by SUSAN FOGARTY
WELLINGTON — While many Wellingtonians revelled in the recent rugby sevens, St Mary’s High School hall in Thorndon overflowed with people attending a public meeting of the Focolare Movement.
The meeting was the culmination of a weekend of celebrations, lectures and discussions, hosted by the New Zealand branch of the Focolare Movement. Members from throughout the country gathered to attend the series of events.
The public meeting began with local Focolare members sharing their experiences within the movement, explaining how it has changed their lives, allowing them to have Jesus as a central part of the way they choose to live.
“Through techniques of love and listening, I’m a better person,” shared Brenda. “I do everything for the love of God, for Jesus, and this extends to my workplace, too.”
The Focolare Movement is an international organisation promoting ideals of unity and universal brotherhood and sisterhood among all people. Although primarily Catholic, the movement has strong links to other religions, Christian and non-Christian.
Teacher, Chiara Lubich, founded the movement in 1943, when she and a group of friends chose to live the Gospel as a way of responding to God’s love, ultimately fulfilling the words from John’s Gospel, “Love one another, as I have loved you”. The concept of love is a constant in the movement.
The word Focolare, meaning “hearth” in Italian, was chosen because it evokes an image of a warm place where people can gather.
Worldwide, the movement has more than 2.4 million adherents, including 150,000 young people, in 182 countries.
The movement began in New Zealand in 1981 with the support of Cardinal Thomas Williams, and has continued to grow.
The highlight of the weekend were lectures from Focolare co-presidents Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti.
Her introduction to the movement was during her last year of law school in Rome, where she met a group of focolarini at the university. Upon completion of her studies, she became the first woman lawyer in the city’s court system. She later studied theology and canon law.
Giancarlo Faletti was elected co-president in 2008. In 1959 he encountered the Focolare movement and at the age of 25 decided to completely give himself to God in community life with a Focolare community.
The Wellington lecture and question time with Voce and Faletti was attended by more than 200 people, including a good number of younger people.
Archbishop John Dew’s introduction referred to the value and importance of the movement in New Zealand and worldwide.
“Amidst the current wave of secularisation, the Holy Spirit has bestowed some charisms for making the message of the Gospel ever new. Here in New Zealand I see that Focolare has understood the people and their needs, and they know how to act with imagination and courage,” he said.
The presentation was in Italian and attendees were provided with radios and headphones to tune in.
The main issues raised revolved around secularism and the role of God in the lives of modern people. Both Voce and Faletti were united in stressing the importance of the need for God in the modern world.
“As is happening in Australia, here too the influence of secularisation and multiculturalism has had a strong influence, and finding answers means working together.”
One of the strongest themes from both presidents and local Focolare members was unity, and how people can work together.
Maria Voce explained: “Our task is to establish small fires in the midst of the human family; small groups of people who are united in the name of Jesus. There might be only two people, but together, in a school, a hospital, a band, even on a cricket team. Two people only, a small fire.
“All these small fires at some point will meet up with the other fires. And then the fire will become larger and larger, even though we will never be exactly sure where the fire has caught on. One thing is certain: God is at work.”
This was the first visit from both Maria Voce and Giancario Faletti.
The next event is a weekend gathering of the Fololare community in Taupo from April 26 to 28.