2020-11-30 ITALY

Rosa Schiaffino: Gathering stories of Lavalla200>

Rosa Schiaffino Fernández-Crehuet is a Spanish woman from the Province of Mediterránea. From 2018 she participated in the LaValla200> initiative, of communities for a new beginning. She was in the Community of Syracusa for 2 years until October this year. She will now continue the experience, this time in Holguín, Cuba.  Here she shares some things that have had an impact on her to date.

What motivated you to leave everything to join an international, intercultural community?

A strong sense of Marist vocation to live the Gospel with the poor, with the needy and to do so in and from a community.

What living in community has meant for you?

What touched me most in community living was discovering myself through diversity. Before joining Lavalla200 I had had community experiences, but as a volunteer.  I had been like a spectator, so to speak,. To be co-responsible for the life, leadership and ministry of a community is a challenge. And on a personal level it meant rediscovering myself, dismantling and reassembling my pieces to fit them into an expanded puzzle together with the pieces of my other companions.

I believe that community life, with all its difficulties, has been the most enriching experience I have ever had.

And the ministry of the community?

I don’t have words to express the personal impact of getting to know and sharing life with so many migrants. I think that what changed most over these years was my outlook. To see and recognise them as my brothers and sisters. Suffering their pain, getting angry with their anger and helplessness. Rejoicing with every success, however small.

What key words summarize your experience?

“I’ll get there! I’m coming!” This is what they say even though they just got out of bed and they were supposed to be somewhere else 2 hours ago. The snippet of Sicilian culture (sorry for the caricature) reflects how I had to cultivate patience when living interculturally and in another country.

A beautiful Muslim gesture is to hold your hand to your heart after greeting someone as a sign of respect. I carry each person in my heart.

What was the most significant scenario or event in your time with Lavalla200>?

The most beautiful experiences were the celebrations of religious festivals (Christian and/or Muslim) all together. The community and the children. Christmas, Easter, the end of Ramadan, the Feast of Sacrifice… To be able to CELEBRATE together, share experiences and be enriched and discover all that makes us one.

How did the experience help you grow in your Marist vocation?

Seeing the Marist charism alive in distinctive ways in each member of the community led me to reaffirm my vocation. In the Lavalla200 communities, we are committed to LIVE the charism intensely: family spirit, love of work, with Mary as our guide and with God among us. Brother Ernesto has invited us to be Homes of Light, and that is what in my opinion the Marist community in Syracuse has been: a Home open to those who decide to knock on the door for whatever reason – to get hooked on the Internet, to have a cup of tea or just to pay a visit. That’s what it means to be Presence.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during this time?

The biggest challenges for me were in community living. We come together at different ages and stages of life, genders, cultures and backgrounds. Moreover, for some this shared life is something new and for others… also, even if it is very similar to a “regular” community of brothers or to another community you have already been in, this is a challenge! Because it means breaking with mental schemes that we all bring with us and creating something solid from the reality in which we find ourselves. It requires time, understanding, openness, tolerance, listening, forgiveness, acceptance and patience. In short: it requires a lot of LOVE.

What would you like to say to the brothers and lay Marists who are thinking of participating in Lavalla200> communities or other international/intercultural projects of the Institute?

If this is what you want: GO FOR IT! What are you afraid of? The most that can happen is that you discover yourself and, in that discovery, you discover others. And be calm, listen to yourself and listen to God in silence. God’s hope is for your happiness, so there is nothing to be afraid of.

If you are interested in dedicating a significant amount of time in a Lavalla200> community, please contact your provincial or write to cmi@fms.it, the department for international mission collaboration in Rome.

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