February 28, 2020

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Focolare offers an avenue to building bridges of faith

Fr. Rick GintherWe have embarked upon our Lenten season. It is time to assess where we have been as a believer. It is time to determine what yet we shall become as a believer.

One area of assessment could be: How have I embraced, encouraged and lived as a person of unity? Would I seek out some improvement in this area of lived faith?

Perhaps the Focolare movement in the Church could be a catalyst.

The Focolare movement is an international organization. It promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. Active in 180 nations, it has more than 140,000 members.

“Focolare” is an Italian word. It means “hearth” or “family fireside.”

The movement began in 1943 in the northern Italian city of Trent. Its foundress, Chiara Lubich, faced at the time the horrors of Nazi occupation. The life of her city was disintegrating under the pressures of war, violence and racial and ethnic divisions promoted by Nazi and Fascist philosophies.

But Chiara had a great desire, rooted in Jesus’ own desire “that they all may be one.” From bomb shelter to bomb shelter and into the poorest parts of towns, she went, along with early followers. Jesus was their focus.

From these early moments grew an international movement. Catholic in its beginning and character and remaining predominantly Catholic in membership, today it has strong connections to the major Christian denominations, other religions, even non-religions.

Its official name in the Church as an International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right is “Work of Mary.”

The main goals of the movement are:

  • to cooperate in the consolidation of unity in the Christian world, with individuals and groups, movements and associations;
  • to contribute to full communion with Christians of different churches;
  • to work toward universal brother/ sisterhood of all peoples, regardless of religious beliefs.

Through the years of her long life and work, Chiara spoke, taught and lived toward these goals.

As a charismatic foundress, Chiara urged others—from the Vatican to the Imams of Harlem, faithful Christians and non-believers—to embrace our common human origin, our common dignity, and our common longing for oneness. All of this, she believed, was a oneness which could and should be lived.

Andy Miller, coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations, and his wife Rachel are members of the Focolare movement in Indianapolis.

Andy noted that being in the movement connects him to people.

A few years ago, when a local Muslim community center was vandalized, his first thought was Judge David Shaheed’s family. Friends through Focolare, Andy hoped and prayed that it was not their community so marred by violence.

He also noted that Focolare has allowed him to experience both the African-American and Burmese communities and cultures. This has given him a “human” face and touchstone to their reality. He doubts that connection would have occurred if not for Focolare.

Rachel has enjoyed many annual summer Focolare gatherings known as “Mariapolis.” Year after year, this time connects Rachel and her family with friends at once local, national and global. Here for her is a palpable sense of the “hearth” or “family fireside.”

On two occasions, Rachel has also spent a year in Italy with other members of the movement from around the world. In recent years when horrific things have happened in Syria, Iraq or Israel, she immediately connected with her friends she lived with from those countries. Without Focolare, such a bonded connection would not exist.

To learn more about Focolare, go to www.focolare.org/en. Or check out livingcitymagazine.com.

As Lent unfolds, perhaps a new leaf in your spiritual journey of unity will open.
 

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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