We arrived in Bochum in a late afternoon. Father Winfried Pauly was expecting us. We were welcomed by him and by Ulrike Schnuerer, one of the Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer with whom our confrere works in partnership.
A pleasant table awaited us, and a warm conversation soon followed. Winfried explained right way that the Redemptorist mission there was different. There was no agenda, no program. The motto was: “just be there”. Both he and Ulrike had a strong missionary presence in this social neighborhood full of migrants and refugees. Presence. It is the sole Redemptorist mission in this neighborhood. To establish contact points, to build dialogue and communion between people who are so different, who have so many different stories, cultures and religions. And Winfried does it so well… Unpretentiously and with no lecturing. On the contrary, he has told us several times that he is there with an apprentice attitude. In the manner of Jesus and of a Redemptorist too, being a presence next to those living on the fringes.
Our few days there have been spent in good conversations, playing with the children of the neighborhood from different nationalities and celebrating together with a faithful small group of Catholic Christians. It is a discreet and silent mission. We believe in its fruits.
Then we went and visited two other Redemptorist communities in Germany: Kirchhellen and Bonn. Both fully committed to the youth ministry. The first organizes meetings and welcomes volunteers from various corners of the world for the experience of service. The latter, with a big school of boys, sends volunteers to some Redemptorist communities in different parts of the world to have the experience of mission and community life.
In Kirchhellen we spent some time with young people in charge of organizing activities for the children, but most of the time we listened to dozens of stories of the old parish missions in that region that Father Hermann Döring shared with us. We listened to what they did and how they did it, and how, at a time Church was much more conservative, they became a thorn in its side. Our confrere summed it up with joy and pride: “The Redemptorists were always in the front line!”
Once in Bonn we had the opportunity to talk with some of the young people who had volunteered in previous years, during a fraternal and delicious barbecue prepared by them and for them. Their volunteer stories are different from one another, but there’s one thing they have in common: the mark the stories left in them for life. Most of them had to learn a new language, had to leave their country and live for one year with the Redemptorists in another part of the world, living different experiences and working on different projects. All of them talked about their experiences with a smile on their faces and with enthusiasm. One of them even claimed: “It was the best year of my life!”
During our brief stay there we had the chance to talk with the Father Jürgen Langer and with the layman Carlos Sanabria; they presently embrace this project with all their hearts. Their daily lives are often focused on the challenges and achievements of this project and on the bridges it keeps open with different countries: from Argentina to Indonesia, from Ireland to the United Kingdom, from Thailand to the USA. These are bridges of solidarity in which different communities help each other and share possibilities.
These were precious days of listening and sharing of stories. Life is happening in our homes.
We’ll see you around,
Zé ku Teresa