In Brief

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome): Study Week on Spiritual Accompaniment in Movements and New Communities.

From January 30 to February 2, 2023, the faculties of Canon Law and Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross organized a study week on spiritual accompaniment in movements and new communities. The title of the conference was “Assisting Human and Spiritual Growth.” The activity was aimed at members of ecclesial movements and new communities involved in the spiritual accompaniment of the faithful. Some one hundred and thirty people took part in person in the sessions, held in the John Paul II lecture hall of the University, as well as many others remotely.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, inaugurated the conference and began by stating that the object of spiritual accompaniment should be true progress in each person’s Christian life, that is, not identification with the charism but with Christ. The charism of a movement, he said, is at the service of imitating and following Christ. He also stressed the freedom of each of the faithful to determine the person who will accompany them on his or her spiritual journey, and said that those responsible for the movements and communities should avoid impositions and limitations.

Most Rev. Massimo Camisasca, Archbishop Emeritus of Reggio Emilia; Father Amedeo Cencini, of the Pontifical Salesian University; Professors Eduardo Baura and Davide Cito, of the host athenaeum; Monsignor Rino Fisichella, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization; Sister Anna Deodato, of the Italian Episcopal Conference’s Service for the Protection of Minors; Most Rev. Carlo Bresciani, Bishop of San Benedetto del Tronto; and finally the Rector of the University of the Holy Cross, Luis Navarro, spoke in the succeeding sessions. Among other issues, speakers addressed the importance of listening, the distinction between the functions of authority and spiritual accompaniment (as well as between the internal and external forums), the role of psychology, the accompaniment of persons wounded by abuses of power or conscience, and the sense of mission. Besides the contributions of the various speakers, workshops with testimonies and case studies were held in the afternoons.

Tajamar School (Madrid, Spain): Home Skills Classroom

Unfortunately, schools rarely teach the skills needed for basic household chores, so necessary to ensure the smooth running of a family’s life: washing clothes, sewing, ironing, cooking, etc. At the Tajamar school for boys, located in Vallecas (Madrid), this is now possible thanks to the Home Skills classroom, where the students are taught how to prepare an omelet or a cake and how to use a washing machine.

The idea arose four years ago, when the school was considering what to do with the space of an old woodworking room that was hardly used. Someone suggested the possibility of turning it into a miniature house with an oven, sink and ironing area, to help students learn the basic skills needed in these areas. “Parents don’t usually have time to teach their children these kinds of skills,” Jesús Martínez, a teacher in the Home Skills program told journalist José Calderero, who has written an article about the program in Alfa y Omega magazine.

Parents have had the satisfaction of not only seeing their sons begin to help out more at home, but also being more grateful for the fact of having a well-prepared meal in front of them and clean and ironed clothes.

For the time being, the Home Skills program is an extracurricular activity, that is, it is optional. But if the demand among the students and the acceptance among parents continues to grow, the management of Tajamar may consider making it a compulsory subject, as is already the case in another boys’ school animated by the spirit of Opus Dei: Montecastelo, in Vigo. As Calderero explains in his article, all students in Montecastelo in the 3rd year of ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education) take this course, which is called “Equality is Learned through Deeds.”

Banilad Center (Cebu, Philippines): School for Badjao Tribal Women

The Badjao tribe is made up of different communities living near the Sulu archipelago, in southwestern Philippines. Because of their tendency to move from place to place in boat trips in search of better living conditions, they are known as the nomads of the sea or “sea gypsies.” In recent years, some of these communities have settled in Cebu, 600 kilometers northeast of Sulu. The Nano Nagle Center there, run by the Presentation Sisters, is carrying out important social work with them.

In July 2022, Banilad Center for Professional Development (BCPD), after contacting the Nano Nagle Center and with funding from the AusAid-Reledev Australia charity, launched a program that in the following months, from September to December, enabled twenty-five women from the Badjao tribe, most of whom were married and had children, to receive professional training in the field of baking. At the end of the course, which included theoretical and practical classes and mentoring, the twenty-five women passed the official tests and obtained the certificate qualifying them to work in this sector. The next step, says Beth Lopez, BCPD director, is to help them set up their own business, which the Aboitiz Foundation has been willing to facilitate.

On January 11, 2023, the graduation ceremony was held for the twenty-five students of the program, who were dressed in their typical colorful costumes. As a sign of gratitude, they offered the school and its benefactors a brief and lively choreography. In addition to the students and the Banilad Center faculty, the ceremony was attended by the Presentation Sisters and a representative from the Social Welfare Department of the Central Bisayas Region.

In the 2023-2024 academic year, Banilad Center will host a second group of Badjao students in a new program.

Portugal: Preparations for World Youth Day 2023

In anticipation of the World Youth Day to be held in Lisbon from August 1-6, 2023, the Church in Portugal has mobilized extensive logistics and spiritual preparation. The faithful of Opus Dei, together with the various institutions and movements in the Church, were involved in recruiting volunteers and team leaders, and encouraged many young people to register as pilgrims. In the centers of the Work, which are frequented by young people, the basic theme of the formation activities during the 2022/23 academic year was inspired by the motto chosen by the Pope: “Mary arose and went in haste” (Lk 1:39). People who had taken part in previous World Youth Days (many of whom now are married) were also invited to give their testimony on what had most affected them and thus encourage young people to make the most of this special occasion.

Several short and medium-length information and training meetings were held for volunteers, in which those responsible for the WYD 2023 Foundation shared their experiences and gave guidelines and suggestions. As part of these preparations, the participants got to know the venue where the meeting with the Pope will take place and the district of Belem where the confessionals will be installed and the Vocational Fair will take place, which will include a stand on the message of St. Josemaría Escrivá.

Some people took direct responsibility for providing the necessary support to young people close to Opus Dei’s means of formation, so that, wherever they came from, they would feel helped, welcomed and accompanied by someone from the great family of the Work. There were also those who, by contacting companies and people who wanted to make a contribution, obtained scholarships and financial aid for those who would be coming from regions with financial needs and travel difficulties. Many families have offered to host pilgrims in their homes and encouraged others to do so, given the need to welcome many young people.

Counting on the protection of Our Lady of Fatima in this event and foreseeing the desire of many pilgrims to take advantage of their visit to Portugal to pray in the Chapel, many people offered to organize trips to Fatima and to take young people to the Cova da Iria.

Family Pilgrimages in Germany

The Feuerstein Youth Club in Cologne and the Feldmark Educational Center in Berlin, invited families to take part in the Marian pilgrimages they organized in May at the monastery in Knechtsteden and the church in Werder an der Havel, respectively. About 100 people participated in each of these pilgrimages.

In Knechtsteden, some 30 kilometers northwest of Cologne, the day began with praying the rosary together in the spacious monastery grounds. A special prayer was said for the unity of families and for harmony in the Church and in society. Afterwards, the chaplain of the youth club, Fr. Nicolás Zelaya, celebrated Holy Mass. In his homily he spoke about the Holy Family and the need that every family has – including the family of the Church, he stressed – for a mother who offers care, security and tenderness to all. He stressed the model of Mary, the Mother of God, whose life on earth was guided at all times by the willingness to serve and love.

In the idyllic village of Werder an der Havel, about 45 minutes from Berlin, the order of events was reversed. First, in a neo-Romanesque church built by Polish workers at the beginning of the 20th century for the growing Catholic population, Mass was celebrated by Fr. Wolfgang Weber, a priest from Feldmark, followed by the family rosary on the banks of the Havel River. The barbecue that followed was an important element in the evening to “recharge batteries” and have a relaxed conversation.

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome): Professional Seminar on Church Communications

Three hundred institutional communicators from dioceses and bishops’ conferences around the world (communication directors, spokespersons, academics and journalists) took part in Rome from May 2 to 4, 2023, in the 13th edition of the professional seminar on Church communication, organized every two years by the Faculty of Institutional Communication at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. More than thirty countries were represented, from the Philippines to the United States, from Mexico to the United Kingdom, from Nigeria to Singapore. The theme of the meeting was “Relevance and listening: communicating the Christian message in the plurality of contemporary voices.”

More than fifty people gave addresses in the three-day sessions, including Jim Macnamara, a professor of technology in Sydney (Australia), who spoke about the challenges facing today’s “listening organizations,” and Gema Bellido from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, who spoke about listening to “contextual intelligence,” i.e. the issues and points of view that emerge in a community and on which a value judgement can be made.

Colombia: National University Social Project

The Sabana Center, a center of Opus Dei in the town of Chia, a few kilometers north of Bogota, organized a solidarity initiative with the help of the young people who come there to study or receive training. After a few years of these activities, in 2023 they decided to extend an invitation to students from other cities. Thus the National University Social Project was born, which has also involved young people from Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla, Manizales and Cartagena, and which during the Easter vacations has worked in different towns of the department of Cundinamarca, such as Chocontá and Sesquilé.

With material help from the Order of Malta and many friends and relatives, the young volunteers have adapted and rebuilt a house where two disabled brothers lived, obtained a wheelchair for a handicapped man who had been trying to obtain one for 52 years, distributed food to families affected by the recent floods, etc. They have also accompanied the 190 inmates in the Chocontá prison on the Way of the Cross and helped out in the liturgical celebrations in the parishes of the region during that time of Easter.

Harambee Activities in Galicia (Spain)

Harambee, the African solidarity fund that was launched worldwide following the canonization of St. Josemaría in 2002, has several teams of volunteers in Galicia who have promoted various activities in recent months.

In Vigo, in collaboration with the Aeroclub de Vigo, the 5th Harambee Golf Tournament was held, a charity event in which 190 people took part. Also in Vigo, the book De los pies a la cabeza: Mis vivencias con el fútbol y “la Roja”, by Ramiro Fernández Alonso, barber and sports psychologist for the Spanish soccer team, was presented. The profits from the book, which has been published by La Fábrica de los Libros, will be used to finance Harambee projects.

The profits from Mujeres de ébano. El desafío del desarrollo en África, by journalist and educator Raquel Rodríguez de Bujalance (Ediciones Rialp) will also be donated to Harambee. On April 26, the book was presented in a bookstore in La Coruña. In addition to the author, Paula Gómez and Gloria Solé, Harambee’s delegates in Galicia, took part in the event.

Finally, two solidarity concerts were held in Vigo and Santiago de Compostela, and in the latter city a solidarity market with proceeds going to Harambee was held on the first weekend of May.

Romana, n. 76, January-June 2023, p. 104-109.

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