They call “guardian angels" 25 families, who, every two years, take turns managing for three months the Casa Betania, where they move and to reside stably and represent the point of reference for many needy people. «In this ecclesial experience
—explains Giuseppe Bigi, the director of the House—the family is involved as such and in its entirety. The whole family participates, the children, the husband and the wife together, without having any particular task that requires specialized training. Simply, in testifying that the love that lives amidst them, they can extend it toward the brothers and sisters, serving them. The ‘guardian angels’ are, therefore, key figures, because our guests all need closeness, they need to be listened to and have someone to create a loving relationship with them
This is a story of hospitality that began direct in an encounter with their neighbor and inevitably refers back to hospitality offer to the Lord Jesus, when he was welcomed at Bethany, in the house of the three siblings: Martha, Mary and Lazarus. However, this time the scene takes place in Albinea, a town of eight thousand inhabitants in the province of Reggio Emilia. Here, in front of the entrance of San Gaetano Parish, one evening, a poor bedraggled and hungry man asked for shelter, ignoring the fact that no one, until then, had thought of creating any structures that could respond this kind of request. Then, «in a great rush— Giuseppe Bigi, who in addition to being the Director of Casa Betania is also a permanent deacon of the parish, recalls —we had to prepare a room ready, where the poor could sleep».
This is how Casa Betania came to be, as a part of a process of opening up to the neediest that had begun earlier with other initiatives (such as, the creation of two centers, one for “Listening to poverty” and another for collecting and distributing used clothing), and then developed through various projects into a more complex organization. The essential point is that the choice-making process has always taken place with the parish pastoral council and through community reflection, in which families play a major role.
Today, Casa Betania is formed by a residential community with 25 beds, which houses homeless people, mothers in trouble together with their children, girls from the streets, men and women in existential crisis or who want to free themselves from alcoholism, and many other people struggling with the many problems that life puts in front of them. In addition to the “guardian” family, there are many volunteers—very often composed of other families—, who help with various services and, in 2010 alone, for example, took care of more than 2500 people.
Charity has a Family. Casa Betania.
Category: Volunteering and networks of solidarity
Scope of the experience: Saint Gaetano Parish, Diocese of Reggio Emilia, Albinea
Contact (Casa Famiglia della Carità Betania):
Via don Sturzo, 2 – 42020 Albinea (RE)
Tel. +39 0522 59 74 90
Fax +39 0522 34 71 77