This is the second part of the issue from our missionaries in the United States, written by Mattia Ferraresi, the United States correspondent for an Italian newspaper: teaching and education are the heart of the mission in Washington D.C.

The return to vocation

“Our mission means, above all, accepting to be reborn in another place.” This synthesis of Fr. Antonio Lopez, who leads the mission of the Fraternity in the United States and is also dean of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, lets one see the profound reasons for the Fraternity’s insistence on the knowledge of the native language, and on an immersion in the cultural context. It is not a matter of style, nor a strategy for increasing the capacity for penetration, to use the jargon of television. It means “accepting to live our relationship with Christ there where we are, with the people entrusted to us,” says Fr. Antonio who, using an expression of Giussani, speaks of an “epiphany of identity.” “When I ask myself what it is we have to offer to this people, the response is always the same: to live the vocation that is given to us.” The return to the vocation is the center of an experience that reverberates in all of the spheres in which the priests move, from theological research, like that of Lopez and of Fr. Paolo Prosperi, a professor at the Institute, to teaching young people, in the case of Fr. Michele Benetti and Fr. Roberto, to the guidance of seminarians and adults, in the case of Fr. Pietro Rossotti and Fr. Ettore Ferrario. Fr. Jose Medina is the responsible of the Movement of CL in the United States. “A person entrusted to our care is educated by Another, formed by Another, married by Another. It is in this sense that our idea of adult formation in the faith takes shape,” Fr. Antonio summarizes.

Freedom in dependence

To catch a glimpse of what the philosopher Herbert Croly enthusiastically called “the promise of American life,” you’d have to talk with Fr. José, who in the past years has absorbed and reflects all of the fascination of a culture focused on the idea of what is possible, on the capacity to do and to transform reality, a culture with a dynamic attitude that keeps its’ eyes constantly on the future. “A place that allows you to realize all of the ideas that come to you is very beautiful,” says Fr. José. “And since I arrived here I have never thought that the source of the existential uncertainty that we live is due to the possibilities, to the excess of alternatives. The problem — and this goes for young people as well as for adults — is that a person these days doesn’t know what he really wants. I find Giussani always more and more fascinating because he makes it clear that the relationship with reality allows you to understand, with time, that becoming one with Christ is the exaltation of the “I”. Christianity asserts itself as something fascinating, and this is easy to understand on an immediate level, because it is something you can see. However, in order to last, this fascination requires a judgment: that true freedom is within dependence. This is the point with which we struggle the most, but it is also the most interesting to speak about, because it contains all of the radicality of the encounter.”

Each priest here improvises creatively on this theme. For Fr. Pietro, who follows the CLU students, it means proposing a project on the religious sense, because “it’s a lie that young people aren’t interested in anything anymore. The problem is that no one proposes anything to them, and so they never form real criteria to make judgments.” In a liquefied and unstable world, defined by instinctiveness, man’s heart is the first thing that wilts. “Our kids are experiencing a great tension, suspended between their desire to find something certain and the lack of solid ground where they can plant their feet.” In a different setting, there is Fr. Michele, constantly challenging his students to understand the reasons behind those laws of physics that other professors would offer in a two-dimensional and functionalist way, as mere formulas to memorize. Some students good-naturedly tease the professor “obsessed” with the question “why?”; however, with time, other students have become attached to him in a serious way, and a School of Community has begun. The challenge, says Fr. Michele, is to “bring their lives back towards a center where everything converges,” which can mean, during religion class, building an improbable bridge between biblical figures and the rapper who the kids have in their headphones constantly. It’s not about watering down the content to make it more accessible. It’s about tracking down a point in every angle of reality that speaks of something other, greater than itself.

In the photo is Roberto Amoruso during a moment of games with the students who partake in the “Knights of St. Clement” in Washington D.C.

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