The General Curia, Rome
A Systemic Change Project of the Vincentian Family
We still hold the Vincentian Jubilee in our hearts and minds; the great Symposium for the 400th anniversary of the birth of the charism inherited from our founder, St. Vincent de Paul. We have lived this event not as a celebration in and of itself, but as a starting point to begin to work on the charism in our fifth century and to respond to any challenges which new poverties present to us today. In his message addressed to the Vincentian Family, Pope Francis wrote to us:
“The testimony of Saint Vincent encourages us to invest in the creativity of love with the authenticity of a “heart which sees.” Charity, in fact, is not satisfied with good practices of the past but is able to transform the present. This is all the more necessary today with the ever-changing complexity of our globalized society where some forms of charity or assistance, although justified by generous intentions, risk supporting forms of exploitation and illegal activity and do not produce real and sustainable progress. For this reason, envisioning charity, organizing close relationships and investing in formation are timely lessons from Saint Vincent. His example, though, also encourages us to give time and space to persons who are poor, to those suffering from the new forms of poverty of our time, to the too many people living in poverty today and to making their thoughts and difficulties our own. A Christianity without contact with people who suffer becomes a disincarnated Christianity, unable to touch the flesh of Christ. Encounter persons who are poor and give poor persons a voice so that our culture focused on the ephemeral does not reduce their presence to silence.”
The Mediterránea project fits into this category. It is a fruit of the Vincentian charism which consists of the repurposing of unused lands owned by the General Curia of the Congregation of the Mission (around 2 hectares, 5 acres of land) at 191 Via della Nocetta where a vivarium specializing in plants from Mediterranean basin, an orchard, a garden with aromatic herbs and a factory producing various objects designed to be used in an outdoor garden were created.
Mediterránea was born at the beginning of 2018 thanks to synergy between The Congregation of the Mission, groups of Vincentian Volunteers of the Lazio Region, “Tre Fontane,” a social cooperative (entity managing some centers of SPRAR – Protection System for Asylum Seeking and Refugees) and “Linaria”, an NGO which has had various experiences in urban space and integration.
The main object of Mediterránea is to improve the professional skills of a group of twelve SPRAR beneficiaries based generally in Rome, who aim to sustain integration with labor and social structures. This systemic change project is in line with the policy of the Vincentian Family of the last decade and the guidelines of the recently held Symposium.
Thanks to all this, today you can find near the grounds of the General Curia:
- An organic garden with vegetables for sale in local markets and restaurants.
- A garden of aromatic herbs and a citrus grove which are used to produce salts and flavored sugars and organic jams in 50g jars for retail and online sale.
- A vivarium to cultivate a precious and rare collection of “sweet pea” (plant of very aromatic vines) and “cosmos” (very rare, specific flowers) which come from specialized vivariums in the United Kingdom; a wide range of cereals and Mediterranean plants (xerophilous plants which are adapted to live in environments characterized by long periods of drought, arid or desert climates) thanks to the collaboration with “Cascina Bollate,” a vivarium similar to what Susanna Magistretti created in one prison.
- A workshop where designer outdoor decorations for gardens and terraces to protect and hold plants and walls are made along with vertical gardens, garden tables and chairs, and pots of iron and wood for all types and genres of plants.
- Thanks to Michela Pasquali (landscape architect and president of Linaria) and team for design and maintenance of gardens, terraces and balconies.
Through a developing collaboration with the social cooperative “Vincentian Welcome” it is intended to enter the labor and commercial world in a stable and professional way, through the action of social enterprise which is affirmed in local and national areas.
The initiative, besides being an occasion of complete and autonomous social integration for this group of political refugees, it also intends to be an experience of strong social, economic and environmental impact, with the possibility of becoming a pilot project replicable in other urban religious or publicly owned properties. These are two characteristics which in turn, are essential strategies for the methodology of systemic change.
This simple intervention– in favor of SPRAR beneficiaries, asylum seekers and those under international or humanitarian protection, usually residents of Rome who knock on our doors– is a concrete way of facing new challenges of poverty demanding our response according to the Gospel of Christ, now in the 21st century. Response through global and overall intervention allows an integral change in one’s lifestyle, and a true and authentic development promoting dignity and restoring one’s personal autonomy: a systemic change within their own life.
“It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated”…, as Saint Paul says, … “it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love never fails.”
by Elena Grazini and Giuseppe Carulli CM