The centrality of the community
“It takes a village to raise a child”: it was in 1996 when I heard Chiara Lubich quote for the first time this African proverb. She was visiting Fontem, in Cameroon, the first town in Africa to be animated by the spirituality of the Focolare, which had been contributing to the birth and growth of citizens moved by the spirit of unity of the human family for decades already. With that proverb she underlined the central role of the community in the human and spiritual education of each individual.
This is a somewhat forgotten concept: when we want to know more about a person, for instance, we only visit their birthplace, or the place where they acted and that made them famous.
For Chiara Lubich it cannot be so. Since 1943, when the Focolare Movement was founded, the thousands of people who keep on going to Trento from all over the world do not do so only to see Chiara’s birthplace in via della Prepositura, or the walls of the first community, the focolare, in Piazza Cappuccini. In order to discover Chiara Lubich as a person, to understand the features of the Focolare community, but most of all to understand why Chiara chose to look at mankind and history from the perspective of the evangelic word of unity - “May they all be one” (Gv, 17.21) – you need to “travel across Trento”: the places she used to go to, but also the history of this city, a crossroads of religious, civil and social divisions and recompositions, which shaped across the centuries the spirit and the personality of its citizens.
This centenary is an extraordinary occasion not so much to remember Chiara Lubich with nostalgia, but to meet her in the present day: in the thousands of people who spend themselves for a more united and peaceful world, in the economic, political and social movement inspired by her spirituality, such as the Economy of Communion or the Movement of politics and policy for unity; in the hundreds of social, environmental and humanitarian projects which contribute to a more just and more fraternal world. Those who will be fortunate enough to visit Trento in 2020 and meet - in the several initiatives, places, and above all in the citizens - the spirit of fraternity which started there with Chiara Lubich and still continues to spread across the world, can consider themselves privileged.
Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement