Five families from four continents are currently participating in the School of Loreto’s year of formation. Since 1982, 500 families have passed through, and for shorter periods of time, approximately 1,500 families. The School was inaugurated by Chiara Lubich, who also named it “Loreto.”
The ones who always get away with it are the children. They arrive in Loppiano, they do not know a word of Italian, they do not possess a language-bridge with their peers, but immediately they play with one another and understand each other wonderfully with the language of innocent spontaneity and with the heart, even when evincing some form of fragility or special need. In this way, they manage to draw their parents into initiating their first, uncertain conversations with the other adults present at Loreto School. It happened again this time, as families arrived at the citadel in September to begin their formation period which will extend until June 2023.
The backgrounds of the five families are quite diverse: South Korea and Brazil, Ivory Coast, Hungary and Italy. There are nine children. The little ones also reinforce the commitment of their parents’ challenge. It is the parents who feel how important the formation in the spirituality of communion is for the family, evidenced by the fact that they have uprooted the family from the usual network of relationships.
“The originality of the Loreto School has various facets,” – Luigi and Maddalena Triggiano, responsible for the school, point out. “It is a path that develops a comprehensive formation of the person, the couple and the family in light of the charism of unity. Consequently, experiences and cultural dynamics within the context of fraternity are added to a spiritual and human formation.” And they specify, “The period of the school is a time for the spirit and the months spent here suffice for giving each family and among families an evolution in relationships which produces a great effect, that of changing one’s outlook on the reality of the external environment and the world. It changes one’s approach to everything.”
At Loreto School, the families arrive in September to ensure the children’s inclusion in schools. A Hungarian couple tell of their children’s difficult start at the school in Incisa Valdarno. The first day of school will remain in their memory: the morning in the classroom without knowing Italian, without understanding the teacher’s proposals, without being able to relate to their classmates. “It was the worst day of my life,” one child said. This first period at Loreto School is not easy for the parents either. “After a while the desire to go home gets stronger,” Luisa Omenigrandi said, smiling, “In the end, though, they don’t want to leave.”
In other words, as the four couples (one from Costa Rica and three from Italy) who make up the group coordinating the experience point out, the Loreto School “is a story of many stories, including births, with countless anecdotes.” We cannot imagine how many more stories could be shared, as the Loreto School now celebrates 40 years since its inception. And the tally is impressive: 500 families have attended the entire course, with an average of 12 per year and with an average of 2 to 3 children per family. For shorter periods nearly 1,500 families have participated. Even the pandemic experience was not lacking, with families unable to return to their countries.
The Loreto School developed within the context of the New Families Movement which was founded by Chiara Lubich in 1967. This new reality could not fail to involve Loppiano, because soon there emerged the need to have a real school of formation, an open space for growth and exchange among the families of the world. Since then, a team of experts on family issues has been accompanying the School’s journey. It was Chiara who gave it its name: “Loreto”, from the town in the Marches region of central Italy where one can visit the little house that – according to tradition – hosted the Holy Family: Mary and Joseph with Jesus in their midst.
Thus the renovation of the first house in Loppiano began, the one in Montelfì, inaugurated by Chiara in 1975, with a commitment from the families of the Movement to shoulder the expenses. It became an adventure within an adventure, the first of a series, about which Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi, then responsible for the New Families International Center, often shared. In 1982 Chiara Lubich inaugurated the Loreto School. Mazia Gorton, an Austrian, recalls those moments and quotes a sentence from the Focolare foundress, “It is the family of families of the children of God.”
At the conclusion of the course, families return to their countries and often become leaders of family groups, animators of local Movement communities, involved at the church level in family ministry and more. Therefore, each arrival of families at the Loreto School is the result of a process of solidarity over a span of years, involving the family economically, the community to which they belong, and the Movement in that country. It is an investment in formation, based on unity and communion. Happy Birthday, Loreto School!