Even those from Quebec were in no hurry to leave. They had 250 kilometres to go, it was getting late, and the temperature was already below zero. From Ottawa too, they still had 150 kilometres to travel; those from Montreal, of course, were on home ground. Broad smiles, excited conversations, little groups of people exchanging confidences, bursts of laughter, flashes of light from cameras eager to capture this unforgettable moment: that says it all.
Over three hundred people had grasped what a one-off occasion with Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti this was to be. Among them were those who had met the very first focolarini to visit Montreal some 40 years ago, returning to meet the successor of the founder Chiara Lubich, in order to revive a bond that had never really been broken. Here on March 23, the warm and generous people of the province of Quebec gave of their very best.
Ten year-old Stephanie, with her long dark hair and slightly Asian look, had the honour of asking the first of ten questions prepared for Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti. She made everyone laugh with her direct and slightly mischievous question: “Chiara was the first to live the spirituality of unity, and brought the movement to life. She was an obvious choice as president. What did you do to become president after her?” Maria Voce, obviously amused, replied to the youngster directly in French.
Before answering the next question, Maria Voce explained that because of the need to translate the session for videos that would go all over the world, she would have to speak in Italian. Everyone approved, but without realising it she began to speak in French again. This drew gales of laughter, and she stopped for a moment, smiled, and decided not to switch continually from one language to another. To everyone’s delight, she chose French.
Their joy was complete when at the end of the evening the president gave her assessment of the visit. “I am grateful to God who enabled me to make this journey to Canada. He was the one who suggested it to me.” She went on, “In this country there is an acceptance, a generosity, a welcome for a whole variety of people who arrive in great need. I can imagine the difficulties, but you demonstrate how they are overcome.”
Looking around the hall, Maria Voce added, “Your testimony is enormous. You have become a real family, of people from different cultures and ethnic origins. This is your most important gift to the Movement. Canada is a place where unity can be experienced, and as with a trampoline you can launch it elsewhere.”
This observation was also, at the same time, a challenge. “Carry on as you are, in the joy of having received this great gift from God, and offer it to others.” The loud applause indicated general approval and helped to hide the tears of emotion of many. No one wanted to leave, and not a few were heard to say, “Please ask Maria and Giancarlo to come back, often.”