By Fr. Maurizio Bezzi, PIME
Among so many other blessings, God has granted us missionaries two remarkable blessings: the one of witnessing the birth of a human being, and the one even more mysterious and astonishing, of seeing someone being born again as a child of God. Unfortunately, wrapped up, as we so often are, in our work and worries, we are seldom aware of such blessings. But these two blessings in particular can be for us a source of renewed vigor and courage in the continuation of our spiritual journeys.
The Edimar/Princess Grace Center marks its first decade of existence. With every passing year, its activities evidence more and more that it is indeed the right means to reform street youngsters who wind up at its doorsteps after having trodden the path of drugs, gang-violence, prison time and all the rest that robs life of its humanness; yes, even a life that, in this corner of the world, is already, by itself, more challenging than elsewhere.
In this context, as a group of educators, we are aware of having been called to bear witness to the event that has taken over our lives: the “Yes” of Mary. The Word made flesh, God that becomes man among men. This storyline proves to be a wonderful venture and the source of genuine friendship which expands spontaneously and transforms the humanness of these youngsters on whose future no sane person would have bet a cent.
Reflecting on what we try to accomplish here amid all the difficulties that we have to face daily, I recall the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who defined the education process as “the encounter of two freedoms.”
Looking back at what has happened here in the course of this past decade, I must concur fully with the Pope’s clever intuition. It is the very real scenario of embracing wholeheartedly a humanity otherwise spent and helpless which, instead, as in the case of Zacchaeus and countless others, blooms again with a new outlook on life.
It is wonderful to witness someone’s rebirth; to witness him acquire a new awareness of himself; to witness his sincere sadness for the hurts he has caused to himself and others; to witness his eagerness to journey back to his God and to his fellow men through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Or it is wonderful to hear these youngsters retell the narrative of their life stories already laden by pain such as for having been abandoned by their family, having spent many nights under the open sky or strapped to a tree branch, but now retold with a completely new outlook, dismissing as insignificant any mention of those hardships and discovering that even all that pain has a meaning. Who knows? At the end of some of these revised stories, some might tell you that they would like now to learn to read and write.
One evening I received a phone call from a young man who told me that, the sight of a man laden by heavy chains on his way to the local prison compound, forced him to think about all the evil he had done in his past life as a drifter, but also about the blessing of having found a new way of leading a meaningful life.
Yet all these changes do not occur automatically or by simply enforcing a strict policy. One of our youngsters who often tries our patience, one day, confessed: “It is so hard for me to let them love me!”
I believe that one of the best rewards we received in these past ten years was the fact that after being in our educational program for a long time, one of our youngsters decided to continue from home his education begun at our Edimar Center. In his letter to us he wrote: “Thank you for teaching me how to live in freedom…now, in my family, I feel free.”
Many ask me to pray for them. However, they request that I pray for them after I have pictured their individual features in my mind, one by one, and not collectively as a bunch!
The heart of each one of these youngsters wants to be hugged by the Mystery of the God who has come among us to journey with us towards Home.
The PIME Missionaries are Catholic priests and brothers who commit themselves to lifelong missionary services, but they can’t do alone. Will you help PIME Missionaries make a difference in crossing cultures and transforming lives through the Gospel?
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