01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2


in Melbourne...

by Anna Leonardi

Thiik and Stella arrived in Melbourne with their two daughters eighteen months ago. Their shining smiles make them look like perfectly integrated immigrants. In fact, they had a tortuous journey that began in their native Sudan, where a twenty-year-long war has claimed over two million lives. They managed to escape and, like many other Sudanese refugees, their first destination was Egypt. In Cairo, destiny began to show them its positive face. They were welcomed into the parish of Father Claudio, a Combonian. Thiik found work, and came across an interesting group who met each week to read the books of an Italian priest: Giussani. He joined in and found this the most useful experience in the difficult situation he and his family were living. And, two years later, just when life was beginning to take on the appearance of normalcy, they received word from the Australian Government that they were free to move to Melbourne as political refugees. It was not easy to pack their bags yet again. And, although they could apply for Australian citizenship after two years residence and they met many Sudanese who helped them find a house and a job, Thiik and Stella did not want to lose the treasure of their friendship with the Movement. Just six months after settling in Australia, they heard that a young Italian couple, of the Movement, had arrived in Melbourne. Matteo and Raffaella, two thirty-somethings from Milan, had spent time in Australia as students and now had decided to return. He found work with a major car firm and she worked in tourism, and now they were renting a house by the ocean. Together with Thiik and Stella, and Luisa (another Italian working in Melbourne), they began reading The Religious Sense. Soon they were joined by Rick, a university professor originally from the U.S., who asked to meet them after hearing about the Movement on Captain David Jones’ web blog. “When we get together,” Raffaella says, “there’s so much to say! Because the others are not aware of the range of experiences in the Movement. So, School of Community is like a series of questions, about things that we take almost for granted: the Meeting, the Spiritual Exercises, charitable work. Now, we are also trying to sing before each meeting, which is a real challenge (because Matteo and I are both tone deaf), but we recognize the value of singing together.” Every now and again, this varied group is joined by Monsignor Christopher Prowse, Auxiliary Bishop in the southern area of Melbourne, who met the two Italians after Mass one Sunday in their parish church: “From that has developed a surprising friendship,” continues Raffaella. “Last year, he asked us to spend Christmas Eve with him, before Midnight Mass.”