Missionary commitment today seems to be delegated only to movements, to NGOs and to associationism: the presence of this commitment is vital. What in the past had been a fundamental characteristic of our parishes seemed to have been completely lost.
On this page, however, we recently recounted the experience of some parish missionary groups — from Piedmont to Trentino to Tuscany – and today we are recounting what a community in Lodi, the St. Francesca Cabrini parish, has been doing for the past couple of years. Thus I meet Maristella Musitelli, having been told confidentially by a mutual friend of her deep thinking, her ability to analyze and her intelligence in distinguishing the different aspects and contents of a situation.
I immediately appreciate her straightforwardness too. “Because it is true,” she explains, “that I am one of the referents of our new missionary group, but the idea of doing something came from our parish priest, Father Franco Anelli”.
On the other hand, Maristella, he is mindful of the missionary training that was part of his path.
“Apart from that, Don Franco is a very intelligent person: he is very cultured but he lives in the world and has a deeply humble nature. He does not limit himself to books: he knows that to make a seed grow it takes the commitment of a whole community. And there is also the important help of the coadjutor, Father Luca Corini.”
At Francesca Cabrini, what did you start with as a missionary group?
“It may sound strange, but we started from a study phase. I went personally to the diocesan missionary center and got a booklet setting forth the contents of what mission means in realizing the outgoing missionary Church.”
Tell me just one thing that struck you.
“The contents were different and very stimulating. It is difficult to reduce them all to one thing; perhaps the fact that in our communities there are so many people who remain on the margins, or who just do not come to us, especially people among foreigners, so it is therefore up to us to go out to meet them, in reciprocity.”
And after this study phase? “In Casalpusterlengo there was a photo exhibition ” Talitha Kum” on trafficking promoted by the Diocesan Missionary Center on the bitter fates of women, children and slave labor. We asked if we could promote this exhibition in our parish as well so we held an event in March and April 2022. School groups came to see it and groups of teenagers whom we brought together with a street educator. Learning about the realities of trafficking is a chilling experience.”
And after this first initiative?
“In October we wondered how we could meet the foreigners who live in our neighborhood but whom we do not manage to meet.”
And what idea did you come up with?
“We proposed an apericena, an aperitif and dinner, asking them to cook dishes that would introduce us to some aspect of their culture where we ourselves would buy the ingredients they needed. There were women and, in some cases, families from Morocco, Kenya, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Romania – a real feast of the peoples.”
What reaction did you get from the guests?
“They were very happy and one woman remarked that “there are so many of us, and yet we are alone”.
I imagine that there were a lot of people,.
“From Lodi yes, many came: but we expected more people from our own neighborhood, the Fanfani area. Here the initiative did not get much of a reception, to be honest. Then there was an appendix to this project.”
“In January 2023, we again invited these people and offered them a Christmas dessert. At the same time we promoted a sale of wheat products and through the Franciscans, custodians of the Holy Land, we earmarked the offerings for the people of Aleppo who were hit by the earthquake.”
And now what projects do you have in the pipeline?
“In June we would like to organize an integrational and recreational event: a mini soccer tournament involving the unaccompanied foreign minors seeking asylum as protagonists. Then, another more in-depth initiative in collaboration with the Integrated Assistance Service will be a discussion and debate between Paolo Lambruschi, a journalist from Avvenire, and Don Mussa Zeraj from the Alarm Phone platform, which deals, among other initiatives, with migrants in distress at sea.”
May I ask how many are you in the Francesca Cabrini missionary group ?
“Seven, eight people.”
And how much do you think such a group enriches your community?
“A lot, I hope, also through paths of sensitization. Let me give you a small example: whenever there are Communions or Confirmations, we suggest to the children’s families that they choose favors whose proceeds go to charitable causes. This is to stir consciences and to plant some whys and question marks in their hearts.”
Wishing for so much is not always realistic in terms of actual facts, though.
“Very true. More generally, however, it is easier to be generous in donating and making offerings and less easy to get involved personally. But it is that greater participation that needs to be cultivated.”
With the missionary experience you have now gained, what is the outgoing Church for you?
“One that meets, opens doors and welcomes with trust. One that knows how to come down from the altar steps and mingle with the people of God. There is a need for this mutual encounter and there are a thousand reasons to be listened to and met. Otherwise we become poor in spirit, don’t you think?”
As they say, you are preaching to the converted!
“I believe that people in our communities should be encouraged to discover a part of the world – the lives, conditions, vicissitudes and travails that everyone goes through. We need to reawaken our curiosity about human nature and what is going on in the world.”
Lodi is active in this way.
“You think so? Whenever events, meetings and debates are held, it is always only the same people who participate. I, on the other hand, would expect much more from young people. Everything seems to be up to them, even in the face of the different conditions that are changing, yet how can everything still be fine for them? They need to know how to take their future into their own hands. How I would love to see a student demonstration promoted in the name of some cause!” n.