In Brief

Bogotá (Colombia)

Los Cerros: Food for the Needy

In January, Caracol Television informed the public about the food collection campaign carried out by Los Cerros School in Bogotá at Christmas time. More than 9,600 canned goods were collected through the school’s families. These were handed over to the Food Bank for distribution to needy families. The rector of Los Cerros, Eduardo Manrique, said that next year the plan is to involve other schools and shopping centers to increase the collection.

Rome (Italy)

7th Week for Seminary Formators

Organized by the Center for Priestly Formation at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the seventh edition of the Seminary Formators’ Week, a biannual event for priests in charge of seminaries, was held from January 31 to February 4. The central theme of this year’s meeting, which was attended by over seventy participants, was freedom in priestly formation, a topic that is always relevant. The ability to combine freedom, maturity and obedience was seen as being decisive for the formation and credibility of priests.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-Sik, and Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, Grand Chancellor of the host university, spoke on the opening day. The second day was presided over by the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis. Other speakers from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross included Vice Grand Chancellor Mariano Fazio and Professors Arturo Bellocq, Francisco Insa, Julio Diéguez and Giuseppe De Virgilio. Professor Amedeo Cencini, from the Pontifical Salesian University, and Andrea Ripa, Undersecretary for the Congregation for the Clergy, also gave presentations. Taking part in the round-tables were Frs. Eduardo Gil, vice-rector of the Collegio Ecclesiastico Internazionale Sedes Sapientiae, and Francesco Donega, rector of the Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Seminary, among others.

Atlanta (United States)

Rosary Makers of America

Nicholas Kemdi Ihenacho is a doctor specializing in kidney disease. 63 years old, he grew up in Nigeria in a Christian family. Upon arriving at the university, he faced a crisis of faith that he overcame in his third year of studying medicine when – thanks to the formational activities at Ugwuoma Study Center – he rediscovered the Catholic faith.

He continued his medical training in the United States, where he began working as a doctor. Over the years, his family continued to grow and their fifth child, Ikenna, was born with Down Syndrome. When Ikenna was older, Nicholas decided to teach his son how to make rosaries with a simple and ingenious system. Ikenna enjoyed this work greatly. His father, like so many other parents with children like Ikenna, was concerned when he learned that educational activities for young people with disabilities often ended between the ages of 18 and 21.

One day an inspiration came to him as he watched Ikenna stringing the rosary beads together with great pride. Thus Rosary Makers of America came into being, a small nonprofit organization where young people with various disabilities make rosaries, which are then delivered to parishes to support the program and cover other expenses with donations. On February 3, the Georgia Bulletin, the official magazine of the Diocese of Atlanta, published an inspiring report on this initiative: Art, Prayer and Companionship Goals of Rosary Makers of America, by Andrew Nelson.

“In Opus Dei I learned that work is our vocation. It’s not just to make money. It is serving your neighbor and giving of yourself,” Kemdi says. And that’s what he and other parents and educators who work with him try to convey at Rosary Makers of America.

“She’s doing what she loves. She’s not alone. And she’s happy,” says Sharon Sowers, mother of Gloria, who is 33 years old. Gloria is autistic and spends much of her day at Rosary Makers of America. With her husband Scott, a film producer and director, Sharon produced an independent film a few years ago called Special Needs, about family-based care for people with disabilities. “Everyone we know has a rosary. But one made by Gloria is special,” Sharon says proudly.

Jessie Moreau, a retired special education teacher, serves on the board of directors of the organization, which she calls “a faith-based vocational training program.” Moreau says that with Rosary Makers, students gain valuable experience, practice social interaction and learn to work independently.” Maggie Rousseau, director of the Disability Ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, says that programs like Rosary Makers are vital to the emotional, social and occupational needs of adults living with developmental disabilities. “Often they are not chosen to fill a job because people assume they lack the skills to be independent, or companies fail to understand how someone with a disability can be employable,” states Rousseau, “Having a developmental disability does not exclude a person from having a relationship with God. I would say just the opposite, that their relationship is pure. And I know that programs like Rosary Makers of America make God smile,” she adds.

Rome (Italy)

A Conference on Communication and Immigration

On February 16, the Faculty of Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the Associazione Iscom held the third study day on communication and immigration, entitled “Communication on migrants and refugees, between solidarity and fear.” The Associazione Iscom is a civil organization that came into being a few years ago within the press office of Opus Dei in Rome. It organizes many of its activities at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

Looking migrants in the eye, listening to their stories, learning to view them without stereotypes and myths: this was the outlook that the speakers of the day wanted to encourage. The session was followed by an address by Fabio Baggio, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. Others taking part included academics such as Stefano Allievi, Adele Del Guercio and Aldo Skoda, from the Universities of Padua, Naples and Urbaniana; leaders such as Mario Marazziti from the Community of St. Egidio and Fabrizio Battistelli from the Istituto Ricerche Internazionali Archivio Disarmo. Journalists Gian Guido Vecchi from Corriere della Sera, Nello Scavo from Avvenire and Annalisa Camilli from Internazionale, were also present.

Córdoba (Spain)

Zalima: Social and Labor Integration Guidelines

Zalima, a school organized by people of Opus Dei in Cordoba, has for some time now included in its educational offerings a vocational training course for future specialists in social integration. The new training course enables students to enter the world of work in fields such as social insertion, special education, care for people in need of guardianship, occupational assistance and psychological and social rehabilitation, among others.

In collaboration with the Cordoba Down Association, a group of Zalima students designed and implemented three programs in March to help people with disabilities enter the labor market and lead an independent life. “In one of these, they made a shopping list and budget to learn how to manage finances, as well as the responsibilities of shared housing. In another one, those being assisted and students went shopping and tried to resolve possible conflicts they may encounter. And in the third, they learned about healthy eating and living habits and drew up a simple menu together,” said María José Carpio, the coordinator of the activity. The aim is that the beneficiaries of these workshops will be able to carry out personal plans related to decision-making and control their own lives to the extent possible, always with the required support.

Barcelona (Spain)

First International Workshop on Family Accompaniment

Within the framework of the Amoris Laetitia Year of the Family, the Institute of Higher Studies on the Family (IESF) at the International University of Catalonia (UIC Barcelona) organized, from May 13 to 15, the FirstInternational Workshop on Family Accompaniment. Its aim was to assist in the training of people who are already involved or would like to get involved in this effort.

The program included sessions offering some key ideas and several round tables with experts who presented, from different points of view, practical guidelines for various areas of family accompaniment. The exchange of experiences was followed closely by the audience, which was “very motivated and eager to take part,” said Montserrat Gas director of IESF. Besides those attending in person, over three hundred people followed the sessions via live-streaming.

Speakers included experts from the world of medicine, psychology, education, pastoral care and communication, and also, among the latter, active influencers in the social media who explained their own initiatives in relation to the family.

The neuropsychiatrist Mariolina Ceriotti opened the workshop on Friday, May 13 with a presentation on family relationships and bonds. Starting from the observation that the decline in marriages and birth rates is due to many people choosing temporary and not definitive bonds, Ceriotti gave some examples showing that family bonds and freedom are not incompatible.

On the second day, Juan José Pérez-Soba, professor at the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family in Rome and author of a number of books, gave a presentation on how to accompany families from the viewpoint of the Church’s mission. “When someone is hungry,” he said, “they know that the Church will offer them help. When a family has difficulties in its relationships, the Church can also offer care, support and assistance.”

The president of the committee in charge of preparing for the centennial of Opus Dei, Fernanda Lopes, who was present at the workshop, saw it an important milestone on the horizon of the Prelature’s pastoral work: “It has helped us to understand in greater depth the formational challenge we have in Opus Dei in accompanying supernumeraries and cooperators.”

Participants in the Barcelona workshop came from many different countries, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Congo, Australia, Japan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Sweden, Croatia, Holland, France, Italy, Venezuela, Israel, India, the United States, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Kenya and the Philippines. They also had the opportunity to attend the Eucharistic celebration on Saturday afternoon in the nearby Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, a church with great symbolic importance for the challenge of family accompaniment.

Romana, n. 74, January-June 2022, p. 103-109.

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