In the 1980s, Loppiano had opened its doors to some young people with drug problems. Renata played an important role in supporting and helping them in their rehabilitation. Sandro Bosio had come for 15 days that became 20, and now he’s been here for 20 years. He tells about “his” Renata as we celebrate the 31st anniversary of her death. 

 

«When I was a boy, some friends and I found ourselves around drugs. At first it was “light” stuff, later it was also heavier stuff. For nine years. To the point that after the umpteenth attempt at detoxification, thanks to a Focolare family that had taken me in during that period, my life went through a radical change of direction. It was a discovery of the Gospel, as I saw it being lived out in a concrete way in daily life. Now my life had a meaning, a deep meaning.

So, when I came to Loppiano I was already finished with drugs. But I was in that phase of rehabilitation in which you need a lot of support. One of my peers was already here, Claudio, who was also in rehabilitation. We started to work and take an active part, inasmuch as we could, in the life of the town. From the two initiates that we were, in time we were able to look after a group of guys who, like us, were trying to put the drugs, thieving and jail time behind them.

Some of us managed it, others fell back into that hell. We lived in a small flat near a focolare. Renata Borlone gifted us more than once by coming to have supper with us and placing herself immediately within our reach. This way of acting of hers conquered me. For what regards me, always, every time that I found myself in front of her, I felt something I have never experienced before: I felt important and precious to her. With her mere presence, she made us feel privileged. She made us feel like the apples of her eyes, her favorites . . . It seemed like she lived for us. I recall how – despite being a woman of so few words – Renata, in fact, lived her faithfulness to the charism of unity in deeds rather than in words – there was never an embarrassing moment, an awkward silence that we were forced to fill with courteous words. She knew how to make herself small, almost to the point of disappearing, so that you could completely express yourself.  

I always felt that I could count on her, to tell her everything about me, as I would to a sister, to a mother. What touched me most deeply was her gaze: when our eyes met, even when she was with other people, it was as if she was all for me, she would brighten up and she was radiant. I felt, inside her eyes something that I could only define as supernatural.

Those encounters, that powerful presence of Renata was a determining factor in that journey of mine. Today I realize that it was Love with a capital L that Renata conveyed to me, that gave me the strength to carry on, beyond the difficulties, the fears, the temptation to turn back, which never went away.

Before arriving in Loppiano the only desire I had was to be somewhere where they would talk to me about God morning to night. From the first moment, Renata understood this thirst of mine and, little by little, quenched that thirst, making me experience God’s Love. She was also the one who made me rediscover the beauty and maternity of the Church.

When she was already in her last days, I wrote her a letter. I later learned that she kept it on her bedstand, because she wanted to answer me. Then it wasn’t possible, but it’s as if she did answer me.

I found the strength to begin a new life and, in turn, to help other girls and boys who had had the same experience as me, giving to them – as Renata had done with me – the hope, pardon and possibility of always starting over again…».

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