Thomas is 25 years old and comes from China. To be precise, right from the capital, Beijing. A student of modern music, he spent his last year at the Gen School in Loppiano. Despite language difficulties, he says he found “peace of heart” and had an important growth experience. Now, another year at the citadel awaits him, during which he will work with Gen Rosso.
“”Loppiano is a magical place” is what the last young man from China who came to Loppiano before me told me. I liked his words, they intrigued me. I knew very little about Loppiano.”
Thomas learned about the Focolare from a cousin of his five years ago. After that meeting, he felt challenged by the gen vocation, namely that of the Movement’s young people, called to bring to the world the revolutionary power of the Gospel – love, to fulfill Jesus’ testament: “That all may be one.”
“I always wanted an environment where I could reflect and change myself, because I felt I was not satisfied with the way I was living,” he says. “I also had the feeling that God wanted to help me and I wanted to respond to his help.” Hence the decision to leave for Loppiano. Gen School seemed to be the right place for him. There, he would have the opportunity to spend about nine months sharing with peers from other cultures; it would be an experience of spiritual, theological, anthropological, and social formation, with the aim of giving an answer to their most important questions – questions about their own identity, choices, vocational orientation. But also to grow as people capable of dialogue.
When he arrived in Loppiano, Thomas could not communicate well because he did not know Italian, yet he experienced some peace. He explains, “I was finally able to find peace in my heart, a peace that came from the people and environment of the city of Mary! It was a great challenge but it also helped me develop the ability to think independently. In some way, my inner nature was liberated!”
However, language diversity remains a real obstacle: when the Chinese interpreter is there, Thomas can understand the lessons and even the words of his fellow adventurers well, not so when he is not there. “Slowly I withdrew,” he explains, “and many times I did not want to attend classes, especially group classes. Also, in the day-to-day life with others at Gen School, Thomas suffers some neglect: “For me, the atmosphere, the environment, the hygiene are a source of strength, if we all do our part. Sometimes it happens that we neglect details, such as turning off the lights, closing the door, throwing out the garbage as soon as the bag is full, cleaning up after eating or tidying up the table or sofa.”
Through an in-depth conversation with one of the school’s leaders, Thomas overcomes his moment of crisis and reopens himself to communication and fellowship with others in the group as well. He discovers that the best method of dealing with a problem with his friends is to find the right opportunity to raise it, positively and calmly, letting people deal with it in turn.
“‘Loppiano is a magical place’,” – he says at the end – now I think so too after my experience here! I had some problems, difficult to overcome alone. Then, one day I found that they had suddenly disappeared. This is due to everything we do, even the classes, sometimes boring for me, the work that tires us, certain challenges that put us on the edge, every smile, every time we rise to the occasion, the conversations, the life, the parties. These are the things that fuel and propel our growth, along with the people who live here.”