Activity in Rome (Italy)
“Casa Serena” is a new prefabricated house for homeless men.
In the early nineties we started a night shelter for men known as “Casa Serena”. Right now we have about 70-80 older men from the street, 50 years old or above, some of whom are disabled, who otherwise would have slept in the open. They can be of any nationality, religion, colour or culture since the basic needs of men do not differ from country to country or culture to culture: their basic needs are always the same. Not only do these men find a warm bed where to rest and sleep, but they also receive a full meal each evening, besides all the other necessary facilities, and what is more important, the warmth of a family…the family of the Brothers, together with many volunteers and Lay Missionaries of Charity.
For the running costs or for any other expenses we depend entirely on Divine Providence!
“Casa Serena” is looked after by the Brothers with the help of many generous and dedicated Lay Missionaries of Charity, volunteers and co-workers. Even for medical help we are fortunate to have Doctors coming regularly during the week for the Brothers and the poor. We remember in our daily prayer our volunteers and benefactors, with gratitude for their whole-hearted free service beyond any limit, and offer sacrifices for them.
For our guests we provide food, shelter and all the basic needs of the day and medical aid, but also spiritual food for the salvation of their souls: they have catechism class, they share adoration and Rosary to nourish their souls. Their participation in our Eucharistic perpetual adoration and prayer is really edifying. Moreover we try to talk with them whenever opportunity offers and try our best to make them feel at home.
Saturday 29th May 1993, Vigil of Pentecost, we had the Blessing of Casa Serena by Archbishop Giuseppe Mani, in the presence of Bl. Teresa Teresa of Kolkata. It was the Silver Jubilee of Br. Damien and Fr. Sebastian (2 June 1968 – 2 June 1993). Pentecost to Pentecost through Pentecost: the first and final professions of Br. Damien and Fr. Sebastian were on 2 June 1968 and 1974. Both years it was Pentecost Sunday; so, too, the Silver Jubilee year was on the vigil of Pentecost. Hence the expression from Pentecost to Pentecost. “Casa Serena” was the Jubilee Memorial and a Jubilee gift to Rome’s homeless men.
4th September 1993, Casa Serena was Blessed and inaugurated by His Eminence Cardinal Camillo Ruini presiding over the Eucharistic celebration at the same time.
Past history: The winter in December 1987 was quite severe. We were told that several homeless people had died around the train stations in Rome. So we decided to go at night with some of our generous volunteers, taking some hot coffee, tea and sandwiches with us. We were shocked to see so many homeless people trying to sleep around the train stations and on some of the door steps of the Churches. For a while we went every night. Then we limited ourselves to Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We fed up to two hundred people each time with a full meal, as well as distributing winter clothes, shoes, medicines, etc.
Those years of street ministry, from 1987 to 1993, were not only a moving experience for us but also it opened our eyes to see the suffering of the poor in Rome.
As a result of much prayer and sacrifice we were able to rent a piece of land adjacent to ours from IACP (now A.T.E.R.), where we wanted to build a night shelter, at least for some of the most needy homeless men.
In May 1989 we applied for permission to build a pre-fabricated house. It took exactly three years to obtain the permission with much difficulty, accompanied by assiduous prayers, untiring efforts and generous sacrifices.
On 10 March 1992 we finally received the permission. Now we needed help. Divine providence intervened again. It came from various generous volunteers: one gave a door, another a window, and others made much more substantial and even life-long sacrifices to help with the building and running of “Casa Serena”. The architect directed the entire project free of charge, which he so joyfully accepted and so faithfully carried out. The people supported us also by their prayers and words of encouragement, as it is God’s work we do.
On Wednesday 22nd June 2011 we concluded the purchase of the whole land from Azienda Territoriale per l’Edilizia Residenziale (A.T.E.R.), after long years of very hard labour, persistence, unceasing prayers, sacrifices and penances.
Now we are trying to get permission to add another building in memory of the birth centenary of Bl. Teresa of Kolkata. Although the memorial stone was blessed on 27th December 2010, the most important things are still lacking: the necessary permissions and the fund. Although it still seems impossible, with God’s help and the prayers and sacrifices of so many people of good will, we are confident of its realization for God’s poor. God hears the cry of the poor. There is really a pressing need for a bigger and better structure. Please pray much and offer more sacrifices.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.
in the name and for the sake of the poor.