Facundo, a young Argentinean, brings the spirit of connection and fraternity to more than 100 locations around his country
At the outskirts of Buenos Aires, separated from the city by a polluted stream, lies Isla Maciel, a suburb with a high poverty rate and gloomy late 19th-century buildings.
A group was formed there to organize a “One Hundred Assisi” meeting, referring to Pope Francis’ gathering with young people called “The Economy of Francesco.”
What does “One Hundred Assisi” look like? “We provide academic resources, professional training, and legal and accounting advice to some institutions,” Facundo explains.
“At every meeting we make sure that some representatives from all the sectors are included: workers, labor unions, community leaders, church representatives, local residents and other citizens who, depending on the location of the meeting, may have an interest in participating.”
They have visited prisons, canteens, companies, cooperatives and organizations of civil society. “In some places, 300 people have participated, in others 10. Each one has their own priorities. Some are more interested in the environment, others in work.”
At Isla Maciel, they met by the stream. “We held a roundtable discussion,” Facundo says. “The members of a cooperative shared their work experiences; many of them have a history of addiction, and they told us how their work changed their lives.
“The residents of the neighborhood also participated and got acquainted. This often happens: at times the residents do not know the local cooperatives and do not know each other. The priest provided us with a spiritual framework, and we shared the work we do at the university.”
The first result was the creation of a network. But that wasn’t the only one. “A beach in the area, at the shore of the stream, which was in a state of disrepair, has been restored. Following that meeting, we were able to establish connections with the municipal administration that led to concrete actions for the community.”
Even the economy needs attention. “I always say that something so natural, so intrinsic to the human being, so basic as connecting with others, today, in 2022, is something revolutionary and transformative, and sometimes it is not enough,” says Facundo.
It’s true, it is not enough. But the economy cannot change with occasional and isolated actions. Changing the economy requires processes, and in these processes leading to an economy with a soul, the culture of encounter is crucial.
“What we do not realize is that without connecting we cannot reach any social, political or economic achievement. If we do not work on this first link that is the meeting, if we don’t sit down with each other, listen, bend a little and seek agreement on the big issues, the rest is impossible.”
That says a lot about what One Hundred Assisi is all about. “When we reach 100 meetings, we will change the name, to 200. It is a metaphor that represents the spirit that animates us. If we reach 100 meetings, it will be a great achievement, and from there we will continue because this process has no end. We will continue endlessly.”
One Hundred Assisi is a number and a city, but it is above all a social project that plants seeds to transform the present and the future economy.
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“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love,” said the Christian medieval mystic Meister Eckhart.
An interview with Christopher White, Vatican correspondent for NCR