Hi! I’m Matej and I’m a 23-year-old young man from Slovakia. My story with the Shalom community begins when I decided to go to Rome to study for one semester. I was really looking forward to spending a period of my life in such a beautiful city but I also knew that it wouldn’t be simply nice and easy as I was going alone to a completely new place. I prayed to God to grant me my wish to have like-minded friends in Rome with whom I could share my values and faith. I searched on ‘catholic youth Rome’ in Google and clicked on the first link which was the San Lorenzo Youth Center. I told myself: ‘Not bad, we will see…’
As I reached Rome, I searched the internet again looking for the San Lorenzo Youth Center and read that there was a meeting of the Shalom Community that coming weekend. The meeting was to start with the opening of a new café in the San Lorenzo district which was where I had planned to hang out with my classmates that evening. So, I decided that I would have a look at the café and then meet my classmates. I didn’t know what to expect but I just put it all into God’s hands. As I reached the new Shalom café, I saw a lot of likeable young people but there was a problem: I didn’t know anyone. It felt strange to just start talking with no one I knew and I just passed along. And nothing happened. I decided to give it a second try and as I passed along feeling disappointed, I heard: “Hey!”. I turned around and a guy from the Community came up to me and started to talk. And I thought: ‘Yeah, God is good! He helped me’. It makes me laugh as I’m writing about it now. The guy was really nice and he introduced me to the others. Everybody was very kind and I felt very warmly accepted. I was invited to join the prayer group and after attending I soon became friends with the others.
This moment changed my whole experience in Rome because I now had a place where I could come whatever time – the community centre became my second home. It was where I went when I wanted to pray about my difficulties or to give thanks for graces I received or when I just wanted to chat about everyday stuff. I feel especially thankful for two cool guys: Wallace and Simone, Shalom missionaries, with whom I got really close. We shared our life-stories, had very beautiful deep moments or just spent time having fun together. This intimacy with brothers and God was my treasure that I found in Rome.
Now I’m home in Slovakia and when I look back at my time spent with the Rome Shalom Community, I realize a few things.
When I attended the prayer group and the others started to pray, I was really surprised because they prayed in a way I hadn’t seen before. They prayed spontaneously and expressed themselves in all possible ways. I felt a bit uneasy but as I began to open myself up and understand more, I discovered a new way of living my faith and learned how to pray more intensively. I can say I truly miss this lively way of praying together.
Another great thing was that I gained a lot from the community members. I admire how joyful they were and that they were genuinely in love with God. They are a real example of the modern followers of Jesus which has inspired me a lot. I don’t visit the community but we are still in touch and united in prayer.
The last thing I would like to share is that I realized that we, Christians, are truly brothers and sisters because when I met Community members, everybody was very accepting and warm as if we had known each other a long time. Being in the Community was like having a family. And this is not the ‘normal’ in the ‘normal’ world. I had asked God to grant me the grace of having friends in Rome and He gave me a family. I rediscovered how He really takes care of every aspect of my life.
This is my experience and I’m glad to share it with you. Thank you for reading this and remember: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks him.” (Lam. 3:25)