human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Youth response to COVID-19 in Milan

The Diocese of Milan sent out an appeal to the young people of their parishes to lend a helping hand during this unprecedented health crisis. What follows is the text of the appeal they made, and some examples of how the young people responded to this call.

The appeal

Caritas Ambrosiana (Diocese of Milan), FOM (the Foundation of the oratories of the Diocese of Milan) and the Youth Pastoral Office have addressed  the young people of the parish communities and ecclesial realities with a letter and a video: an invitation to collaboration and shared creativity, so as to go through this moment of emergency with quality and grace according to the indications of Archbishop Mario Delpini. Young people are called to be “Sparks in the night”, looking for the best way to make themselves present alongside the most fragile.

Dear young people,

This unexpected season questions us deeply. Each of us is touched by it through a revolutionary daily life. We are in contact with fears and desires, limitations and questions.

The Bishop, in the vigil of the beginning of the pastoral year in September, had reminded young people that they are like sparks called to bring light by drawing on the great fire of the Risen One. In the “night” of the emergency we are experiencing globally, this awareness still stimulates us to be present here and now, to let ourselves be provoked by events.

Young people are creative! We all are, also because we have received the Holy Spirit who is never monotonous, and who makes us original, and full of liveliness. As such, it is a time of quality and imagination!

Try to use time well! Pray for me, for you and your family and society. It is a time of grace. I think of the boys and teenagers who are at home from school, what are you doing all day? Try to do something good, try to study and make yourself available for a little attention: go shopping for grandma, learn to cook, wash the windows. Do something for which your time can be taken away from boredom. Learn that there is a joy in making yourself useful, even at home, in calling those who feel alone. Use your time well.

From the video message of the Archbishop of Milan, Mons. Mario Delpini, to the Ambrosian Diocese, 6 March 2020

Listening to our Archbishop, here we share some practical modalities through which we can live this season so delicate for our humanity.

1. Studying, prayer, and doing good together with joy are the ingredients for a beautiful life. Long before us, St. John Bosco had proposed them to his boys. You can take lessons from home, and even graduate sitting in your armchair! The time is right go deeper into a text, to read an interesting book, to cultivate the taste and passion for research. We are invited to stay at home taking on our simple and precious responsibilities for the good of all.

Together with the study we have the opportunity to pray. There is no shortage of stimuli for personal prayer. The churches are open and any room in the house is also a suitable place for friendship with Jesus. Our priests and educators invent the impossible to keep in touch with you. On our site you will find traces of artistic and musical paths. There is no shortage of meditations guide you through the Spiritual Exercises online, God still waits to meet us personally: listening to Saint Paul we allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ.

2. In your parish communities and in your cities or towns you are called to a test of maturity in Charity. We repeatedly share the appeal to stay home. Together, however, several young people have already made themselves available so as not to leave the most vulnerable abandoned. Some spontaneously, in their apartment blocks, have committed themselves to shopping for the elderly, while others are dedicating themselves to the delivery of meals prepared in agreement with municipalities or associations, others are even more involved and they dedicate themselves tirelessly as nurses or doctors or volunteers of the Red Cross.

We invite you in particular to make yourself available at the Caritas of your parish community. Many volunteers who normally perform the services for the latter are over 65 and in these weeks are particularly called to stay at home. So your concrete availability given in your communities can be decisive in order not to interrupt these services (canteens, solidarity emporiums, distribution and delivery of food parcels, listening centres, supportive calls, home visits for food or pharmacy shopping, dormitories, etc.) right at this time of greatest need.

Always in relationship with your parishes (Caritas, ministers of the Eucharist) and with your municipalities, be creative for the good! Go forward with generosity and intelligence by following the suggested indications for your own safety and that of others. Be close to the sick of the community and those who are most alone, listening to the needs that emerge from your territory. Share a strong friendship in good with your peers.

With your youthful freshness our communities can get through this serious moment of trial. Prayer, profound reflection and solidarity are our way of reacting!

Here are some practical attentions that are needed to volunteer in a safe and responsible way: to go out you must be in good health and asymptomatic; sanitize your hands or wear gloves while shopping and up until you deliver it, as well as when handling money; deliver shopping to the door without entering the apartment; use a mask if it is not possible to respect the distance of at least one meter or if you go to the doctor to collect the prescriptions (with the new Decree of the Regional Governor of the Lombardia Region, issued on the 5 of April 2020, it is mandatory to wear a mask or cover your nose and mouth if you are exiting home for any reason).

The response

A number of young people responded to the appeal and made themselves available for the active local services, some of which are also run in cooperation with local institutions, associations and organisations.

Bresso

To the question: ‘What can I do for the world? To fight this virus?’, young people of Bresso responded by putting themselves at the service of their community: in doing so they concretely experienced that happiness arises from gifting and from doing good. Bresso is unfortunately one of the cities with the most infected and most quarantined families, and to cope with this situation, the parish and the oratory have joined forces with those of the Municipality, the Civil Protection and the Red Cross.

The young people of the oratory (Parish), in ten days, prepared about 300 packets of food, which the Civil Protection then handed over to families and lonely people in quarantine.

In the words of some young volunteers: It proved to be a rewarding experience, an antidote to boredom, an opportunity to rediscover the gift of health, of the importance of having a family, because there are many sick and lonely people who must necessarily remain closed at home.

In groups of three, with mask, gloves and keeping the required safe distance, they pack the parcels following the indications of the municipal call centre. With an average of ten requests a day, the volunteers – a total of fifteen, even if the availability was greater – are divided into several work teams that change over the various days of the week. In addition to those assisted for the emergency in these days, the parishes of Bresso continue to distribute food to over 200 families in difficulty.

These young people have made their own the words that Pope Francis addressed to them through the Message for the XXXV World Youth Day 2020: ‘Dear young people, may you always listen to the groan of those who suffer; let yourself be moved by those who cry and die in today’s world.’

Forlanini

About twenty volunteers, for many, their first experience of service, respond above all to the small daily needs of the elderly – the purchase of medicines, bread, bills to be paid, by receiving reports from the Municipality, carrying out the services of the ONOS association, which also continues the activity of the local Caritas in this neighbourhood.

‘Fear at this moment can block or make you think only of yourself, but I don’t want it to be like this. As far as I can, I want to continue to bring my way of being’, the young Valentina says with a smile.

Thanks to the participation and willingness of the young people, it was therefore possible to carry on the proximity services of the ONOS association and the distribution of parcels by the local Caritas, destined for at risk families and elderly people living alone: ​​the young people took on the activities in which physical presence is necessary, allowing the older volunteers them to stay at home. Even these volunteers, however, continue to donate their time to others, while staying at home they maintain telephone connections with the elderly who want it, to express the friendship that will help us endure the difficulties of this period.

An operator of the Caritas cooperative that collaborates with ONOS says ‘I found very motivated and calm volunteers capable of communicating with the elderly. Because everything will be fine not only if we are cautious and respect the rules, but also if we lend a hand’.

To the question ‘what is the reason that pushed you to do it?’, these young people reply ‘It is part of my lifestyle choices’, ‘the need to feel useful, to do something for those who need it most’, ‘it is important to dedicate time to others, especially in this moment in which we have more free time’.

Giambellino and Barona area of Milan

Young people are busy on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as part of the ‘QuBì project’ (a project on child poverty, present in the Barona and Giambellino districts): they support some operators from the Municipality of Milan (hub managers) and operators from others local cooperatives and associations. Currently the shopping is delivered to about 300 families (the numbers are growing), once a week, in collaboration with the local social services.

The young people are in charge of unloading the foodstuffs that arrive from the Muggiò Food Bank (twice a week) and preparing the individual expenses for families. The parcels are brought directly to the families by some cooperatives contacted by the Municipality of Milan, which have made the means and personnel available.

In this pastoral community (San Giovanni XXIII), the three distribution points for food parcels remained open: here too some young people replaced over 65 older volunteers as indicated by Caritas Ambrosiana.

Cernusco Sul Naviglio

Teenagers and young people of Cernusco sul Naviglio are giving contributing to help the weakest people (such as the elderly), who are suffering during this health emergency.

By joining forces with other people of goodwill, they do the shopping for those who cannot leave the house, which is then delivered by the Civil Protection and Caritas.

Laura, a 20-year-old university student, says in a video interview that she doesn’t like to deal with things passively in life, and that this proposal from Caritas has allowed her to take action in this situation too.

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author

Marta Servili

Young Caritas Ambrosiana

faith and action