ROME, OCT. 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The priority of the Servants of Charity is to live and communicate charity, according to the congregation’s recently elected superior general.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Alfonso Crippa comments on renewing community life and other priorities after the congregation’s general chapter in July.
Q: Why do you want to begin again from fraternal life?
Father Crippa: Among the priorities, the first is to begin with what fraternal life is, how community life is lived in the congregation and how to animate the renewal from the communities, taking up hope again, because there is a degree of difficulty in understanding what paths to follow today for the renewal of religious life and also of our congregation.
The chapter was one of revision to lead us to revitalize — hence the title of the chapter “Revive the Gift that Is in You” — the gift of the charism, the gift of the mission, etc.
Q: Is your charism in fact charity?
Father Crippa: The charism is something that has to do with God, with the founder’s experience of God; as father, he leaves no one to one side in life, especially the poorest.
Hence our dedication as a mission is centered on the weakest, the abandoned, the alone, the handicapped, elderly people who are in need of support to feel themselves children of God, the poor who have in fact been the Lord’s predilection.
Our charism is charity to those who are last. Therefore, our renewal must be to begin to understand this charity of God, to make it our own, to be able to communicate it to others.
The works carried out are for the elderly, the handicapped, young people, etc. We are present in 19 countries of the world, among which are those of Africa, as the congregation’s last projection.
Q: How must consecrated life — which Benedict XVI has described as the “hope of the Church” — be proposed to young people today, in a historical context that witnesses a growing crisis of vocations?
Father Crippa: Each one must be presented to young people according to its identity; if we are convinced of having a gift and of enjoying it, of being happy, then there is no difficulty in transmitting it.
There are conditionings of society that make this gift of consecrated life more difficult.
I believe that all depends on our internal renewal because, seeing that we are convinced, that we are happy with our choice, others might ask to follow us.
We are somewhat dogged by the difficulty that, having a mission of assistance, of solidarity and of service, also for people who are extremely tested, we find that, especially in the West, many say: I can do this also as a layman.
Therefore, it is difficult to make it understood that something is added to do so as a religious, that the motivation comes from faith and charity. The answer is to make it more evident that man can truly be promoted in the evangelical sense through consecration and spirituality.
If this capacity to make the love of God understood, to see the Gospel as the door for the renewal of society, is not added, they think that our religious life is centered on doing, and this does not attract vocations.
Q: How do the Servants of Charity work together with the lay movement the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence?
Father Crippa: We should be more united and collaborate more with the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence. It is one of the resolutions we made in the general chapter calling the sisters in the chapter to work and reflect together on what the possibilities will be for greater collaboration.
Because the two religious congregations were born with the same end, the founder wished to make something unitary of the two congregations. But history has separated us somewhat.
The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence have carried out their organization, their works.
Even though with the laity considerable progress has been made in these years, we see that there is still a long way to go.
The Guanella lay movement was born a short while ago; the Guanella cooperators, instead, were born somewhat earlier and are part of our family in the fullest sense. However, we have the whole topic of formation, of proposing to the laity that they join us, to understand, live, assimilate the charism and take part in our mission.
Q: Is it feasible in today’s society, bombarded by the media, to remain linked to a saint like Don Luigi Guanella?
Father Crippa: There is certainly also a need to enter the media and through it to make ourselves and our founder known.
But I believe all congregations desire to make known, to disseminate the experiences of God lived by the saints. We must not allow ourselves to be frightened by all that happens, or receive this bombardment passively, but to also be in tune to be able to spread charity and make it understood that there are paths already trodden by our saints which can still be followed today.
In these days, we have taken steps to improve our communications because Don Guanella was very keen to use the communication of his time, which was the press.
And, drawing somewhat from this heritage, we must feel the need to take the messages to society so that society will become more solidaristic, more fraternal.
We must not do good just in our own endeavors, but take the messages to the local Church and also to the world, collecting them and putting them at the disposition of people who work for the same ends.