Last October, we celebrated the anniversary of the founding of five missions of the Shalom Catholic Community. The desire to announce Jesus the Risen One in all four corners of the world motivated the hearts of missionaries as an echo of what was already in the divine’s heart.
We could ask: how are foundations established? How does a charism take root in a culture? How long does it take to learn to love the mission land?
It is worth listening to what Saint Teresa tells us “In these foundations, the creatures did almost nothing (F 13,7)” or even “It is their work (of God)” (F 27, 12. 16; 28.17). The missions in Budapest, Rome, New York and Haifa testify to the marvellous divine initiative and the abundant graces of perseverance in their various moments of their rooting.
Evangelize with simplicity and humility before an “omnipotent” city like New York
On October 22nd 2020, the New York Mission was founded through the invitation of Bishop Nicholas di Marzio of the Archdiocese of Brooklyn. The five missionaries of different nationalities – Brazil, Mexico and France – dedicated themselves to evangelize full time in prayer groups, preparing spiritual retreats and events, and other activities.
“These words “simplicity and humility” represent fragility and smallness. These are two paradoxical words for a city like New York?
They can be a big contradiction, but the Shalom missionaries see them as words of wisdom for their evangelization work. They realise that people are attracted to what causes splendour. But at the same time, simplicity attracts. It is appealing to see those with strong faith living as brothers and sisters, as humble people who give free what they have freely received.
In a city where everyone is in a rush, finding a missionary who is available and has time not only to speak, but to listen to you, attracts attention. Missionaries see themselves as weak and sinful servants of the Lord, but at the same time, relying on the greatness of God, they feel a great responsibility to try to be more available. Being close to God’s people as friends.
In such a city, one has to be creative. The Holy Spirit is the greatest protagonist of creativity. In this metropolis, everything is organised with great quality, intensity and creativity. Therefore, all ideas and boldness for the actions of evangelization of this city must come from the Spirit of God. He is the sanctifier, comforter, igniter, healer of all troubled hearts.
The Shalom Catholic Community in Williamsburg sees that people are very thirsty for God. Although it is also a reality that many young people do not want to go to Church, every time they see the joy of young consecrated missionaries, they are curious and open to a moment of prayer and sharing.
Finally, to open new paths in living the Gospel, valid for all times and places, is a response for every human heart.
If the wheat grain doesn’t die, it can’t bear fruit – Budapest
A veteran in comparison to New York, Budapest welcomed the first missionaries from the Shalom Community 12 years ago, they arrived at the invitation of Cardinal Péter Erdő. They proved that in fact, if the grain of wheat does not die, it cannot bear fruit (John 12:24).
Preparations for their arrival in Budapest began in the city of São Paulo (Brazil), where they were able to get closer to the Hungarian community and forge their first ties with culture.
Their arrival in the autumn of 2009 was surprising for them – despite the low temperatures and having to learn the language, all challenges were overcome thanks to the welcoming of the Church and the Hungarians. “We felt welcomed quickly, I remember that they took us to choose clothes that were more suitable for the Hungarian cold” recalls Carolina da Cruz, one of the first missionaries to settle in Budapest.
To announce the eternal novelty to the eternal city – Rome
The first missionaries of the Community arrived in Rome on October 15th 1992, liturgical memorial of St. Teresa D’Ávila, patron saint of the Shalom vocation. In these 29 years in the eternal city, the community has been creatively gaining ground in the hearts of Romans, especially the young people. During these years there not been a halt in the evangelization actions in Churches, squares, in the streets, together with other movements and with the Diocesan Secretary for Youth Ministry.
In a special way, evangelization gained a new momentum via two small cenacles.
On October 1st 2009, the liturgical memorial of St. Thérèse of Child Jesus, the Community began coordinating the San Lorenzo International Centre, located around St. Peter’s Square and where the World Youth Day cross is kept.
Among the latest evangelization initiatives for young people, the SH82 snack bar was inaugurated. This initiative was conceived in the midst of a great desire to approach young people who are furthest from God.
From its conception to the inauguration, a lot of time has passed, but it has lived in a spirit of intercession and discernment. “The most difficult stage was to find a suitable place – there were few properties for rent and those that were available, the owners were unwilling to accept the project”, recalls Valentina, one of the missionaries involved in the project. After much search, an old ice cream parlour in the San Lorenzo square, became SH 82, a place designed to promote the encounter with Jesus the Risen One in an environment where welcoming and joy are the main dish.
The history of the Shalom Charism in the Holy Land began on October 25th 2000, at the invitation of the Melkite Bishop of Galilee Pierre Mouallem, the first two missionaries arrived in Rami, a village in northern Israel, where the the period of adaptation and inculturation took place.
Four years later, with the presence of more missionaries, the Community was invited to move to the city of Haifa. There, the first prayer groups began, as well as assistance work in a care home for the elderly.
Evangelization through art is a path that has been consolidated in the mission. In this direction, one of the most innovative initiatives is the Halleluya, an arts and music festival which its goal is to reach young people distanced from the Church, the first edition of the event in the Holy Land took place in 2010.
Today the community’s evangelization work also includes the city of Shefaamr and has prayer groups, pilgrimages, and the “Villa of Peace”, an evening dedicated to prayer, praise and sharing.
Of course, a foundation is made of divine initiative and grace, but also of lives that offer themselves out of love. Your people will be my people (Ruth 1:16). It is made up of communion, drinking from the extraordinary richness of the Church, it takes root with humility, in ceaseless work of the mind and heart to marry the land that the Lord has entrusted to us, it is made up of sharing “I have neither gold nor silver, but what I have I give you”, what we have received from the Risen One we share.