The Beginning: From ideas to words, from words to deeds
Dio Sta Operando—God is Working!
The Journey Starts – the City of Peace
Prayer: Lord, multiply my faith
A Beating Heart
Our little discovery!
Prayer: Lord, travelling with me
In and out of the jungle
Prayer: When I was a stranger
Noe welcomed us as well
Born Out of Pain
Prayer: A Heart, Broken by Love
No Community Without Celebrations
Do Small Things With Great Love
Prayer: Prayer for the sick
The journey will begin soon. My wife, Silva, and I will be spending time among the poorest, most overlooked people in the world—those ignored by society—like the breadcrumbs you instinctively brush from your lap when you leave a table. We want to call attention to these forgotten folks, and we want to do something else—something important—something essential. We desperately want to show the world that, in spite of poverty, war, and cruelly-unfair economic and political systems, God still works.
Our blog entries (operando.org) aim toward a single target—to show people that the Lord’s hope lives! What we usually see depicts only the darkest parts of the world order, but good things actually abound.
While on the road, we know God will bless us. We will work with (and for the benefit of) the poorest among us.
This book is just the first part of the trip. You will read why we decided to begin. And you will follow us to interesting places, meeting fascinating people.
We know some of you are praying for us. We can feel your petitions and intercessions. Our hope…our trust…our belief lies in conveying to you the many proofs that God is very much alive and present on Earth.
Through this book (and others to follow), we invite you to accompany us as we wander. And we hope you will enjoy the journey as much as we do.
Our first stop—Italy!
Before we pack a bag, let me explain how we got here.
OK—when you are 75 years old and looking back on your life, what would you like to see? Seems like all of us will eventually ask that or a similar question. Time rips along through our lives—relentless in its persistent precision—sometimes leaving us empty-handed and clutching a sheaf of papers in our hearts that reads: “What might have been.”
I’m not talking about making a team or dating someone else or taking a different career path. I’m referring to the goals each of us has when we begin that somehow get left behind because of all the other things we end up doing simply to get through everyday life.
Silva and I lay awake, talking. Children are not an option right now, so we were chasing ideas that were way out of the box.
Slowly, dreams, deeply buried but never spoken, began to break through to the surface. Like struggling plants, each of spoke, first tentatively, then with growing intensity as our “crazy notions” were met by the invigorating warmth of our partner’s enthusiasm.
We fed off each other’s excitement—fledgling ideas gaining vigor. What if we went to Europe…Asia…all over the world?
The conversation was animated, but quiet—almost reverent. Still, it vibrated with passion. Time expanded and we talked deeply into the morning. By the time we fell asleep, the answer was vividly clear. We knew what to do.
It was like whispering with one voice:
What if we travel from community to community, from mission to mission, discovering places where good people try to help the poor?
What had been bottled inside us spewed out—like soda from a can someone has shaken. The more we talked, the more enthusiastic we grew.
What if we blog about our travels and work and encourage our audience to help in some way?
The night passed without proper sleep, but it was filled with hope, wishful thinking and anticipation.
The idea was born—the Word had spoken and taken residence in our hearts. Here it is—The Operando Mission!
Do you ever find it difficult to feel God’s presence? Especially today with negative news and horrible occurrences—seemingly every day. Social media…the news…politicians… these certainly don’t do anything to improve the situation.
Let’s concentrate on what each of us can do to promote hope and to foster creative passion.
As we unveiled our idea to our friends, we instantly discovered we are not alone in our wish. We talked about how to transform our dreams into a solid, discernable program—something with a clear mission—something other people could follow and support.
What if we were to visit communities in need, communicate about what the Lord is doing through our activities—describe how God is healing, helping, saving and comforting people in need? Then we could encourage our readers to donate something from their successful lives (more later). So, we reached the decision to establish a formal society and to implement our vision and mission in a tangible way.
On February 11, 2016, we formed a new entity—The Operando Society. “Opera” comes from Latin and means “creating or creative work”. “Operando” is the verb form (present tense) and is best represented in the Italian phrase Dio sta operando—God is working (right now—this very moment).
Our mission is to testify about what God is doing in the world, what God is doing for our lives, and what God is doing through and for the poor, the marginalized and the helpless. We want to be a counterpoint to the modern fixation with self-centered matters.
Let’s talk a moment about “donations”. The word tends to make us squeamish because no one likes someone else’s hand in their pockets. We do not mean merely money. Donations can come in a thousand different ways. Spending time with people who feel lonely… offering our hands and feet and hearts to people needing our supports… sharing our talents with folks who will appreciate and who need them—those are all valuable.
We would love these and similar “gifts” from all those who wish to stay in touch with us. The main reason for our communication is to convey our experiences as Silva and I move throughout Europe and other countries. Right now, we don’t know where—we remain open to the Voice—but we will certainly take you along if you are interested. We will focus on writing about organizations and communities where the emphasis rests on assisting the disenfranchised. We sincerely hope our work pulses with vibrancy and enthusiasm.
We will write about God’s works, especially in lives of people who need help, support, encouragement and consolation. We want to spotlight The One who is saving humanity simply because He loves us. We want God to use us as a tool to continue and to expand in His mission so we can grow in our love towards humanity and towards Him.
In a nutshell, we would like this website to become a community of people who think alike and believe we can form a community of healers, who use our time, talent and treasure to reach out in witness and compassion to the citizens of this world who are in greatest need. For a great deal of the trip, we will be in contact with L’Arche community—a federation that covers over 35 countries and was the inspired vision of Jean Vanier. A community where people with mental diabilities and their assistants share their lives together.
Assisi, Italy, 4.4.2016
We gave a lot of thought about where to start our travels. Initially, we thought to go to Medjugorje, however, we made a different decision since it would be too costly to go there (travel expenses, 2 nights of accommodation and the cost of ferry from Split to Ancona).
We decided to travel to Assisi—a place that radiates the life and spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. For those of you who do not know, Francis (canonized in 1228) was born in 1181 (or 1182) in this beautiful, Italian town. Although born to wealth, he withdrew from an early life of privilege, took a vow of poverty and contemplation and spent the remainder of his days in service to his fellows.
This is the perfect place to start. The city is flourishing; spring is in full swing and is breath-taking. No wonder St. Francis had such an admiration of nature, beauty and the salvation of God, the Creator.
We will be exploring for three days and staying in Ostello de la Pace (hostel of peace). It is indeed a special feeling to see so many people at one place, with so many differences among us, but all holding onto the same spirit, the same will, the same goals and similar values. Just imagine, two simple folks, Francis and Clare (a young, noblewoman and disciple of Francis who took vows similar to his), still attracting millions of people from all over the world to this tiny, countryside Italian town.
What more can you say about the man who chose poverty as a way of life, literally! We saw often when he was making regular pilgrimages to the Basilica of St. Francis, dressed in sackcloth, similar to the garments St. Francis wore in his time. There is one important difference, however. In his day, St. Francis certainly was not welcomed by heavily-armed soldiers with machine guns. Yes, a lot of attention and effort is required for a City of Peace to remain peaceful at all times.
Well, we really do not mean to disclose our poverty so drastically, but I think God is calling us to have inner freedom[*. *]This means we need to be able to give up the things that bind us in earthly shackles. I’m talking about a freedom in which a person can be happy no matter if he or she is living in abundance or poverty.
We have established contact with the Cottolengo hospital in Turin—a major medical complex with sisters and brothers of Cottolengo living and working there. Years ago, I spent a month in Cottolengo, working with disabled people while I was in the Jesuit novitiate program. It was a great experience!
From Assisi, let’s head to northern Italy next.
Prayer on the basis of the passage of[* James 1, 6-8*]
Lord, multiply my belief to become robust and fully grounded in You. Heal my split, hardened heart and give me a new spirit so I will be able to ask You for everything that I need for a holy life.
Lord, I commend to You all my doubts, ailments, and weaknesses. (Allow the Lord to touch your heart with his loving hands and allow him to remove all your burdens, thoughts, temptations, words and acts that separate you from your nearest, from God and from yourself.)
Lord, I pray for perseverance, peace, compassion and love…
I thank You for all the grace that You gave me in this prayer, especially for the gift of faith and the healing of the heart.
Perugia, Italy, 8.4.2016
Our arrival in Perugia is dramatic, to say the least. From the train station we crossed to the bus stop so that we could make our way to a remote hostel. We heard a loud cry from the crowd. We turned around and saw a young boy, lying on the ground, unconscious. At first, we thought he had been hit by a bus, but later it was determined that he actually fell from the bus. Apparently, he was leaning against the door when the driver (who was speeding along) suddenly opened it.
The boy struggled to awaken from his unconsciousness, but could not. He was injured quite badly. Of course, the ambulances came and took him away. Two lessons learned from this situation: do not lean on the bus door while riding, and watch for the buses[* *]as they are fast—even in locations where they shouldn’t be. As you probably already know, Italy is famous for its unbridled drivers. We commend that injured young man to your prayers.
Marcus is an English teacher in Perugia. He welcomed us and will provide us with accommodations for the next three days. We could really use some sleep. We are constantly surprised by the gracious hospitality we encounter. So much joy over meeting new travelers, so much willingness to help, and above all, so much trust in people. As soon as we shook hands, Marcus handed us a set of keys to his apartment.
Marcus has his daily obligations, so we stay alone. Silva and I love to hike around the old town, looking at sights, old buildings, and especially enjoying the pulse of the city, which is especially invigorated by thousands of young people. The city has 162,000 people and two major universities, one being only for foreigners (Università per Stranieri), hosting students from all over the world.
Perugia is one of the oldest Italian cities (from 310 BC), with a rather turbulent history full of wars and conflicts with its neighbors. In the past, Perugia has hosted the Conclave of Cardinals five times. Four new popes were elected here: Pope Honorius III. (1216), Clement IV. (1285), Celestin V. (1294) and Clement V. (1305)
Stroncone, Italy, 25.4.2016
It’s not a long way from Perugia to Terni, a city about 100 km away from Rome. Frankly, we did not expect much from Terni, But, we wanted to settle somewhere in peace and wait for a response from Rome. So far we are still waiting. We’ll see how it goes.
We have enjoyed four days of truly blissful repose. We found cheap lodging in a little room for around € 20 per night (for both of us!). Our hosts were a young couple, Loredana and Riccardo. He is Italian, 28 and she is Romanian, 36 years old. A nice, friendly pair. We had a bedroom, a living room and a kitchen. We almost wished it was a little colder so we could light a fire in the fireplace—beautiful, simple living.
But, our accommodations are not the best thing here. About three kilometers away, we uncovered the city of Stroncone-- a small medieval town, which gave us constant opportunities to take long walks together, although it was steep at places.
The town of Stroncone was built on a hill in the 10th Century. The elevation offered protection and security for the population. Today, it has around 5,000 inhabitants, although few people still live inside the city walls. The city’s narrow, stone streets generate thoughts of another time—almost magical—and we so enjoy taking photos!
Another small wonder, tourist attraction was a small, old store close to where we were staying. The store sells mainly to the local population. It was nicely decorated and well-stocked, however, there were so many employees. Back home, we would normally only see this many in large supermarkets. Two people selling bread, one in the department of fruit and vegetables, another with salami, one selling cheese and one cashier. Not bad for a store of only 70 square meters.
Our next stop is Rome and we will definitely stay there for a few days—at least until we can further clarify our mission.
Prayer based on an excerpt: John 14, 4-6
Where else but travelling on the road, can one better realize how dependent we are on one another and on people who are willing to help the sojourner. Lord, thank You for this appreciation. And thank You for showing us the purpose of our trip, revealing it piece by piece. If we were aware of our entire mission in advance, we might very well collapse on the first stone along the way and refuse to continue. Seeing the complete picture might be overwhelming.
Lord, thank You for guidance on our every step. Thanks for all the tiny alerts when You’re saying we are on the wrong path and must return to You. At times, when we are unlucky and at times when people around us seem distant, You are still with us. When we simply yearn for more, more depth, warmth and peace, only You can deliver.
Lord, thank You for allowing and encouraging us to lean on You. Thank You for helping us when we are too burdened along the way, too muddy, too sore, or too sweaty to take another step. Thank You for being with us at all times.
Rome, Italy, 19.4.2016
We’re in Rome—our strategic point. Here, one can find headquarters of relevant organizations and religious congregations, which could be useful for our mission.
In Rome, we also find the charity, Sant’Egidio, which has communities around the world and advocates for different groups of the socially vulnerable, similar to Operando’s mission. We will definitely stay in Rome for a while, at least long enough to meet with some representatives of these communities and to finalize plans for our journey and volunteer work in Italy.
Yes, we’ll be certainly located in Italy for a few more months.
We could write a book about all the sites of Rome—well, we could write a lot of books—but, our journey is not tourist travel, so we will only write about things that concern our Operando’s mission. Visits to charity communities, voluntary work and people who are marginalized in society will be our main topics. We reside a few kilometers outside the city center in a cheap little room, just spacious enough to afford a good sleep. We spend the day on our feet wandering the city.
On Thursday, Rok Bečan invited us to the College of San Roberto Bellarmino, where Jesuits are staying and studying. Years ago, Rok and I jointly entered the Jesuit novitiate. While I chose another path after a year of studies, Rok continued and was recently ordained a deacon. Congratulations to Rok!
I am very glad, because I’ve met a few other former confreres from the novitiate. It was nice chatting with them and I’d be lying if I said that I remain untouched by all the memories from our time in Genoa. Eight years have passed by since then. Time grinds away without mercy.
After a pleasant lunch with other Jesuit scholastics, Rok and Egon (another Slovenian Jesuit) walked us into the Astalli Centre, which is operated by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). We had a quick meeting with Camillo Ripamonti who is responsible for JRS. Unfortunately, no further appointment will be available until the middle of the week. They are in the midst of preparing their annual report and have additional activities due to the Pope’s recent visit to the Lesbos Island. Still, we received contact from an important person, someone responsible for volunteers, so we might know some more by Wednesday.
Rome is one of the most dynamic cities we’ve ever visited, especially on these warm, sunny days with crowds of people on the streets and traffic buzzing everywhere. By the way, do you know how to spot a foreigner in Rome? Look for a pedestrian waiting at a road crossing for a car to stop. Italians already know that will never happen.
After two days, we decided to retreat a bit. We found an apartment in Marino, a town about 25 kilometers from the center of Rome. Arriving in Marino was like emerging from the jungle into a small, quiet, green clearing.
[We shall stay here until we are all set. _]We discussed things excitedly as we stood on the balcony of our apartment and looked far into the horizon towards the jumble and confusion we’d just left.[ Or, perhaps forever, ]we joked[._]
Apparently God does agree with our humor. The next day, as we prayed and read the hymns of worship, one sentence from St. Gregory the Great, a Benedictine abbot and the Pope, smacked us in the head and made us reevaluate our plans:
Foolish traveler would be, if he on his journey saw the way to a lovely meadow and be stopped to walk towards its goal instead.
Do not worry, Boss, we will not be resting too long here.
The next day, Tay Mar, a Jesuit from Burma (we met him in college), walked us to the Ark Community, where he occasionally works as a volunteer. Unfortunately, that Saturday none of the responsible people were present. Today, Silva and I returned to present our project to Mr. Marko Veronesi, head of Ark Community in Rome and he agreed to meet again on Wednesday. We also accepted a lunch invitation. Let us hope for the best.
Prayer on the basis of passage: Matthew 25:35
I am a stranger, because I do not speak the language of the country in which I reside. I am a stranger because I do not know the local habits. I am a stranger, because I am not familiar with this way of thinking.
I encounter thousands of opportunities to feel excluded…
But the opposite is true…
Thank You, Lord, that I can quote Your words: “And you welcomed me!” Through these words, You give me the stamina to feel acceptance, to exhibit kindness, to pay attention, and to act with affection.
Gracious God, as You know, yesterday, we were waiting at the bus stop for transportation to Ciampino and we wondered whether we were waiting in the right place. Noticing our puzzled faces, a man, who had been sitting on a piazza on the other side of the street, came over to us and reassured us we were, indeed, where we should be. Special thanks and praise for every step he took and for his kind words. Bless him!
Lord, give us the courage to be ready to make welcoming step towards people around us, to accept them and to see through the walls of culture, tradition, religion and the language barriers we encounter or imagine.
Marino, Italy, 23.4.2016
We’re still in Marino, but we’ll be leaving soon. On Monday, we are traveling to an Ark (Ark Community), where we will be staying for about a month. Prior to this, we would like to share some insights to this wonderful town, because we truly became very fond of it.
We have been writing about Marino, but not focused on the town itself. These kinds of small, Italian towns are often not familiar, even to Italians (We met a man from Rome that did not know about Marino, although he lived only 25 km away.). These towns are so charming that one could stay there forever.
The city has 43,000 inhabitants and, like many other cities in Umbria and Lazio, stands on a hill. This of course means that it takes considerable effort to hike from the local train station to the city center, but the trek is well worth it. The view there is much better.
The city is known for its vineyards, excellent grapes and white wine – well known in the entire province under a name vino di Marino. While experts do not value it highly, I can tell you, the taste is wonderful. What do the critics know?
The town lies on the hills of Albano, which is, in fact, an extinct volcano (last time it erupted was somewhere between 36,000 and 39,000 years ago). Even though we are living in a volcanic crater, we have not fear of eruption.
Apparently a volcanic area has some advantages. Tap water here is extremely rich in minerals and people from other Italian cities come to fill their bottles. Moreover, the soil is healthy, fertile, and overgrown with trees and forests.
From our apartment, we have a beautiful view of the medieval castles (Castelli Romani). Behind the castles, there is Castell Gandolfo, where popes spend their summer breaks. Locals can tell you all about Pope John Paul II, who spent every summer here for his vacation. Occasionally, Pope Benedict XVI and current Pope Francis have visited. The territory of the residence (and a few areas adjacent to it) is owned by the Vatican.
One afternoon, we went to one of the lakes, a natural attraction of this district. I could talk about Marino for ages, but some space should be given for the first community that will host us beginning Monday.
After two unsuccessful attempts, we finally managed to schedule an appointment. We had the opportunity to present the Operando’s mission to Mr. Marko Veronezi (the head of the community) and to Marinella who is responsible for the volunteers. After the meeting we had a joint meal together.
It is really interesting how Ark’s charisma (and that of its founder, Jean Vanier) reflects through each Ark community. Previously, I have spent two years in the Slovenian Ark community—Barka (one year as an assistant in the house and a second year as a workshop assistant) as well as three months in the Italian Ark in Bologna.
Warmth, joy and close friendships between persons with disabilities and assistants can be felt instantly. It is something contagious, and is quite difficult to explain. It is best to feel and experience the Ark in “live” mode.
I admit that I caught the “Ark virus” myself and still often think of intense times spent together with the “Arkers”.
For the next two months, we will be reporting directly from the Ark community and from the Cottolengo hospital in Turin.
Ciampino, Italy, 28.4.2016
Jean Vanier, an eminent doctor of philosophy and professor at the University of Toronto, was shocked almost 53 years ago, when he visited Saint-Jean-les-Jumeaux in the southern section of Paris, the facility for people with mental disabilities. The conditions in which these people lived were devoid of human dignity. But what shook Jean the most was the realization of how much they yearned for human touch—how badly they were starved of love, acceptance and approval.
Two people in the institution particularly attracted his attention: Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux. In 1964, Vanier made a decision, which would change the lives of thousands of mentally-challenged people and those who care for them. In the French village of Trosly-Breuil, he bought a house and invited Raphael and Philippe to live with him in a simple but dignified, qualitative life. He named his little community l’Arche (Ark), following the example of a biblical figure of Noah.
Shortly after moving in, visitors, mainly young French people, started to arrive. Some even opened their own households to live with disabled people who were longing for a warm shelter and a human touch.
Jean probably never suspected such a large international network of communities would be established where people with disorders shared their lives with their assistants. Today, there are 147 such communities located on five different continents. In total, they consist of more than 5000 members!
Perhaps the greatest contribution of Vanier’s decision was giving disabled people the opportunity to become equal to “normal” people. Previously, the disabled had suffered neglect and abuse. (The situation still exists today, but progress is being made.) Vanier insisted that the disabled have a great deal to teach everyone about life.
From my own experience, I can say that life in an Ark Community is a great school, which can bring a breath of fresh air in one’s life and transform his/her views of life, work, relationships, spirituality and approach to God. People who are usually prone to perfection can learn to let go and to accept what comes. You and I can begin to see life as a beautiful thing—rich and rewarding—even when we can neither control nor predict events.
I believe that similar to the Ark Community, which stemmed from pain and weakness, our contemporary Church has to “reload” and start from the point where a human being is simply that-- the most helpless, dependent, vulnerable, weak and sinful creature of all. The new Christian, in my opinion, is a person who realizes his/her weaknesses and accepts them. Power, wealth, youth and independence are not important—we need to find our sanctity in the failures we acknowledge, accept and attempt to overcome.
Silva and I are currently floating on an Ark. For us, this is a great opportunity to enjoy Vanier’s philosophy and spirituality. It is also an excellent opportunity to testify about how God is working in this community. This is our main modus operandi – to bear witness to what God continues to do: Dio sta operando: God is working.
Prayer on the basis of passage: Mk 1:11
I stand before the cross and ask you to stop as well. Think about the passage from Mark’s Gospel.
Quiet the noise in your heart—your heart that has been shattered by pain and the suffering of the world. Listen to the voice that calls you “a beloved child.”
Put aside all those who have wounded you—all those with whom you have never found common ground. Breathe in the adoption and acceptance of God
The open heart allows us to search inside for what is good and for what gives us more life, more strength, hope and courage.
Tell your heart about all your longings. Tell it what you want. Let it touch and connect to your own heart by its peace. You can feel how very loved you are.
Ciampino, Rome, 2.5.2016
We arrived at the Ark on a day of great celebration. No—not due to our arrival—it was Daniele’s birthday.
The Ark makes time for a lot of celebrating. In fact, celebration has traditionally been one of the most important elements of each Ark community. Here is what the Ark’s founder Jean Vanier wrote about celebrations:
Nowadays, people no longer know how to celebrate and dine together. In some families, members dine by themselves, at different times. Everyone is busy with their own projects, food is consumed very quickly. If we want to create unity and live as one body, we should be able to take the time for a common meal with good food and drink. We need to know how to tell stories, to share our experience, laugh and sing together. (Jean Vanier)
The sweetest things happen during meals and celebrations at the Ark. As we gather around the same table, we tell stories, jokes, eat and we pay attention to one another.
Birthdays, especially a milestone one such as Daniele’s, are generally large events for the whole community. The day we entered the Ark, everyone was focused on Daniele’s 40th birthday. Daniele is a young man with Down’s syndrome. His presence, energy, joy and cheerfulness significantly impact the entire house.
After the celebration, Dalila, one of the assistants in the house, showed us our little room. We put away our backpacks, and quickly immersed ourselves in the community. By the way, Silva and I decided to stay in separate rooms. Couples inside the Ark Community usually do not live together. In order not to make ourselves different, we will respect this house rule. We do not want to separate ourselves from the community – we want the complete experience.
That Monday was especially dynamic. The [_Ulivo _](Olive) – this is the name of the place we and Daniele are staying – was full of visitors – friends of the Ark, assistants from other Ark houses and volunteers. They all congratulated Daniele with [_Auguri, _]giving away gifts and taking pictures with him.
Daniele, dressed in festive clothes, was obviously very busy. He was running from one corner of the house to another,.. He ran up and down the stairs, hugged people and, of course, explained to everybody about his birthday, about being forty and about the whole community celebrating with him. He’s told us all about it at least five times in an hour.
The spacious room on the other side of the community is called “Shalom” and is a place where intense preparations were being made. Arranging the dining room, decorations, napkins, and cutlery, everything that is necessary for such a celebration. I particularly admire Italians for their sense of organization, especially when it comes to preparing meals and celebrations.
The party in Shalom started at 6 PM with music, dancing, and singing, followed by a dinner seating and a cake. The evening continued with a slideshow of pictures of Daniele from his birth to the present and concluded with Daniele’s 30 minute speech and a prayer – very well-planned evening, indeed.
We couldn’t wish for a more beautiful introduction to Ark’s life. The Arkers immediately accepted us as their own and made us feel, from the very first moment, that we were at home. Marinella, who is responsible for Ark’s volunteers, discussed with us about our stay at the Ark, about our expectations, and the most important part, how much time we are planning to stay.
After some consideration, we decided we would stay longer than originally planned, so we extended our three weeks to two-and-a-half months! Not only can we have a deeper experience of everyday life in the community, but we can also help fill the community’s deep need for volunteers and assistants. In addition, we have planned a few important meetings in Rome. One is scheduled on Wednesday at the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
So, we have postponed the fifteen days we originally planned for volunteering at the Cottolengo hospital in Turin until the middle of July.
Here is another thought by Jean Vanier on celebrations and festivities:
The celebration is an expression of ultimate goal of humanity. We were created to share and celebrate the joy and the prosperity of every human being. The Bible compares the end of time to the wedding celebration between humanity and God, in ecstasy, joy and celebration. (Jean Vanier)
Ciampino, Rome, 13.5.2016
I want to describe, briefly, our responsibilities and the work of the volunteers and assistants at the Ark. Again, I quote Jean Vanier:
God has not called us to do great things. He called us to do ordinary things with great love.
I like this idea. It often happens that people entering the community would like to start changing things – do a “great job” – or give a special touch to the community. Two years spent on the Ark have taught me that it is often enough just to be present and ready. Cleaning, preparing meals, simply sitting with someone, having an open heart – those are “big” things this community needs the most.
Given that we’re staying in the house only until the end of June, our tasks are somewhat customized. We explained to Marinella that in addition to volunteering, we will dedicate some time to Operando, write texts, blog and occasionally have meetings in Rome with heads of other charitable initiatives. (Recently, we met with the Jesuit Alessandro Maneresi, responsible for the volunteers at the Centre Astalli, devoted exclusively to the problem of refugees.)
Our main activity here is to prepare breakfast and dinner for the people in the house, a total of 16 people. This also include washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen after every meal. During weekdays, lunches are made at the workshops, where food is prepared by real chefs or occasional volunteers (friends of the Ark as they call them here).
Some times, we clean up the rooms and toilets on the upper floor where people live. The rest of the time we are free and can dedicate ourselves to Operando. As we were explained, this way we substantially relieve the assistants who (in addition to regular housework) are also responsible for the monitoring of boys and girls (for those with mental difficulties we will use the word “boys and girls”).
Any newcomer must undergo a three-month, trial period[*. *]During this time, he/she may become well-acquainted with the community, the house rules and the other volunteers and assistants. Any newcomer performs the simple tasks of cleaning and preparing meals. Within three months he/she can grow acclimated and evaluate whether life in the community is a good, two-way fit.
Following the “test drive”, many new volunteers, young and old, realize they would like to extend their stay. Quite naturally, there are those who leave after three months, no doubt better off for their time in the community.
Volunteers in the community do receive some compensation. Here, the amount is € 200 a month for the first year and a little more in second year. Later, as if often the case, some folks are employed full-time, which means that an individual receives regular payment.
Ark has quite a few employees who have been with the community for many years. Some of them are living within the community, in the houses together with boys and girls, while others live outside the Ark and come daily to the community just like any other job.
The Ark is beautiful because it is completely open to everyone, regardless of national origin, age, politics, religious affiliation or race.
Quite a few people come from other countries. Aina, responsible for Ulivo (the house in which we live) is Lithuanian. Lorenz has just arrived and comes from France. He has traveled the world and lived in other Ark communities (in Canada, England and Belgium). He intends to stay here for a year or two.
People who come from abroad, often do not speak either passable Italian or English. Luckily, Franca, a retired teacher, is visiting Ark and she gladly teaches Italian. At present the class consists of two pupils, Marius from Romania and Silva. :)
Young people are coming to the community as well. Currently the youngest is only 19 years old. It is nice to see young people who opt for such work. I am happy for him because I know how great a school of life Ark can be.
The working week for volunteers or assistants is similar to ours. The only difference is that each of them can have a day off during the week and one free weekend per month. During the day, their work schedule is something like this:
Morning—awaken the residents, help them dress and prepare for the day; afterwards accompany them to breakfast.
After breakfast (usually at 8.30 AM), everyone goes to workshops where they stay until lunch (more about their work in our next post). Meanwhile, volunteers and assistants clean the kitchen, rooms, toilets and corridors and do other important tasks until 11 AM.
From 11 AM to 5 PM – free time. From 5 PM on, when everyone returns from siesta, the volunteers and assistants take the boys and girls for walks, help around the house, prepare meals, play with them, talk to them or go with them for various activities outside the house.
At approximately 7.30 PM, they have dinner after which they clean the tables and kitchen together. About 10 PM they escort everyone to their rooms for sleep. Silva and I are routinely involved in these activities so that we can experience the dynamics of Ark’s everyday life.
Some residents may be able to take care of themselves and need only a few guidelines or the presence of an assistant. Other are more affected and in need of various forms of assistance from changing diapers, to help with hygiene, feeding, etc. In our house there are currently more persons in need of significant help, so reliable assistants are all the more necessary.
Lord, today I want to hand over to You all the sick people, especially those with incurable and chronic diseases. Comfort them and relieve their suffering.
I commend to You all those patients who have nobody to take care of them. Especially, I pray for those who are lonely or abandoned – without care, without help, without medicine and without food. Give them what they need the most.
I commend to You all those who care for them. Strengthen relatives, friends, and colleagues to be sources of comfort and encouragement and healing.
Lord, we thank you for everything You’ve done at this time. Especially are we grateful for Your mercy and love with which You comfort, cure and strengthen us. Amen. Hallelujah!
Our trip is not over yet. Actually we have just begun. We hope that the content of this book touched you. You can follow our journey on the blog: www.operando.org. We are looking forward to meet you there!
In the next book, we will be writing about unespected personal visit of Pope Francis. He said he came for a snack, but in reality he brought a huge spiritual bomb to our community! We shook hands and spoke a few words with him. You can rest ashure he made a great impression on us!
We will write about how we spent time in France (Paris), working for homeless people and how we continued our journey in Spain (Barcelona and Madrid) – the trip full of surpises and hidden rewards.
Curious? You can download the book here >>
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God is present. God is alive. God is working – right now, right this moment!
Silva and Nace Volčič
Have you ever contemplated your plight in life? Have you looked upon those less fortunate than you and considered the fact that you have life pretty good? No financial worries. Plenty of food on your plate. A nice home. A car for easy transportation to wherever you want to go. Nace and Silva Volcic did just that and what ensued was an adventure and a mission of a lifetime. What was born out of their desire to help the poorest of the poor was their mission, to follow the path Jesus made before them, to bear witness to his good news and to sacrifice for the poor. They do so by traveling the world and raising awareness while living and working among these people. In the pages of this ebook God is Working, Right Now! you will learn of their story. You will read about the initial late night conversation that resulted in the forming of Operando. Travel with Nace and Silva as they make their way around Europe beginning in Assisi moving on to Terni, Stroncone and eventually Rome. Along the way you will encounter the poor just as they did. Throughout the book, won in amongst the story of their journey to help the poor, are meditations and prayers. These open reader’s eyes to the challenges they are facing. They spark real, life-changing contemplation as to how one can help the poor in their own way. God is Working, Right Now! Is more than a simple book about a journey of two people. It is a book about you the reader. Not everyone can give up everything like the authors have, but everyone can find a way to contribute to the easing the challenges of the poor. Attention! By purchasing this book, you directly help communities where Nace and Silva do their volunteer work. 70% of book revenue goes to the poor. You too can be a part of their mission!