EUROPEReaching out to newcomers
In an Upper Swabian
town near the border of Bavaria, an extraordinary and innovative project of
collaboration with developing countries is taking shape, thanks to a steering
committee chaired by Oblate Fr. Alfred TOENNIS, under the auspices of the
Piuspflege (Pius Care) Foundation.
The committee is busy turning a Piuspflege building complex in Oggelsbeuren into a future-oriented project. The committee’s hope is to turn what were once an orphanage and then a rehabilitation center for addicts into a residence for refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers and individuals in similar circumstances.
The local citizens would be invited to volunteer their services as guides and mentors to these newcomers, helping them integrate into their new situation. This cooperative system would thus provide enrichment not only for the newcomers but also for the local population and its institutions.
Father Toennis is known for his talents in organizational development and the initiation of foundations as well as for new and creative concepts in spiritual guidance and counseling.
In February, Fr. Alberto GNEMMI, provincial of the Mediterranean Province, visited the province’s mission in Romania. In his letter to all the members of the province, he described the current situation of the mission.
The mission is composed of a single community of four
Oblates (Frs. Sante RONCHI, superior of the mission; Elio FILARDO, Damian
CIMPOESU and Lucian BOSOI). They live in Maracineni, a small town of about
5,000 inhabitants, 8 km from the big city of Pitesti (200,000 inhabitants, some
120 km from the capital, Bucharest) in southern Romania.
The religious community is a significant presence of the Church in the Deanery of Craiova (a pastoral region of the large Diocese of Bucharest), where Catholics are about 0.25% of the population. The charismatic identity and the missionary thrust of our men enrich the ecclesial reality and stimulate a new way of living the Christian life while identifying new avenues of ministry.
Community life is
marked by a serene fraternal life, with regular moments of prayer and sharing
in every aspect of domestic life. Morning Prayer, the Eucharist and oraison are
great moments of support for the spiritual life of the community, as well as
the preparation of meals, housekeeping and the care of the property.
Pastoral activity is shared in a spirit of great corresponsibility. Among the activities, significant is the pastoral animation and sacramental ministry in the parish of Pitesti, especially through the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and other days. Noteworthy is the ministry of our men in animating what is called “St. Anthony Tuesdays”: throughout the whole year on this day of the week, the Eucharist is celebrated after which are addressed to the saint certain devotions. Many of the faithful participate in the celebration, mostly Orthodox, devoted to the Portuguese preacher. It might appear to be a less important experience, but it shows how the faith of the people, the faith of the simple folks, is not an unimportant experience for realizing ecumenism among Christians.
As the only male religious community of the deanery of Craiova, the Fathers are invited to preach in parishes. Against the background of their missionary activity, there is a spirit of true ecumenism. In this regard, it is surprising that the Oblates, especially during the summer, can do the animation of summer camps for children, adolescents and the very young, where the majority of the participants of the Orthodox faith.
Particular attention is paid to the poor who present themselves to the community. Until a few years ago, when a part of the population lived in poverty, this was more common: the community, thanks to a well-stocked clothing depository, has helped many poor people in the area who saw in the “Saint Eugene Monastery” a place of welcome and solidarity.
In describing Oblate missionary life, there is also a commitment to preserve and identify close relationships with the people they meet or who live in the neighboring areas of the community, especially with families and young people, either Catholic or Orthodox. The Oblates also offer useful assistance in the ministry of popular missions in Italy: recently, Fr. Bosoi participated in the mission in Saint-Vincent (Aosta) and Fr. Filardo, on the island of Ponza (Latina).