It was Rome’s turn for the pastoral visit of the Brother Superior General. He was in the Istituto Pio XII on the morning of January the 22nd and in Collegio Colle La Salle in the afternoon. On Tuesday the 23rd, he was in the Istituto De Merode in the Piazza di Spagna and then in the Istituto Villa Flaminia. He met thousands of pupils, hundreds of teachers, auxiliary staff and parents.
In his dialogue with the students of the upper classes in the Istituto De Merode he said, “We are present in 80 countries of the world as a great force for good, and you are the people who must take things forward. I see hope for the future in the strong links between people throughout the world. I feel at home even in places where I do not speak the language. That is what ‘being Lasallian’ means to me.” He spoke about the relevance today of the charism that started in the XVII century. “The idea of friendship and authentic relations between teachers and students is one of our strong points along with that of community. In our schools in Turkey, Egypt, America or Ireland, there are more similarities than differences. The students speak in the same way as you do, they are involved in social activity and volunteer work. As a student I went to a Lasallian school. I would never have imagined my future would be like this”.
He invited them to make themselves present to other people, recognising their dignity and not remaining at the superficial level but looking deeper, asking what they can do for those who do not find dignity in their living conditions. His meeting with the De Merode students who are involved in volunteer projects was intense. Professor Andrea Sicignano is in charge of the various initiatives and he pointed out that “25% of our students are involved, and we realise that we are the first one’s whom we should seek to change”. Rosanna spoke about her involvement in the movement of Young Lasallians which had organised the day of peace in the school this year, among other things. “Here we learn about humanity not just about academic subjects.” There were various testimonies accompanied by photographs from students involved in experiences of service such as the Second Chance scheme in Scampia, the post-school activities in Torre Angela and Barbiana, the distribution of clothes and food for the homeless, the cooperation with Caritas, the drama work in the Istituto Vaccari for handicapped children. Finally there was the trip to America, which was a bit different, because studies and service were brought together “to teach us not to remain at the level of appearances and to try to understand those who are in front of us. It means opening the heart, appreciating how much we have, sharing it with others and seeing occasions like these (however simple) as opportunities for a change in our lives and in the lives of others.” These were the ideas expressed by more than few voices.
Again in San Giuseppe, he thanked the Parents’ Association “for the constant involvement of the families which had given life among other things to a choir that had collected funds for the Lasallian school in Scampia. He thanked them for the attention they paid to justice, to values and to the creation of a calm and positive climate”. He spoke to the Associazione San Vincenzo, which has been active in De Merode for 35 years in connection with former students, “the lay arm of the Brothers in the world”. Brother Robert urged them to listen to the testimonies. “You have participated in the change that is taking place among you. It is a risky process. When you begin a volunteer experience, you never know where it will take you. Being there for other people is not something that is done easily and without effort, but it gives a wonderful gospel witness”.
In Villa Flaminia, there was a festive welcome on the steps of the entrance followed by a visit to various aspects of the college. “What is our school? It is a second family”. That was the view expressed by the 450 elementary pupils, with their 40 teachers coordinated by Brother Salvatore Santoro, the only Brother in the primary school. Brother Achille Buccella, Provincial Visitor, expressed things as follows. “One aspect that has been particularly evident is that of collaboration and sharing of the educational mission by Brothers and lay teachers. The Brother Superior saw this as evidence of a great capacity for growth in the Lasallian world in Italy for the present and in the future.” Then there is the cafeteria for the poor, where parents, students and teachers serve 120 warm meals every day and give bags of groceries to those in difficulty. In the afternoons the pupils lay on free post-school activities for children of the neighborhood.
In the words of Brother Robert, “Pastoral visits are for me the chance to witness the fact that Lasallian education is a global experience. And the future? It will bring more opportunities than challenges. Wherever I go, I see the same spirit, and I meet with men and women whose passion for education is very strong”.
Laura Galimberti www.lasalleitalia.net
Adapted from the original text by Ilaria Iadeluca – Communications Service Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Rome)