Quotes from people who wrote to us
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
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