Written by Barb Spies, OFS, Director of Mission Services and Pastoral Care
The Felician Sisters follow in the footsteps of St. Francis in promoting Justice and Peace as one of their core values. They live out the mission of encountering others, seeing their worth and dignity, and reverencing others. They showed this value early in the life of the congregation by caring for both Polish and Russian soldiers during the conflict between the two countries.
In turbulent times, we look for models of what to do. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Mr. Rogers once said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” He went on to say, “If you look for the helpers, you will know that there is hope.”
As I see the news about war in the Middle East, I think about a helper during World War II in Assisi, Italy. The city itself was saved from being bombed by being declared a hospital city. But, within the city walls, Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis were saved by everyday people. One in particular who played a significant role was Don Aldo Brunacci, a diocesan priest in Assisi. Under the direction of the Bishop, Brunacci was part of a network that created false papers for Jewish people in order for them to be able to be safe, get rations, and stay in Assisi. He rode his bike from site to site to get the paperwork completed. He arranged for the hiding of individuals and families in the convents, friaries, monasteries, and homes of Assisi. His work protected the lives of 300 Jews.
As we begin the season of Advent, let us remember those who give us hope. St. Francis of Assisi modeled making peace during the Crusades when he visited with the Sultan Malik al-Kamil. Don Aldo Brunacci lived in Assisi, steeped in the Franciscan values of this holy space. He was a helper. As Mr. Rogers said, when we look at this helper, we know that there is hope.