We are Leonardo and Orildes of LondrinaParaná. We are friends of the Sisters of St. Ann since 1982, when our four-year-old daughter entered the nursery school run by the Sisters. Later we attended the vocational ministry which further deepened our relationship and friendship with the Sisters. In those days the area around the Sisters’ house was completely isolated, so that when we built our house, we became their nearest neighbours. At that time the Delegate Superior was Sr. Franca Macchioni. An unthinkable proposal: In 2003, we received an unexpected visit from Sr. Cristina (of happy memory) and Sr. Isabel who came to our house to make a proposal to us: to think and reflect on the possibility of forming a group of lay people of the community with these specific purposes:
· To get to know and make our own the experience of conjugal life of Carlo and Giulia, their Founders;
· To collaborate, according to the spirit proper to the Sisters of St. Ann, in the service of evangelization so as to extend the Reign of God, having as its preferential field the little ones and the poor. Thus the seed of the LASA Group was sown (Lay Friends of St. Ann). Formative journey: As a group, we went through a long process of study, of encounters of formation and spirituality, to learn about the lives of the Founders and of Mother Enrichetta, and to deepen our knowledge of the Charism of the Sisters of St. Ann. Later on, the Sisters organized us in cells, i.e., groups of four or five couples, who used to meet once a month in the home of one of the couples, and counting on the presence of one of the Sisters, we used to study and share the Word of God. A particularly significant theme for all of us was the meditative reading of the “Beatitudes” that led us to the heart of the Gospel, presenting to us the true face of a Christian.
We like to be part of the LASA “Family”, because in addition to living the evangelical values that characterized the life of Carlo and Giulia, we strive to give a witness of Christian life in our workplace and in the environment in which we find ourselves. We also assist the Sisters in the social, educational and religious work they carry out, especially in the projects that are undertaken in the various communities. One feature of our LASA group of Londrina is that all of us, participants, are also involved with the movements and the various pastoral works of the Parish. Venue of the First Continental Congress: For us it was a source of great pleasure and honour to play host, in the month of May 2014, to the friends of LASA coming from Mexico, Argentina and Peru, on the occasion of the First Latin-American Congress, whose wealth of contents have already been shared by our friends of Mexico, Octavio and Maricela.
It was for our family and for all the other families who hosted these friends, a unique experience of internationality. It permitted us to experience a little of the spirit that animated our Blessed Mother Enrichetta to open up to the reality of the Missions, enriching the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Ann with this spirit and fulfilling the desire of Jesus to go into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel. During those few days we seemed to have a larger heart, in which the whole world was present. Looking towards the future: In our life as a married couple, we acknowledge that we have grown, we have become more mature in our family and spiritual life. We have learnt to look with new eyes at the community, the mission, the little ones and the poor, loving them with a different heart, filled with hope and confidence, letting ourselves be guided by the experience of Carlo and Giulia, who did everything they could to restore life and dignity to all.
And we have also learnt to face difficult times trusting in our Good Daddy, as Mother Enrichetta did. Many of us are still the same couples of that “first hour”, who began to attend the LASA group in 2003: Aparecida and Jair, Michele and Roberto, João and Maria, Wilson and Neide, Benedita and Luiz, Norberto and Alice. Other couples, widows and young people, during the course of these years, have joined that original group: some persevere with enthusiasm, others for various reasons had to leave. With these brothers and sisters, we can say that we have travelled this path in the footsteps of Carlo and Giulia, thanks to the initiative and guidance of the Sisters, to whom we all feel very grateful. Through “our” Sisters of Brazil, we have learnt to feel as our own, the Sisters of St. Ann spread throughout the world and to feel we are sons and daughters of the Mothers General whom we have had the grace to know. For all of us it is a blessing to be part of this group of the Friends of St. Ann.
To see ourselves reflected in the lives of the Servants of God Carlo and Giulia, and of Blessed Mother Enrichetta, helps us to live our family life better, according to what Christ asks of us in the Gospel. Our presence as a group is also a presence which becomes a prayer, especially to St. Ann and Mother Enrichetta, for all the Sisters of the Institute, that they may be faithful to their vocation and persevere in making the Charism that the Founders have entrusted to them, ever more alive. But it is also a strong commitment for us, as a group, to pray for the gift of new vocations.
Leonardo and Orildes