Sant’Egidio is a Christian community that began in 1968, just after the end of the Second Vatican Council, through the initiative of Andrea Riccardi in an institute in the center of Rome. With the years, it has become a network of communities that has branched out to more than 70 countries, giving special attention to the peripheries and outreach to those on the margins. It consists of men and women of different ages and backgrounds who are united by a bond of fraternity based on listening to the Gospel and on voluntary and gratuitous work for the poor and for peace.
In all large cities there are many people who for various reasons are obliged to live on the streets. It is a tough life, marked not only by poverty, but also by isolation, invisibility and even contempt.
To stop, to speak, to establish a personal relationship of support and of friendship, and to help with specific needs are the simple actions of the Good Samaritan that counteract the abyss of indifference which surrounds the life and at times the death of one who lives in the streets.
At the end of the seventies, when the number of poor in the streets of Rome was rapidly increasing, Sant’Egidio began to approach homeless persons. Some episodes of intolerance and of violence gave rise to a movement of reflection and of incentives to counteract the situation of abandonment and of danger in the life of those poor people. One story in particular had a strong impact on the life of the Community: the story of Modesta Valenti, a homeless elderly woman, whom they met in the Termini Railway Station in Rome, and who died because she was dirty, and the ambulance refused to help her.
Her memory has become, with the passage of the years, a moment of prayer for those who live in the street and has created a wide movement of solidarity. Knowledge of this world of the poor, first in Rome and then in all the places of the world where Sant’Egidio is established, has given rise to a network of friendship and of help, and has generated stable programs of solidarity.
Thus arose, the soup kitchens, assistance centers, homes and overnight shelters.
Continuing the collaboration that the Handmaid community of Via Parre has with the Sant, and has generatedce torise tow’Egidio, three of us Sisters who are preparing for perpetual profession have volunteered in this soup kitchen together with a professed Sister. The soup kitchen is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It serves about 300 people, among whom there are many Italians as well as many immigrants.
Participating in this soup kitchen has allowed us to have the experience of a service that helps street people in a comprehensive way. Those who come to eat there need not only to satisfy the material need of nourishment, but also of friendliness, respect and human warmth that are often denied them.
The service is done by volunteers who, in this and in other initiatives, freely give their time in order to help these persons in their difficulties, with attention to the dignity and individuality of each one, by means of a kind attitude and care to create a friendly atmosphere.