Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Among the 200 plus participants at this year’s summer gathering of Focolare will be Graziella de Luca from Rome, one of the first companions of the founder of Focolare, Chiara Lubich, who died last year.

Mariapolis 2009 takes place in Limerick University, beginning today, 2nd July, until Sunday 5th July.

Families and individuals from all social backgrounds and from several Christian denominations, are travelling to the event from Dublin, Kildare, Belfast, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Donegal.

“It’s a great honour and privilege to have Graziella here and an opportunity for people in Ireland to have contact with a person who was an eye witness and close collaborator at the birth of one of the new charisms  in the Church,”  Juanita Majury, Co-Director of Focolare in Ireland told ciNews.

“It was a great encouragement when Chiara came to Ireland in 2004 and now that she has passed away, the fact that one of her first companions is coming is a very precious gift.  We feel it will be an opportunity to get close to that ‘inspiring spark’ that was the start of the movement.”

Ms Majury said that the participants, including well known radio personality, Fr Brendan Purcell, are delighted and grateful that this “lady in her 80s, is ready to be with us.”

“It promises to be a great event,” she added.

The main theme of this year’s gathering, is the Culture of Sharing.

“This has been present in the movement since the early times, when against the backdrop of the second world war, those living its Gospel-based spirituality, put what they had in common, and shared their goods, even though there was the tremendous hardship of the war,” said Ms Majury, who added that it was a “particularly apt” theme at this time of recession.

“We want to generate a climate and an atmosphere of hope and trust in God and to support people in their efforts to live their Christian values at this difficult time.”

Graziella de Luca, like Chiara Lubich, comes from Trent.  As a young woman, the world was her oyster, as because of her great beauty, sporting and acting ability, she had been offered careers in both film and sport.  Instead when she met Chiara Lubich, she chose to leave everything to follow God.

This Saturday, participants at the Mariapolis, will hear her recount her amazing life story at first hand.

Ms de Luca, who founded the movement in the US, and worked for years as Director of the youth movement, was in recent years one of the prime movers behind ‘Together for Europe’ , which brought together members of hundreds of lay Christian movements for the first time in Stuttgart in 2004.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe, Rev Canon Trevor Williams, will be attending the event on Friday, as will Dr Jasbir Puri, leader of the Sikh community in Ireland, who on Saturday, together with members of his community,  will be sharing the experience of working on a youth project promoting inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding.

For the last year, a group of Sikhs and Christian teenagers from the youth branch of Focolare (Youth for Unity), have been working together in preparation for a ‘Supercongress’ which takes place in Coimbatore, India in August.

Around 30 people (teenagers and adults) from YU and the Sikh community in Ireland will travel to India  to perform a song and dance at the festival, and to work together in the villages of Coimbatore.

The Mariapolis in Limerick begins today (Thursday 2nd July) and ends at Sunday lunchtime.  The event is open to daily visitors but accommodation at the university is fully booked.