(Vatican City). From 21 June to 30 July 2021, Summer Children took place in equipped spaces within Vatican City, an opportunity offered by the Governorate of the Vatican City State with the coordination of the Salesian Community in the Vatican together with society Play It, with the animation agency Everything in Celebration.
Together with Fr. Franco Fontana, Salesian of Don Bosco, Director of the Salesian Community in the Vatican and responsible for the initiative, two SDBs, the agency’s operators, and the volunteer animators, collaborated with two Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Carmen Mea of the Community St. John Bosco and Sr. Tran Thi Them of the Community of Mary Help of Christians in Rome, of the Province of St. John Bosco (IRO).
In the Special year dedicated to Laudato sì, Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the care of the common home, every week children and young people were involved in games, recreational and formative activities on the subject “Are you ours? Together for a better world”, to bring them closer to understanding the environmental and social emergency and to discover the true meaning of being a Christian and how to think of oneself within the world and creation. The primary objective was, “to discover the beauty of being together, of sharing passions, emotions, smiles. An experience where everyone feels at home and where the little ones learn from the older ones.”
The FMA recount the experience:
“Every day children and young people, during the hour of the formation activity, learned about a topic of ecology through videos, theatrical representations, games, stories, and tales with the aim of stimulating children on environmental issues and leading them to reflect on how each of us is called to take care of creation through small gestures that make a difference. … Every Friday, in turn, the children and young people went to the area of the Vatican gardens called ‘the forest’, and planted a holm oak, recuperating contact with the surrounding nature. The children got involved and showed interest in everything”.
Sr. Thi Them: “We lived the experience in a family atmosphere, in a relationship of reciprocity and collaboration, where everyone felt free to give what they had. Regarding the educational objectives, … I was amazed by the understanding of children aged 5 to 7 of the reality of the environment in which they live, of the ability to apply certain rules to the environment learned through play. The participation of all the children in the activities of prayer, play, workshop was positive. We hope that everything that the children listened to and did in these fun days will be put into practice in life”.
Sr. Carmen: “I was mainly with middle school young people, and I was amazed at how open they were to any proposal, formative and recreational activity as they learned in a short time to welcome each other. I was moved to see them leave Paul VI Hall every Friday crying because they would never see some friends again, or because they had to leave a familiar place. … I think they really felt at home, and this was also due to the wealth put into play by each of us volunteers, religious, animators, and leaders of the Associations. With me I bring the joy of the young people and the many skills observed and learned in this beautiful adventure”.
Summer Children in the Vatican for the two FMA was also an experience of faith sharing and vocational witness:
Sr. Thi Them: “Talking about faith is not always easy. … The children asked me what concerns their daily reality: from current events, to family, to faith. The older ones asked questions about consecrated life. Speaking with the animators about religious life, I highlight their talents and encourage them, trying to make them aware of the gifts received. Young people are generous and want to serve others, have artistic talents, and are able to lead a group. What I shared is essentially the life in which God is present, He shares it with us, and through us He makes the other feel loved”.
Sr. Carmen: “If young people are made protagonists of what they live and are treated as adults, they know how to reciprocate your trust in them, even exceeding the expectations of adults. It is they themselves who, during the sharing, expressed the fatigue and fear of not always being considered as they would like. Therefore on many occasions they proved to be exceptional, for example in the Eucharistic celebration organized for them and preceded by some preparatory meetings and by Confession, which many adhered to. The seriousness with which they participated in the celebration, where each was made a protagonist to a degree, meant that we lived a moment of fraternity and friendship”.