Friday, May 29, 2015
Testimony From Mission Family Part I
Australia, - The Neocatechumenal Way is one of the new movements in the Church employing, in many ways, new approaches to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to a society which often focuses on living comfortably in the here and now, but with little reference to God.
Sardinian couple Monica and Pino Spissu said that if God had given them a longer courtship they wouldn’t have got married, they’re very different people and were also quite grown up.
“God knows, he gave us a nice short period to get to know each other and, later, fireworks,” they said, laughing.
Now, nearly 20 years later, they are half a world away from where they met, living in Baldivis with their family of seven children: Giovanni, 16, Stefano, 15, Francesca, 13, Tommaso, 10, Michela, 7, Maria, 4 and Pietro, 3.
“The people of the world are not stupid, they fight and they divorce,” Pino said, lightheartedly but in all seriousness.
Both see marriage as the key to the future, for them and for society but they give credit to their ability to stay united to Jesus Christ.
“When we reconcile, it’s not an idea. Providence is concrete,” Pino said.
“The earthly love would be finished,” Monica adds. “But I find that I am able to love my husband and we’ve discovered our marriage is much better than before.”
“The difference with us is we disagree or argue but after, we reconcile. Our marriage would have been finished many times many years ago without Jesus Christ.”
In difficult moments, they reflect back on the way God led them to find one another back in 1994 - a time in their life they cherish.
“The day of marriage was like a day of eternity, of fullness. There was no fear, no rush,” Monica said.
Pino was 36 and Monica was 28 when they chanced upon each other in a shop.
They were both in the Neocatechumenal Way (see story on Page 15) at this time, and although they had been making steps in the Way over the years, they weren’t really friends.
But when they crossed paths in 1994, he was going to daily Mass and so was she.
Both had been asking God about their vocation so when they bumped into each other they knew it was not by accident and they started attending Mass and spending time together.
“We saw immediately that this was the will of God; it was clear,” Monica said.
When they told the Responsible - the community’s supervisor, who knew them both individually - that they had started dating, he suggested they waste no time and if they were sure, they should get married in, say, three months.
This got Pino thinking. He proposed almost immediately.
Then the couple saw several examples of God working in their lives.
They thought they’d have nothing to start a home with but at their engagement party after Easter that year, they discovered that Pino’s aunties had been preparing a dowry for the day Pino would get married.
Then, on the day of their wedding, one of the guests handed them the keys to an apartment in the mountains where they were planning to go on honeymoon but had at that stage not made any reservations.
These surprise experiences strengthened their faith and not long after they were married in July 1994, they said they felt called to go ‘on mission’ and be a mission family in the Neocatechumenal Way for the Church.
What is the mission?
“The mission is a vocation,” they said.
“We stood up as a couple that was available to go anywhere in the world.”
To ‘stand up’ is Neocatechumenal speak; it refers to what happens at a ‘Convivence’ or community retreat when a ‘call for vocations’ occurs.
Those who feel called to a particular vocation ‘stand up’ in front of everyone at a particular point during the Convivence and confirm their desire to answer the call whether it be to the priesthood or to go ‘on mission’.
The mission could mean being part of a team of catechists or it could be providing Catechesis in that member’s diocese or it could be being called to form part of a missio ad gentes.
Two national Convivences are held in Australia each year, but whether Convivences happen regionally or nationally may vary from country to country.
Monica and Pino first stood up to “confirm their desire to go on mission” in October 1994. They stood up at each subsequent annual Convivence but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that they would be called and sent.
“The Church takes time to discern,” they said.
To be sent on mission, the family has to be free from “impediments” such as debts or the responsibility of caring for elderly parents. “You have to be free; you’re not escaping when you are on mission,” Monica said.
When their name came up with Canberra as their destination - an assignment that was pulled out of a hat at random - they said they were surprised.
They were expecting to be sent to South America or Africa and to have to manually build churches.
But there is a mission here, Pino said.
“It’s probably bigger than the one in poor countries. There’s a spiritual poverty - like in Europe - the people are no longer interested in religion or they are not looking for faith.”
In 2000, the Jubilee Year of the Family, Monica and Pino were one of 100 families that were called to the Neocatechumenal headquarters in Porto San Giorgio to receive their mission, and were also present at a general audience with Pope John Paul II to celebrate the Year of the Family in St Peter’s Square in October that year.
In 2001, once the visas came through, Pino and Monica uprooted their Sardinian family of four children at the time and moved to Canberra.
The couple left behind two permanent jobs in Sardinia, which had a nine per cent unemployment rate; Monica was a public servant and Pino was a PE teacher.
“We were attacked by our relatives and friends who couldn’t understand how we could leave our jobs and move our children; but God provided everything,” she said.
The move required some cultural adjustments.
“As Sardinians, we have very deep roots in our culture and families and it’s very difficult to change lives,” Monica said.
Pino and Monica had to learn English at TAFE in Canberra, acclimatise to Australian eating times and the way people interact less spontaneously because of the way Australian cities are planned out. Getting to shops often involves a car trip rather than a walk down the street.
They have noticed that, unlike Italian cities which have buildings and shops built close together, cities like Canberra and Baldivis are spread out and people are much more isolated.
“You don’t see anyone and the people are working every day,” Pino said.
Now that they are living in Baldivis, the Spissu family is trying to integrate into the local way of life here.
Giovanni, Stefano and Francesca attend Kolbe Catholic College and Tommaso, Michela and Maria attend Our Lady Star of the Sea in Rockingham.
Pino picks them up in the afternoon so they get home by 4pm and as soon as they get home, they’re talking to each other in fluent Italian and have turned up the Beatles as they hurry to get changed out of their uniforms.
All but the youngest speak fluent Italian and English. Pietro who is three is just starting to learn English.
“At home, we speak Italian. Firstly, because it’s good for them to be bilingual and secondly, to keep our roots,” Pino said.
“We are not migrants here; we’re missionaries. We are only here for this reason.”