We continue our journey of discovery into the life of the Servant of God, Renata Borlone with the help of those who knew her. We offer the testimony of Father Sergio Raiteri, founder of the Marian Youth Mission, Civitavecchia, Italy.
«I was attending Liceo Classico and on my way to becoming a priest in the Order of the Somascan Fathers and Brothers. During the 1965 – 66 school year, I attended the Mariapolis in Varese and came into contact with the spirituality of unity, a new light in my faith journey, in my choice of life during those years following the Second Vatican Council.
That’s where I first met Renata who immediately became a strong pole of attraction for me. She sat in the first row, and I sat right behind her so that I could ask her questions that came to my mind when the meeting was over and the break was beginning. I was quite struck by the new image of Mary that emanated from the charism of Unity. And I remember that I asked Renata many questions about Her. But more than any of her individual answers, what still impressed on my soul is that maternal love of Mary that Renata conveyed to me.
I was finishinig Liceo and knew that I was going to be the assistant at a minor seminary in Sardinia. I told Renata: “I’ll go to Sardinia, but I need for you to keep after me on this way of Unity. If you don’t keep after me, I’m afraid I’ll go back to the way I was living before.” It was in those days that we had made a pact of “becoming saints together” through the way that Chiara had showed us revealing Jesus Crucified and Forsaken.
Renata lived that Pact with us to the end, with me and certainly with many others. As if by some mysterious connection – spiritual but real – Renata was able to be beside me every time I had to cross some river. . . And there were many rivers in my life.
In Sardinia life as an assistant of 25 boys wasn’t easy. I would write to Renata and tell her about my life. She never offered me the easy way; on the contrary, she made me refocus on Jesus, on unity with the Founder, with my Superiors. . . Thus, Renata had become an anchor who always drew me back into the supernatural life. After two years in Sardinia I found myself very tired, not just physically, and with many doubts that were growing in me as I observed the gaps between the talk and Religious life.
Just then, a postcard arrived: “We assure you of our constant remembrance in Jesus. Renata and the focolarinas of Loppiano.” These words made the universe inside me blossom again, and I asked my Superior if I could spend several days in Loppiano. I talked with Renata, told her my doubts, and she launched me into an unconditional choice of Jesus Crucified and Forsaken that was total and complete and only “out of love”. This step took a bit of time to blossom well in my heart . . . but I restated my radical yes to God, to live only for Him and my brothers and sisters.
In the 1970s there were strong changes happening everywhere, in society and in the Church. In the midst of that “tempest” when everybody insisted on their own ideas, their own proposals, Renata wrote to me:
“I remember you, Sergio! Your priesthood rests in the hands of Our Lady who will carry you safely to port, while reserving many graces just for you, graces of suffering”.
In March 1974, she wrote me on the occasion of my Ordination to the transitional Deaconate and gently informed me of her surgery:
“Jesus asked me a small contribution of suffering. . . I got sick and you were present in my thoughts, your deaconate, the offering of your life to God forever.”
In December of that year I was ordained to the priesthood and, two months later, Renata wrote to me:
“Just a few lines to let you know that we followed you on the day of your priesthood and continue to keep after you, so that your heart might be opened as wide as the heart of your Founder and the heart of Chiara to the whole human family. And that the prayer of Jesus may become your prayer: that all may be one.”
For the first years of my priesthood, I was taken by many activities and didn’t find the time to correspond with her. But Renata, forever faithful to our Pact, wrote to me:
“Today is Holy Thursday and you come to my mind. Since I haven’t had any news from you for so long, I wanted to get in touch with you to let you know that I remember you in Jesus, that you might always be faithful to the most beautiful calling in the world. Let’s be together in bringing forward our revolution, right Sergio?”
In January 1990 when I received the news of her illness, with the courage and the love of a son I wrote to her:
“Dearest Renata, Today I learned of your illness that is already in the advanced stages . . . Remember our Pact? Now I would like to ask with even greater faith that Mary will help us to belong totally to Jesus Forsaken. Through all these years you have been Mary for me and, now, I want to assure you of all my Unity as I offer myself with you to God, to Jesus Forsaken. Rest assured of my daily remembrance in the Holy Mass.”
I think that I can truthfully say that through Renata, Mary entered deeply into my life, and also in my priestly ministry I feel like I live that pure relationship of transparency of souls that find themselves to be One in God. And this reality has become a fundamental feature of the Marian Youth Mission Community” which began in 1998 right in Civitavecchia where Renata was born. Now it is a point of encounter for everyone, for consecrated men and women, families, young people and youths.»