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socioMovens Croatia: A special preperation…

SocioMovens Croatia has been active again in the last few weeks. Despite all their commitments at school or university, numerous volunteers found time to prepare for First Communion and Confirmation with 26 pupils from the “Tomislav Spoljar” education centre. The sacraments will be donated by Bishop Bože Radoš on 23 April 2022. The pupils with disabilities are closely accompanied in their preparation by the person in charge of the Commission for Pastoral Care for People with Disabilities and their Families of the Diocese of Varaždin, Leonardo Šardi, who implements the programme with socioMovens volunteers.

In order to give the families of the children the opportunity to participate in the preparation for First Communion and Confirmation, the preparation took place on several dates with very different workshops. For example, in one of the workshops, cards were embroidered and written on with a greeting and blessings. After the celebration, these cards will be given to the children and families by the volunteers.

“The aim, says Anika Sačić – coordinator in Ludbreg, is to make the children and the families of children with disabilities feel welcome in the church and to experience locally how young people, have heart and time for them.”

The volunteers were also happy to finally do an action together. Especially considering that some of the participants had been in very different project weeks, it is great how the group has grown together in the last few months.

Then Anika tells a very heartbreaking story:

“Last year, young parents from our parish got a phone call asking them to come to the hospital for an interview. The diagnosis for their one-month-old child looked very bad. The child was premature and the brain damage was massive, so the doctors were alread y asking the parents to say goodbye to the child. We started to pray for the little one, for the doctors and his family. And: The child survived! Today, the little one is 15 months old and is, so to speak, the youngest volunteer! Until today he has to fight, he is often in hospital, he has permanent brain damage, but the boy does not give up – like his parents.

The parents of the little child also came to the workshop to help design the greeting cards and thus give back a little of what they have experienced in the parish. Quite unexpectedly, this gave the volunteers the opportunity to experience first-hand what it is like to be the mother and father of a special child and what challenges there are to overcome. The mother told of her self-doubt and her struggles with God, but also the trust that God will win in the end and how her faith helps her to carry her own cross.

I and the others can certainly agree when Luke’s Gospel says: “There is no profit in us, for we have only done what we were ordered to do.” (Lk 17:10). That’s what this day and the companion of such great people felt like.”

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Workshop für die Jugendlichen in Kroatien

„Es gibt Menschen, die wenig haben und alles geben, was sie haben. Solche Menschen glauben an das Leben und den Schatz des Lebens, und ihre Truhen sind nie leer.“

Am 25. Februar 2022 fand, organisiert von der Kommission für die Seelsorge für Menschen mit Behinderungen und ihre Familien der Diözese Varaždin, ein Workshop für alle ehemaligen Teilnehmer*innen der Projektwochen von 2016 bis 2021 statt. Insbesondere die Teilnehmer*innen, die Freiwillige und somit Teil des internationalen Netzwerks socioMovens wurden, nahmen teil, um inmitten von Schule, Universität und anderen Verpflichtungen, mehr über Freiwilligenarbeit zu lernen.

Das Treffen organisierte der Beauftragte für die Seelsorge für Menschen mit Behinderungen und ihre Familien, Priester Leonardo Šardi. An dem Treffen nahmen auch die Mitglieder der Kommission Krunoslav Šardi, Ivana Peček, Anika Sačić und Prof. Saša Josip Milec, dessen Religionsschüler*innen z.T. auch an Projektwochen teillnehmen, teil.

Das Treffen begann mit einem Gebet und dem sogenannten „Wetterbericht“, bei dem sich alle Teilnehmer*innen vorstellten und sich so etwas besser kennenlernten. Dann sprach Priester Leonardo darüber, wie wichtig die eigene Motivation bei der Freiwilligenarbeit ist. Er nannte das Evangelium des Guten Hirten (Joh 10,4). Unter anderem betonte er, dass das Evangelium von Schafen spricht, die die Stimme Jesu kennen, sie schon gehört haben, sie kennen und ihr folgen.

In der Fortsetzung des Treffens brachte die fachkundige Mitarbeiterin der Kommission, Anika Sačić, den Teilnehmer*innen die Bedeutung der Inklusion von Menschen mit Behinderungen in die Gesellschaft mithilfe eines kurzen Films (https://youtu.be/QXY5TyCUTlo) näher. Sie erklärte, dass es wichtig ist, den Dienst stets mit dem Herzen zu machen. Zudem wurden die Motive des Ehrenamts sowie die Arten von Freiwilligenarbeit vorgestellt.

Es wurde zudem diskutiert, dass man darauf achten sollte, warum und wie wir dienen, ob wir dienen, um gelobt, gesehen und als wichtig anerkannt zu werden, oder um zu dienen, weil wir die Welt zu einem besseren Ort machen wollen. Nachdem sich die Teilnehmer*innen mit den Beweggründen des Ehrenamts vertraut gemacht hatten, dachten die Jugendlichen in Gruppen darüber nach, warum sie sich eigentlich engagieren, was das für sie bedeutet und ob sich durch ihr Engagement etwas ändert. Die Schlussfolgerungen der Gruppenarbeit waren wunderbar:

  • durch freiwilliges Engagement benannten die Jugendlichen, sich selbst zu verändern und dass sie dies als Hingabe für andere sehen
  • die Projektwochen waren ein wichtiger Wendepunkt in ihrem Leben
  • einige sagten sogar, dass sie durch die Projektwoche ihre Berufwahl getroffen haben
  • einige benannten, dass sie durch die Projektwoche andere Wege genagen sind und mehr Dankbarkeit in ihrem Leben spüren
  • unter anderem wurde festgestellt, dass es wichtig ist, sich selbst zu geben und kein Lob zu erwarten, obwohl es schön ist, gelobt zu werden
  • wichtiger als Lob ist der besondere Blick, den uns die Person gibt, der wir geholfen haben

Das Treffen endete mit einem kreativen Workshop, der von der Mitarbeiterin der Kommission Ivana Peček geleitet wurde. Danach wurden unsere Jugendlichen zur Eucharistiefeier eingeladen. Am Ende wurden die Jugendlichen noch zum internationalen Jugendtreffen in Krakau 2022 eingeladen, das Interesse ist hoch. Eine junge Frau würde gerne eine Herzoperation verschieben, nur damit sie dabei sein kann.

Zusammengefasst war der Workshop geglückt und die Reaktionen positiv.

Anika Sačić

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Unity in diversity – the work of the local community in Ludbreg, Croatia

“What we need to do is find a way to celebrate our diversity and discuss our differences without breaking our communities.” (Anne Frank)

At our project location in Ludbreg, Croatia, 9 project weeks have taken place so far, often with the focus on working with people with disabilities. Here, you can read more about the development after the project weeks:

Since 22 october 2020, weekly online meetings between people with disabilities, committed young people of former socioMovens project weeks (here called volunteers) and members of the commission for the pastoral care for people with diasbilities of the Diocese of Varaždin near Ludbreg, Croatia are held. This form of pastoral-catechetical content for people with disabilities was approached due to the epidemiological situation and health protection.

The online meetings are a good opportunity especially for those people who are not able to attend live meetings because of the distance of their residence or because of their disability. The meetings take place according to the following programme:

  • Check-in: At the very beginning, each participant briefly introduces himself and talks about what has happened in his life in the past week. This expands the circle of acquaintances, the joys and difficulties of everyday life are shared.
  • Songs: Afterwards, some songs are chosen to be heard or sing together,“so we form a large choir throughout our diocese of Varaždin and beyond ;)” (Anika Sačić, coordinator)
  • Topic: The meetings always have a specific topic, which is regularly led by members of the Commission, and occasionally young volunteers are involved. The topics are related to the time of the church year or the biography of a saint is looked at. Recently, the leaders have the opportunity to share their personal stories with the participants.

It should be emphasised that in the presentation of the topics, the volunteers take care of people with intellectual disabilities, so they regularly use presentations with more images in order that everybody understand the meaning and message of the topic with as little effort as possible.

Besides the current online meetings, there have been, especially before the coronavirus pandemic, regular analogue meetings two hours long for people with and without disabilities. They hopefully can start again soon, depending when the situation with the coronavirus pandemic allows it. „Two years ago, people with disabilities from different parts of Croatia joined us and that is what fills our hearts with immense joy. We have people nearly from the entire diocese of Varaždin, a blind person from Slavonski Brod joined us, then another blind person from Split, etc. Our meetings bring together people with different types of disabilities: intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, blind and deafblind people.“ (Anika Sačić)

The meetings are regularly attended by young people who participated in the project weeks of socioMovens. Thus the local community in Croatia is expanding. Leonardo Šardi, priest and commissioner for the pastoral care of people with disabilities and their families, is also present at these meetings which gives a special dimension to the encounter: „The participants thus get the impression that the church cares for them as well and that the priests are the ones who are there for them and who want to be with them. Recently, one participant, who is his whole life in a wheelchair, stated that he joined us after seeing a post of these meetings on Facebook out of pure curiosity because he was disappointed and outraged by the church at the time. He had the impression that the church is not doing anything about people with disabilities and that they are on side, forgotten. After the first meeting, he decided to attend every next one. He was happy because he has never experienced anyone striving so hard for him.“ (Anika Sačić)

All these projects and meetings also focus on the misson of socioMovens: Giving Europe a soul. „To all of the above, we strive to give Europe a soul, but also to bring back the joy to people (with dissablities) that have lost it through their previous experience of being often unimportant and unnecessary to society and the church. And then, we can see that people with disabilities make friends with various people inside and outside Croatia and talk about their experiences at our meetings. So we can rightly say that, by the grace of God, we do not get tired of giving a soul to Europe.“ (Anika Sačić)

“Friendship is one of the most important things in my life. I meet a lot of interesting people at the zoom meetings. We are all very friendly towards each other. Almost every meeting begins with a musical request from the participants, which the organizers perceive and play via a music channel. Religious topics are mostly covered, but also other things that are important in life. When the corona measures decrease, we want to meet again in live meetings. I feel comfortable in the meetings themselves. Meetings generally means for me more involvement in society, I mean live meetings. What I like the most is that I meet new people with whom I talk about interesting topics.” (Magdalena, blind)

The involvement of young volunteers can, as this article shows, integrate, include and make happier people with disabilities and it can form inclusive relationships. “And this is how people with disabilities actively participate in the life of the church and society.” (Anika Sačić)