In 1983 Father Oreste Benzi, founder the Pope John XXIII Community Association, met the Bishop of Ndola, in Zambia and he invited him to visit one of our family homes. The bishop accepted this invitation and, while he was visiting the family home, a little girl with severe disabilities who had been welcomed in, sat on his knee and hugged him like a father. The bishop was profoundly moved by this and he said: “I’d like there to be family homes in my diocese too!” So he asked Father Benzi to come to Ndola and to find someone who would go there to share their own life with African children with disabilities. The first mission opened in Zambia in 1985.
Since then the Community has opened family homes and other centres in over 30 countries on the five continents, in 1989 forming an NGO called Sharing with the Word’s Peoples that, since then, has been organising and supporting projects in many of the nations it reaches out to.
Visit the page countries with a Pope John XXIII Community presence to read in detail about the projects which currently involve our missionaries and volunteers.
«Giving a family to those without one is written in our DNA. A mother and a father and also a broader family made up of the cooperatives and therapeutic communities, to make them feel part a huge single family. Despite the death of Father Benzi, not only have we maintained the work already begun but have also increased our presence the world over. The charism remains the same but expressed in different forms.
Our DNA must adapt to different cultures and situations. It takes years to really enter into the culture of a people. However, what is immediately recognisable is the fact that we live our life together with the poor, the disabled. In Asia, in a predominantly Muslim and Hindu world we undoubtedly suffer some persecution and threats. The situation in Africa is different with people dying of hunger and disease and here, sharing their life means, above all, saving them from death. In Europe the decline of the family is becoming a social trauma in which individualism and being alone are much lauded. By welcoming in the poor we make the real function of the family shine through, because this is a language everybody understands.
The common factor is our welcoming in of the poor, conducting ourselves as a single spiritual family. We must therefore be always present on the margins of existence, as Pope Francis has said. Some people ask us: "Why do you keep on opening new places of sharing rather than consolidating those already there?". It is because we have to be the contemporaries of history, the Holy Spirit is calling us and who knows what we can expect from these new encounters. We have to be in places where we can connect with the Lord, as Father Benzi used to say. We mustn’t shut ourselves away in what is already there. The Lord demands much than that of us”.