Being on tour is always special and our two-week stay in Texas certainly was!
When we arrived in Corpus Christi for a jam packed week of events we received a warm Texan welcome at St. John Paul II High School, where we held our Start Now Workshop Project, with students from various schools in the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
The young people who arrived looking shy and a little diffident slowly opened up, and by the end of the week there seemed to be a real transformation. Here are just two of their many comments:
“I suffer from anxiety. It was very difficult for me to be at the workshop, I didn’t want to come, but my dad told me to try. So, I did it for him. On the third day of the workshop, I realized that I no longer feel anxious. My anxiety has disappeared!“.
“(After this project) I feel better about myself and so does our whole group. I think God brought us all here together to sing and to dance and to act…“.
The concert following the project was a powerful experience. Afterwards, Adriana García García (bassist, Mexico) commented: ‘I knew it would be a very powerful experience to sing “Tierra de Paz – Our Common Ground” here, but I didn’t imagine how much. I have met many of my people here and listened to their stories and challenges. While playing, my gaze met that of one of the other members of Gen Verde on stage and I could no longer hold back the tears. I realized that every word of that song speaks of the reality of ‘our common ground’, and the people in that room live it every day“. The words ‘open hearts teach us how to walk in peace together, once we’ve found our common ground’ blossomed again in my heart! Being able to witness this is already making a difference. These songs, Chi piange per te“, “Solo la Luce – Only Light“, “Tierra de Paz – Our Common Ground“, are so powerful when we sing them in Lampedusa, Atlanta and here in Texas. We are witnesses that the reality we live in a small way in our everyday lives, when shared with people who are directly involved, they take on a new dimension” Adriana added.
One of the diocesan organisers later wrote: “God is way bigger than I could EVER imagine in my wildest dreams. Thank you for showing me that, Gen Verde. Anyone who meets you is changed for the better. You are counter-cultural, and I love you for that“.
When we were invited by the Vocations Director of the Archdiocese of Houston and Galveston, Fr. Richard McNeillie, to do a concert for the young adults of the Diocese it proved to be the catalyst for us to prepare something new. That is the background to ‘Arise – Gen Verde Acoustic Concert‘ – a concert created exclusively for the United States which was held at the University of St. Thomas. After the concert, a girl from the audience said: “It was spiritually ‘overwhelming’, in the best way possible. The charism of unity in diversity that these women from so many countries shared with us is beautiful. I was really moved“.
From the University we moved to the mega Parish of St. Anthony of Padua, which has some 25,000 parishioners. We were invited to the parish in the context of the Eucharistic Revival promoted by the Bishops’ Conference of the US. One of our first commitments was to meet with the team of pastors and around 30 lay people who work closely with them, in order to present the work of Gen Verde and to share experiences of living a spirituality of communion in our work. Following the meeting several of those present said what struck them most were the stories and lived experiences.
In the parish we held a Choral workshop on three evenings, for choristers and musicians. One of most beautiful things about the Choral Workshop experience is that the choir and musicians usually come from a range of ages and experiences. Our youngest chorister who was 9 years old, came along with his father. When asked did he like the songs he said – ‘their songs are beautiful, but the people are even more beautiful’. Almost a week after the workshop his mother asked him,‘what was it like for you to have Gen Verde here? Do you remember anything about the workshop?’, he said ‘they connected me with God’.
“Gen Verde in Concert”
Our final event in the parish was ‘Gen Verde in Concert’. A powerful moment was the song ‘Break the Chain’, which although written about an experience in Northern Ireland, has a strong message about polarisation in communities and something many felt they could relate to.
The concert was an opportunity for friends from the Focolare Movement to come and many of them travelled for hours by car. One young woman said she never knew Chiara Lubich (founder of the Movement) in her lifetime but seeing the concert, she said “I felt the presence of Chiara in you and among you”. And another young man said, “Your concert really made me re-live lots of things…. I have participated in lots of concerts but none of them touched my life like this one”.
We felt once again the power of the charism, of God among us, which goes way beyond any expectations that we could ever have.