A weekly charitable work is part of the education proposal of the seminary: a witness from the juvenile prison of Rome.

Passing through the heavy doors of the juvenile prison of Rome, Casal del Marmo, I always have the impression of entering into another world. Everything but the exterior tranquility of the structures seems different than what we are used to, but even these hide the unease and anger of the teens who are housed there. Giorgio and I, seminarians in our fifth year, have been accompanying Fr. Nicolò, every Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, in his activities as prison chaplain. The penitentiary is divided into three buildings where the girls, the underage boys, and the older boys live. Besides preparing the Sunday mass, our activity is very simple: with some volunteers, we divide into three groups and spend some time with the boys in the common room, playing foosball, ping pong, cards, or talking with them.
The sincere affection the kids have for Fr. Nicolò, who visits them every day, is touching and tends to reflect on us as well. But being with them is not easy: sometimes it seems like we belong to two totally different worlds. Inside, they carry a mixture of feelings and deep wounds that on the outside are masked behind the air of bravado. To those who look at them, they appear self-sufficient, kids who don’t depend on anyone: islands of autonomy that can’t communicate themselves. In a certain way, they remind me of what I experienced during the first days of high school, when, entering a foreign world, I wanted to defend myself from everything and everyone.

Yet, sometimes this protective armor opens and one glimpses the blue of the sky. Like when one of them asked me to share something about my life. When asked how I managed to support myself financially, studying all day, I told him that it was only possible because of the concrete help of some of my friends who were supporting me for free. “Wow!” he said in amazement. “I want friends like that.” That’s exactly the same desire I had in high school, before I met the friends of GS. This is how I understood that, contrary to what people want you to believe when you meet him, this kid essentially wants to be loved. Just like me. Maybe we’re not so different after all.

In the photo, a Eucharistic celebration in the chapel of the juvenile penitentiary of Casal del Marmo.

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