make Pope Francis feel at home
at Rome's Sacred Heart Parish
(ANS - Rome) - Two days after Pope Francis visited the Salesian parish of the Sacred Heart in Rome, which was founded by Don Bosco himself at the request of Pope Leo XIII, the euphoria of the historic event of the visit to Leo’s successor is still being felt. The Pope came on Sunday evening, January 19.
While the memories and emotions are being savored, all activities are proceeding with customary zeal. It could well be that one of the reasons that attracted the Pope to this parish is precisely the Salesian missionary and apostolic zeal of the whole community.
“The meeting with the Pope was friendly and spontaneous,” says Sr. Mary Mercedes Guaita of the Missionaries of Risen Christ. “Pope Francis already knew us very well because our community was founded in Latin America and has its generalate in Buenos Aires, and he was the one who accompanied us on our journey as a new institution.”
“The first thing we did upon his arrival,” Sr. Guaita continues, “was to give him the documents of our general assembly, in which he was interested. Everything was done to make him feel at home. During the Mass we sang in Spanish, and in the sanctuary there was an image of the Virgin of Lujan, patroness of Argentina, a gift of the Salesian past pupils. In the meeting with the religious community we offered him the inevitable maté and some alfajores or traditional cookies.”
The brief friendly moment with the community, although it lasted only about 15 minutes, was highly significant. Meeting the three Salesian communities in the house – the national, provincial, and local communities – as well as various members of the SDB general council, the Pope talked about various aspects and pastoral themes, showing great interest in this work located in the center of Rome, but is in reality a missionary outpost reaching out to people on the margins who are so dear to the Holy Father and to the Salesians.
In this way the Pope got to know the Sacred Heart Mission Project, for which the Salesian community and the Missionaries of Risen Christ share responsibility. It is a good example of the work of Project Europe.
In the Sacred Heart Mission Project, the two religious communities offer young people faith programs that lead them to an encounter with Jesus, and at the same time allow them to grow in love for others through volunteering with homeless people, refugees, and sick people. The ministry is conducted in such a way that those who come for faith programs often end up engaging in volunteer work, while those who start by volunteering to help others often discover something that leads them to question their faith and to encounter Jesus.
Among the areas of community work, great attention is paid to young couples, who are offered formation in monthly meetings of community formation. Currently about 50 young families are being accompanied.
The Pope expressed sincere appreciation for these pastoral initiatives and the creativity that sustains them. He invited the community to continue to listen to the people, and to stay close to the people of God.
Editor: Additional coverage of the papal visit: http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/immigrant-pope-pope-visits-rome-s-immigrant-parish