Married focolarina, Elda Pardi, shares her memories of the Servant of God, Renata Borlone, whose body lies in the Shrine of Mary Theotokos in Loppiano. Elda had been a collaborator in the founding of the Loreto School for Families in 1983.
At the end of 1983, I found myself in Loppiano to help set up a school for families who wanted to enter more deeply into the Focolare spirituality. At that time I belonged to the same focolare as Renata, which opened me to the reality of the Focolare town, a totally new experience for me . . . As soon as Renata learned of the new school for families and seeing that there was no accommodation, and three families were ready to arrive from other continents, she immediately had three apartments that belonged to the School for Focolarinas vacated, so that they could be given to the families.
I was immediately impressed by her generous response and interest she took in seeing to their needs: the children’s schooling, providing a focolarina who could be their translator for the ones who didn’t speak Italian. She saw to everything, so that love would continue to grow among those married couples.
Renata also listened to my concerns about the programs for that new and original kind of school that we were starting. Without suggesting anything precise, she listened so deeply that I would leave her room with clearer thoughts about the programs. Being near to Renata, I felt a profound admiration for God’s call to virginity, which I was able to contemplate in her as a source of spiritual maternity that helped to make the world into one big family and to help natural families to be more united. I was fascinated by her life, along with my husband and children who didn’t belong to the Movement at that time.
I remember talking often with my husband about some problems the Focolare town was having with the local public administration, leading to strong disagreements. Renata never wanted them. When she nominated an administrator, she always called that person by name, preceded by the adjective “our.” For her, there were never any “others,” no “other side,” everyone was simply “ours.” And this feeling permeated the whole life of Renata; it was how she was in all of her relationships with others, whether they were from public institutions, or whatever convictions they had – she was concerned with creating bonds among people, building up the human family.
My husband, who followed the whole thing with his sense of justice, was quite touched by the attitude of Renata that could have appeared like that of a loser. A short time later, in the face of some huge tension with some relatives, he took the initiative with a mighty: “That’s enough! We need to do what Renata does: they’re ours.” And the dimension of love prevailed.
I believe that Renata opened the way to Heaven for my husband and for my son, Mario, who passed away a few years after her. My son, an actor and musician, continued to repeat a saying of Renata during the last days of his life: “Death isn’t death. Death is life.”