History of the Mission as told by Brother Biagio
The Mission was born from the deep experience of those who started looking for the truth, the true freedom and peace, disconnecting from the materialistic and consumer world.
I was tired of the glamorous life I was going through, I felt in my heart to leave everything and everyone. So I left home on 5th May 1990; I did not want to come back in Palermo because I was very disappointed and hurt by this society. I was 26 at the time.
I went deep into the Sicilian nature, starting an experience as a hermit through mountains, lakes, rivers, just beneath sun, moon and stars.
Then I had a growing feeling about Jesus (that right man who gave his life for us) who was taking me with him to have an experience which eventually would change my entire life; I walked a lot working off the tension and waste of my glamorous life, and with silence and meditation surrounding me I was feeling increasingly free and full of peace. I had nothing with me and yet it was as if I had everything.
Pushed by an impetuous wind I started walking as a pilgrim through the various regions of Italy until I got to Assisi, to Saint Francis, a man inspiring me for his deep humbleness and simplicity and for the fact that he gave his life in the name of Jesus for our neighbour. During my journey I met several poor people that got me back to those poor and suffering faces I witnessed in Palermo.
Slowly I began to understand the “Mission” as a project: it meant spending my life for the poorest of the poor.
I had never had any experience of this kind and I could easily be discouraged at first, but in my heart I felt that the Love of Jesus would help me in taking the right and true path..
When I got to Assisi, standing at Saint Francis’ grave, in the places where he dedicated and gave his life, I felt in my heart the need to live my life as a missionary. I had an impulsive reaction, I wanted to go to Africa or India but instead I felt taken back to the city I would never want to be back, as Jesus wanted me to start the Mission on the streets of Palermo; so I began from the central station inside wagons, lounges, street corners, sidewalks and benches where a lot of brothers were sleeping and spending many days in anybody’s indifference.
La société les appelle : clochards, vagabonds, jeunes à la dérive, alcooliques, ex-détenus, divorcés, prostituées, réfugiés et migrants ; mais du moment que j’ai eu le courage de les rencontrer et les prendre dans mes bras, j’ai commencé à les appeler frères et sœurs, sans les faire sentir inférieurs ou différents de nous. J’étais content de vivre avec eux à la gare, de les aider et de les conforter. Je leur amenais des boissons chaudes, des sandwichs et des couvertures pour le froid. Cela a été une expérience très forte.
The society calls them homeless, wanderers, young drifters, drunk men, ex-cons, separated, prostitutes, refugees, immigrants; but since I had courage to meet and hug them, I call them “brothers and sisters”, without letting them feel inferior or different form ourselves. I was happy to live with them at the station, help and comfort them, I made sure they had flasks with milk and hot tea, sandwiches and blankets to shelter them from the cold.
It was a hard experienced and I asked for everybody to help, I have even been to the Curia of Palermo to the Cardinal Pappalardo, who understood the intentions of that young man knocking at his door and decided to come to the station to celebrate a Mass together with the last brothers under the station arches. It was an unforgettable moment that encouraged me a lot and especially opened people’s eyes about all the poor, non-involved people, as if they were waste.
I decided out of this experience not to come back at home with my parents in order to share my life with the last brothers, so the Mission started. I felt I should call it Mission of Hope and Charity.
You discover a stunning project made by God full of Hope and Charity which, after 19 years from his birth, involves still nowadays women and men from all the social lines, capable of radically changing their way of living to become missionaries of Hope and Charity, to operate in places of social exclusion in large metropolitan areas