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Last update: January 25th, 2008                          Italiano 

This is a new part of our website, dedicated to all the friends who wrote their stories in our guestbook. Not all stories are included, just those that contribute to a better understanding of the problems we are dealing with. We like to thank all those people that have the courage to come forward and write from their hearts about a very painful episode of their lives.

Names and places can be altered to protect the privacy of the writers or their family

My name is René and I came into contact with the Focolare in 1979 in Australia. I was then 17 years of age and living with my family. My father was searching at that time for some form of meaningful Christian community to belong to. I met a handful of focolarini and attended a few mini-Mariapoli days. Some of the gen 2 boys were renting a house (the "Gen House") and I used to travel up on some weekends to visit and stay overnight.

After completing secondary school in 1980 I visited my relatives in Ireland, and also stayed for some weeks in Loppiano. When I returned to Australia, I lived for 2 years in Brisbane and did not have any contact with Focolare. I became involved with and lived in a "Catholic Worker" community (inspired by the lives of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in New York).

In 1983 I lived in a "Gen House" until August 1986. During those years I also attended some Mariapoli in Manila. I then stayed for a few months in Rome at the international Gen House near Grottaferrata within the domain of the focolarino "Opus". I proceeded to live in the Gen School at Loppiano for a further 6 months and on my way home, I stopped off to experience life with the Gen and focolarini of Manila and Tagaytay for 3 months in mid 1987.

Within a year of returning from these intense experiences, I expressed a desire to become a focolarino. I lived together in a rented house together with a few other "esterni" for a few years. In late 1990 I moved into a focolarini household for a few months before returning to Loppiano again in January 1991.

Together with other prospective focolarini who were not able to speak Italian, I spent 12 months learning the language before entering the first year of "The School" of focolarini in 1991/2. I completed the second year in Montet in 1992/3 but was experiencing depressive symptoms and was asked to stay another year. Over the course 1993/4 I was offered the opportunity of talking with psychiatrist Dr Paul Schmidt, a focolarino in Zurich. I found the life at Montet so stifling that in September 1994 I asked for a ticket to return to Australia.

I stayed in focolare for a month until I found myself an apartment and employment. I lived alone. I was estranged from both my family and the focolare community. After about a year I suffered a major depressive episode and stopped working for a year.

Ten years ago, in August 1996, at the age of 35, I began to go out with a woman, who I married in December 2000. I now have 4 step-children. Last year, the two boys (25 and 21 years old) and the eldest girl (23 y.o.) moved out of home. Our youngest girl is 16 years old.


I am finding life "on the outside" to be challenging and rewarding as I struggle with mental illness. After a few years of marriage and some limited capacity in a role as step-parent, stress at work contributed to further episodes of major depressive disorder and over another year out of work.

I have just started to return to work a few months ago in the field of "Personal Support" (a program of assistance to people experiencing long-term unemployment). For 10 years, up until a few months ago, I had avoided any kind of work directly associated with caring for others.

Having read Gordon's book, I am also eager to find and talk with others who have undergone such intense experiences and to put together some of the pieces of the puzzle which remains in my mind, heart, spirit and body.

May these lines bring a blessing to your reading of them in some way

Hello,

I'm C. (I'm afraid to write my name) from Brazil. I belonged to the Focolari movement for 6 years. It became my life when I was 12. It was a real brainwash. I changed the way I dressed, the way I thought, moreover, I should not think, I should follow Chiara's thoughts....
When I was 18, I went to Loppiano. I stayed there for 6 months. Even though I can say that I learned good things, I returned to Brazil with the intention to leave the movement. It was a very hard experience for me. I was so sad when I heard the responsible of the "Casetta Gen", Gabriela Zoncapè, telling a gen from Macau that she was the cancer of that "Scuola gen" because something wrong she has said.
When I decided to leave the Focolari, people were very rude to me. They told me I was going to hell.
What a terrible experience! I felt awful. After reading philosophy books, I felt better.
Now I am very happy with my life without this brainwash sect

I am so happy to find a place to talk about my past experiences with focolari.
It’s strange the way people treat you when you leave. It seems we don’t exist. Maybe they behave like this because they know we know the truth. The truth I see is that there is no charity at all. The pope and popi are unhappy people. They pretend they are happy. I have talked privately with some and they confessed me they envy me because I had the courage to leave. One of them was really depressed and sad. What did they do with her? They sent her to Rocca di Papa. She stayed there for some months (the brainwash again, you know) she came back another person. Poor thing!

Another popa from Thailand would like to leave, but as she had been out of her country for so many years, she forget her native language and she doesn’t know if she still has relatives there. I felt so sorry for her…

I am a professor now. I had and have some students that are gen. They are so artificial! I can see myself years ago….the same thoughts, the same mistakes…I tried to talk to some of them about my experiences, but it didn’t work…the brainwash is too powerful.

Can you imagine that my responsible in Loppiano told me to end my relationship with my boyfriend? I didn’t want to do that, but she insisted on that. I cried a lot, I couldn’t write a letter, she decided to sit by me and dictated the letter in Italian and I had to write in Portuguese, my native language. It was the worst experience in my life.

I was glad my boyfriend pretended he hadn’t understood. When I came back to my town, we continued our relationship. Now he is my husband. We have been married for 10 years. Yes, I got married when I was 19 I was pregnant. After those months in Loppiano, I decided to change my behaviour, as we loved each other so much, we decided to make love. I got pregnant and we got married. Many people from the movement were shocked. I belonged to the “unità arcobaleno”, they told my mother not to tell anyone I was pregnant…. I told everybody I could I was pregnant and very happy.

Nowadays my daughter is almost 10 years old, she a happy girl. My husband and I have a great life together. I can say that there is LOTS OF LIFE out of focolari.

I keep the good things I learned, to love everybody. But I realized they don’t do this, they just love the ones that give their lives to focolari, even these ones suffer with the extreme authority of the pope and popi.

 

Maria

My first doubts...
I was invited to accompany the Gen to an encounter in Rome. I was told by the focolarine it would be a chance for me to "see Chiara";this didn't mean too much for me, I was still thinking I was following Jesus. Anyway, Chiara arrived & I have to confess, I had tears in my eyes seeing her. Anyway, the whole group was prepared to the audience of the pope the next day;a focolarina told us how to behave: trying to get a white handkerchief and chanting "viva il papa,gen gen gen ";honestly, we were given a rehearsal how to do this. I found this so repulsive but could not put a name on this. In fact the next day I was ill & could not go to the meeting; now I realise this illness was a way of my body to protest to such brainstorming. So I can easily understand the sympathy of the pope for the focolare (it was not the present pope): everywhere he goes he is met with this white handkerchief waving silent focolarecrowd.The same for Chiara: everywhere she goes the community is told she will be in this or that place & people feel they have to be there, waving beatically, smiling, as this is the sign of focolare.
 

Paula

Gen schools, congresses were fantastic at that time. The people you get to know, the people with whom you declare unity, and feel as ONE.

But that's where the illusion becomes a disillusion. When I decided to make a break from Focolare, I experienced lack of friends. I realised that I did not have friends. Friends with whom I could go out, enjoy myself like all others. I realised in what a closed circle I was living. My life was the Focolare and Focolare was my life. I became aware of how unhealthy that is.

None of my ex Volontarie collagues have ever called to express for example Happy Christmas, or Happy Birthday. When I had to go to hospital, no one came to see how I was, but did not hesitate to spread stories that I was suffering from a brain tumour. I had to start looking and making new friends.

Thank God for the character that I have, that now I have a wide circle of friends, friends with whom I feel at ease and at liberty to say yes if I want to go out, and to say No if I do not want to. Friends with whom I can have a laugh about anything under the sun.
 

Cris

In 1949 there was this special experience of "paradise", a mystical experience. At the beginning and for a long time, Chiara did not want to speak about that because even for her it's something strange. But She has recently spoken about that to the movement (for example in December 1999 to the Gen at their congress in Castel Gandolfo). She is ready to destroy all her notes about that if Church says that it is not a valid experience. You can understand that it is not easy to communicate such a thing. Imagine that you have Joan of the Cross in front of you, and that he spokes to you about his mystical night, about his visions, you will take him as a fool man. But he is a saint. I understand the "reserves" of Chiara about this experience.
 

Tricia

It is my impression, both from being an active member of the Movement (no longer) and having family involved, that there is a massive lack of honesty involved. In order not to spoil the atmosphere or be difficult and also, lets face it, sometimes out of pride, it is often easier to say what you think the other person wants to hear rather than the truth. As an example, if we had listened to a talk by Chiara and were then asked our opinion of it, I never heard anyone say anything negative. That includes me, although sometimes I found such talks dull or didn't agree with some point or other. I can't believe nobody else ever had such thoughts.

I'm not particularly blaming the Focolare for this lack of honesty, as I suspect that the focolarina often don't actually know about it. However it does have the unfortunate effect of further distancing focolarina from the reality most of us live in and is therefore rather unfair to them. Remember that they live only in the Focolare and that is their main focus in life, so they are somewhat removed from the sort of life most of us live anyway.
 

Debby

I got involved in the focolare when I was 17 years old and just like you I had a wonderful time with the gen. Together we went to Italy for congresses and meetings. I was at Sassone, Frascati and at the Center in Rocca di Papa. As a gen I was active for many years. But unlike you I did put my family before the movement. Whatever the pope asked me, I was more than happy to do it, even at the expense of my old friends and family. At one point I was asked to cook in the Mariapoli meeting. But I much rather would have liked to stay with my aunt who had a terminal illness. I was afraid she would die during the Mariapolis, but as an act of faith I went to cook there anyway. Now I very much regret what I've done; I should have stayed with my aunt because she had died before I came back from the Mariapolis.
After that I started to ask more questions to the focolarine, but I felt that this was regarded as a violation of the unity. I felt less close to the others if I asked questions, so I hesitated to do this. But inside of me the questions remained. I had given a lot of money to the movement and I wanted to know where it all had gone to. I asked for annual financial reports, but they were never available. This made me doubt even more. So after 15 years I decided to leave the movement. I had lost almost all of my old friendships and I had become a stranger to my family.

Perhaps you have a stronger personality than I had if you can still put your family before the focolare. I know that this is not a choice that makes the focolarine happy because they see Chiara who put the bag on her mothers shoulder in the war as their great example.

 

Note: This is not the official Focolare website. The information on our website reflects the personal views and opinions of the webmasters and the visitors of this website. We thank everybody for the many encouraging reactions. Please feel free to write to us; we have taken every possible precaution to guarantee your privacy and confidentiality.

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We are working hard to translate our website to other languages like Italian , Spanish, German and Dutch. We would also like to improve the visual appearance of our website. Because we are still a small group, we could use some help. Please if anybody has some time, contact us at focolarenet@mail.com.

Every offer will be seriously considered.


  
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