood her. But her father Pios did not understand at all. He didn’t agree to something so new in the Church: «He would have been happy if I had become a nun but “consecrated women wearing pants?” He really didn’t accept this!».
Immaculate graduated in economics and, at that point, she set a goal for herself: to work two years for her family, and then leave for Loppiano, to begin formation as a focolarina. This was also expected of her, being the oldest of nine children… It was not a question of saying no to God’s call, just of delaying her departure a little. «While I was doing my internship, however, I had no peace. Often before I went to sleep, reading the Bible, I would read the Gospel passage that said: “No one who has put his hand to the plow and then turns back, is fit for the kingdom of God” or “The foxes have their dens and the birds in the sky their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. In short, this call of God had become urgent! Thus, I understood that I could say yes to him, immediately.» Immaculate felt a great courage within her that made her persevere in her choice, even against her father’s will. She left to attend the pre-school in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Focolare little city called “Mariapolis Piero.”.
«One day, while I was still in Nairobi I went to the hospital for a medical check-up. And there I discovered that I was born with a cardiac malformation, with a “hole” in my heart». Immaculate was operated on in February 2019, just one month before what should have been her departure for Loppiano. «The surgeon after the operation told me: “God loves you, and you are lucky, because you were born like this and your body was not ruined by the malformation: God loves you! My father, then, began to understand and, during my graduation party, he gave me his blessing, and a statue of Our Lady to accompany me on my journey saying: “I love you, you are my daughter, but if God loves you more, I can’t stop you, go!”».
And after so much waiting, we asked her what impression she had of Loppiano. Immaculate answered slyly smiling. «I wanted to be here already in 2019 but God did not allow it. Now we are in 2020. I arrive here, and everything is closed because of Covid! The other focolarine cannot even arrive… On the other hand, I feel the love of God that is great, I feel the true family. This is my life. I am very happy to be able to help realize that “They may all be one.” What is lived here is true love».
Of course, in Loppiano one tries to live the law of love, but it must not always be easy, considering that one lives with people from many different countries, from many different cultures…
«Yes, it is difficult, because we all have different thoughts and ways of doing things,» Immaculate answers sincerely. «It is difficult when you don’t know how to start right away, or love without expecting. But if you put yourself in the spirit of wanting to understand the other, of not rushing to judge right away, if you love without expecting anything in return, if you use mercy, it also becomes easy.»
Therefore, at this point we ask her: Immaculate are you happy in the Focolare? Is there an experience that you have lived here that has made you understand more about the Focolare?
She remained silent for a long time, recollected, as if searching for the right experience to relate and then she says: «I will tell you this little experience, it seems funny but there is a great love behind it…» So, she tells us that one day, while her companions were at work, she had thought to prepare homemade bread for them, following a tutorial on YouTube. She had put all her love into it. In the end, it had taken a good shape too, but something must not have worked out because it was all burned!
«I was very disappointed, but my friends told me that we could use it in another way, that we could remove the crust and make more. I knew that I would have thrown it away when I got back from Mass…and I said to the person in charge of the focolare: “I made the bread with all my love but it didn’t work out, perhaps I did it out of vanity”. But she replied, “No, love has remained, it is not vanity”. When I returned, I found that half of the bread had already been eaten! I was so happy! They were also ready to eat something that was not good enough for me, to make me happy! That’s what the focolare is for me. In your mistake, they are always ready to love you.»