SFO MISSIONARIES IN RUMANIA
A couple of Italian secular franciscans, Umberto and Salvatrice Virgadaula, and their children are on a mission in Rumania. They recently sent a report to their Fraternity, excerpts of which we would like to share with you.
The Rumanian people lived over 40 years under the hardest communist dictatorship, which dramatically ended on Christmas 1989 with the execution of Ceausecu. At the beginning of the new regime all religious expressions had been practically suppressed. The religious orders particularly suffered a long period of persecution. Several Franciscan friars died and others (very few are still alive) still bear the visible signs of the violence and humiliations that they were submitted to. If today people greet each other on the streets with “Cristos a înviat” (Christ has risen) and reply “Adverat a înviat” (He has indeed risen); and if there are signs and images of the Risen Christ exposed everywhere in public and one breathes a genuine air of Easter everywhere, and if there is a general sensation of having come out of the catacombs…… it is because no one was able to destroy the faith and hope in Jesus Christ of these Christians.
What is our mission today?
The time to “witness", around nine months after our inclusion in Oneşti, seems to have come to an end and we must now deal with “judging”: a missionary duty which we are forced to face each day with the eyes and the ears of the Lord. Otherwise, it would be a disaster for us all, for the Church and for society, which we wish to serve and love.
Ř Together with the SFO Fraternity of Onesti we have started our first activities: restructuring the site where the new Centre for Families will rise, and where formation of families and assistance to couples in difficulty will be carried out;
Ř we are assisting Caritas, involved in nursing and social services to families in difficulty and those with problems of alcohol, thereby enabling us to better understand the territory and its needs;
Ř finally, we participate, together with the lay people of the parish community, in the activities of animation that are held weekly for the poor children and helping out in the canteen of the Capuchin friars of Oneşti.
May 8th will be the 450th anniversary of the birth of the Blessed Capuchin Gerenza di Valacchia, the only Catholic saint of Rumania. It is a very important ecclesial event and we are organizing prayer support so that we will soon be able to realize his dream of returning to his homeland (he now lies in rest in Naples), where the friars have prepared their own Sanctuary.
In concluding, we have another information-appeal to make. It has been announced that the Holy Father Benedect XVI may possibly make a pastoral visit to Rumania in September 2007. If these intentions are true this gesture, 8 years after the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1999 and in this country with a very high majority of orthodox Christians, would represent a true sign of hope for the unity of the Church of God and also for the SFO Fraternity, which, unfortunately, is still engaged in a difficult walk towards unification. Let us pray together with the Mother of God for Rumania, defined by the Holy Father Pope Paul the II, the “Garden of Mary”, that this important project of the universal Church be made possible. .
Pace si bine (Peace and good)