|01-05-2006 - Traces, n.5
The Bay Ridge Fraternity
A Fraternity group in New York, born among families living in Brooklyn and environs. Faithfulness of the heart in the vicissitudes of daily life
by Maurizio Maniscalco
The last time we met was Sunday, April 9th, on a sidewalk on 86th Street, in the heart of Brooklyn’s shopping district. We are a “singing Fraternity,” a group made up for the most part of folks who love music, and who also participate in the beautiful choir of the New York CL community. So, wanting to contribute to publicizing the Way of the Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge, we got together Sunday on that sidewalk with the choir members, to sing selections for Holy Week, while the others, children included, handed out invitation flyers for the Way of the Cross.
Our small group came together only a couple of years ago, although the larger New York Fraternity group had been meeting for quite some time. Comparatively speaking, everything is young in the United States, and this is certainly the case for the life of the Movement, and the Fraternity groups among us are a bit like the newest, and still tart, fruit this life has generated. In New York, ours was the first group, born among friends in the New York area, particularly Bay Ridge, who already got together and helped each other in daily life. Forming a group meant putting Jesus at the center of our friendship, simply and clearly, and affirming objectively that our families are continually generated by Him through a much bigger, universal family: the Fraternity.
Who are we? Well, America’s always on the move and, out of necessity, so are the members of the Fraternity group. The “Founding Fathers” were the Maniscalcos, the Fields, the Patricks, the Bartletts, and the Bardazzis, families made up of mothers, homemakers, singers, musicians, self-employed people, journalists, firefighters... quite an assortment. We lost the Bardazzis “in the flesh” (but certainly not “in the spirit”) last June when they moved to Washington, DC, because of Marco’s transfer to the ANSA headquarters there. In the meantime, we’ve been joined by the O’Neills. Michael is a Latin teacher and Heather cares for their four little ones. And now the Ronans are joining us. They came to this decision after a period when they were sorely tried; John was diagnosed with an ugly leukemia last summer, which now, thanks be to God, is in remission. The companionship and mutual help that was offered provided the spark that threw their hearts wide open.
So, what do we usually do? With all our limitations and through the objective difficulties of living in a little place like New York… we try to help each other live everyday life following the Movement. The most significant thing in these past two years, that saves everything, Fr. Giussani told me once, has been faithfulness: faithfulness to our gatherings and to the gestures proposed. We see each other every two weeks, meeting at each home in turn, working for an hour on the text of the Exercises or another suggested reading, always singing, always having dinner together and praying our common prayer, which we ask each other to recite daily, the “Hymn to the Virgin.” This summer we’re going on vacation together for a week. It might seem like nothing much to you, but I can assure you that this is Fr. Giussani’s miracle.