We were sorry to see a number of Caravita members leave Rome in 2021. We asked them to share their wisdom before they left and to tell us about their work or ministry in Rome, their future plans, what Caravita meant to them while in Rome and what advice they have for the Caravita Community. Here are their thoughts:

To me, Caravita has been a family – Caravita Reflection April 16th 2023

by Helen Harrington

During my first few weeks in Rome, I was introduced to the Caravita Community.  For the next nine and a half years,  this Community was part of my weekly life, and it’s members an extended family.  The text below is the reflection that I shared with the Community on my last Sunday at Caravita, 16th April 2023.

“As I sat here last week, Easter Sunday, I listened intently to what one of our wonderful presiders David Holdcroft SJ shared during his homily, as I knew that today, my last Sunday in Caravita I would have to share my own reflection on my last nine years with this wonderful Community and I needed inspiration!

One of the things that struck me as he spoke was the question he asked “When has Jesus been present with us, even against all the odds?  In truth, like in life, my time here at Caravita has been filled with so many blessings, but also times of difficulty for our community. We have faced many challenges, particularly in the last five years, and many of which seemed to coincide with my time on the Pastoral Council. However, each time we faced one of those difficulties I, and I hope we as a community, have felt the presence of Jesus with us, supporting us, helping us to find a way forward, and to continue to be together, even at times on a screen, each Sunday to share in communion.

The theme of our most recent Caravita retreat, was “The Gaze of Love” and our facilitator Pauline Darby quoted another Jesuit, I think his name was Ignatius, who said “How is God our Lord looking at me, etc.” We talked about this etc. and how each of us knows God in different ways: through sound, touch, the beauty around us, the delicious food we eat or prepare etc., I feel that we here at Caravita experience the gaze of love each Sunday when we come together in unity, to celebrate mass together.

We are a community, and  I prepared this reflection this week,  I went straight to Google to search for a quote on community from Pope Francis: another wise Jesuit! The first hit on Google was this, the family is a community of love where each of us learns to relate to each other and to the world around us. To me, Caravita has been a family. A place where I could come each Sunday, to relate to the world around us, with wonderful homilies, and to relate to each other, during mass but also in our post mass glass of Prosecco. Ultimately though, we are a community of love, caring and supporting each other. And I have felt this deeply over the last nine years. Thank you especially to Bernie for introducing me to Caravita and to each of you for your friendship and fellowship.  So it is with sadness that I have to say goodbye, for now, but I leave you, this wonderful community, with an Irish blessing:

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And the rains fall soft upon your fields

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Come as you are – Uta Sievers on 15 years with Caravita

By Uta Sievers

December 2021

I arrived in Rome in November 2006 but that was not the first time I came to Caravita. I think I may have started coming in 2003, on my trips from London. However, when I first came to mass after having settled in, I thought of course nobody would recognize me. I was wrong! When I arrived, Dan Madigan was sweeping up cigarette butts on the steps outside. Looking up, he just said, “Hi Uta.”

I didn’t say “Rabbuni!” but it would have been appropriate – the shock of being recognized by someone you like very much, being met by them at your level, where you are, on the outside…

So I stayed. Sometime in 2009 or so I became an acolyte, and just yesterday, while packing my boxes, I found the tiny cheat sheet that I had written for myself. I really enjoyed “wrapping people in a cloud of incense”. Before that, I served on the Pastoral Council from 2011 to 2013, and after that, I had the great pleasure of being the “Master of Zoom Ceremonies” for on line Masses during the Covid pandemic.

Introducing myself for election to the pastoral council, I wrote in 2011 about the reasons to be part of Caravita: “The people, the community feel, the inclusiveness, the preaching, the thoughtful way of celebrating, the festive atmosphere, the arrangement of the chairs.” When I think back to those first years, my “honeymoon period”, and compare them to the last two years since I’ve been back after some time away, my heart aches. The squabbles we had in the “golden days” seem almost funny compared to the real problems of today: squeezed in between two other masses, blinded by neon light, our intimate circle of chairs disrupted by Covid-distancing, our hymn books unused.

None of this is of our own making, and yet it is the reality that we have to face every Sunday. We can complain, but we can also fill this space, our space at the margins. We can lead from the edge. We can show perseverance and how we learned to cooperate and make things work in the face of huge obstacles. This will be the Church of the future, as I see it, and we are being pressed, formed into a community to serve that Church, to become future-proof.

This spirit of a Church to come, this physical and spiritual experience, has already been carried out into the world by so many who have “left” Caravita – in quotation marks because of course you never really leave a place like this as it becomes imprinted on you, rather.

And today I am joining their ranks. So, what’s next for me? I am in deep discernment, and it’s not a comfortable place. I have decided to throw open the doors to all possibilities: I have yet to decide on the place to move to, nor on the work to do there, nor the people to live with.

Please pray for me – and know that your blessing will be my nourishment for what might become a very long road, but God willing, I’ll be in a good place when I arrive, and I’ll bring a piece of Caravita to that place along with that sense of being known that I had here from the beginning. Thank you!

Daphne Alphonso: What belonging to the Caravita community has meant for me

I was named to Rome as General Treasurer of my Congregation and started coming to Caravita on a regular basis in 2019. I had heard a lot about Caravita from different persons but somehow never got round to coming.

What struck me most when I came was the warm welcome received, the bonding that seemed to radiate among the people I met, the interest they showed towards each other. I also felt nourished by the homilies. Belonging to the Caravita community has been energising and empowering for me.

The gathering after Mass enabled people to get to know one another more, strengthen bonds and widen horizons making new acquaintances.

Since then, I have never stopped coming and when I used to travel a lot, would try my level best to be back in Rome for the Sunday.

I have also strived to contribute to the life of the community as much as possible: choir, reading ministries and was always ready to fill in if required.

A key moment for me in the Caravita community was the solidarity I experienced in December 2019 when my Dad passed away and my nephew was seriously ill. I truly felt supported and encouraged by the community.

I should have left Rome last August, but because of COVID, am still here and have thus been able to benefit from Caravita for another year, for which I am very thankful.

When asked about Caravita, I invite people to “come and see” leaving them totally free to decide whether the community responds to their needs.

Today, I would like to express my gratitude for each one of you, for all you are and do for the community. I shall miss you and would be thrilled to welcome you in Montreal.

I count on your continued support and prayers as I continue my student life on the other side of the Atlantic, and will surely be thinking of you all here in Rome, sincerely hoping that the membership will increase as various members will be leaving for new horizons this year.

Daphne

A farewell note from Sr. Margaret Phelan

Dear Friends and community,

I was first introduced to this community in 2001 when I was in Rome for a few weeks as interpreter for another congregation’s general chapter. When I returned in September 2003 I immediately came to Caravita and have been a part of this community ever since.

I came to Rome to serve our congregation at the international level in the dual capacity of interpreter for international meetings. I was quickly recruited by the UISG and some religious orders as an interpreter for their meetings and as General Archivist for my own order. I had served as provincial archivist in the USA for nine years prior to coming to Rome. After nearly 18 years of service as General Archivist, I have now retired from that role and have turned it over to the two lay archivists I hired ten years ago. I leave next Sunday for three months of family visits, retreat, and vacation in various parts of the US and will settle in St. Louis, MO at the end of August My new home will be a seven minute walk from our provincial archives, where I hope to be able to be of some assistance, without carrying the responsibility.

There are a very few of you, members of the Caravita Community, who have been here longer than I. Many others have come and gone over the years and some have even come back either to visit or for another stay in Rome.

I was initially drawn to the diversity of people I met here, the excellence of the homilies, the welcoming attitude of “all are welcome”, and the fact of our not being a “parish” with all the rules and regulations that entails. All were invited to participate in whatever way we could: as readers, communion ministers, altar servers, greeters, members of the Pastoral Council, Web-page coordinator, choir and other. The only steps I missed over the years were those of web-page, choir and greeters. After a few years, we developed a training program for the various tasks of altar service. After some time, many became uncomfortable with a gradual movement towards greater clericalism and exercise of power. Some left, others of us withdrew somewhat from those situations.

For me, the strong point was always that of the spiritual community and the friendships that developed among us. The annual retreat was always something planned and executed with care and an eye for time to share and also enjoy each other’s company and some good food. My regret is that I was rarely in Rome at that time of the year.

I have seen this community grow through a very painful crisis, facing reality and looking for ways to come to a new reality, all the stronger for having worked through the pain, anger, hurt and using our various talents – as well as much prayer and mutual support – to create something new and very beautiful. I feel that this Paschal moment has brought this community through to a new Risen life that will bring much fruit.

With the onset of the pandemic last year, this community looked for and continues to find ways of gathering around the altar, using whatever means at our disposal. The zoom liturgies have been my mainstay for over a year and I am just very happy that I was finally able to join in person once I had been vaccinated. It would have been very sad for me to leave Rome and Caravita without having received your blessing in person.

I will miss you each very much and the spiritual richness of this community that has been such a gift to me over these many years. You will be in my thoughts prayers as you continue to grow and to make many more feel very welcome.
 
Grazie! Arrivederci!