Mt Buffalo (Photo: Brian O'Donnell)

Memories of Australia - Part 1

Australia hosts large numbers of international students and young professionals. Some CL visitors have discovered themselves truly changed by the experience. On opposite sides of the continent Elena and Stefano recount their experience.
Andrea & Cecilia Trianni

Meeting friends from all over the world and discovering that the thirst for life and for happiness is just the same exemplify Father Julian’s Carron words in his book ‘The radiance in your eyes. What saves us from nothingness?’: ‘This thirst is boundless, bottomless and is so infinite that it cannot be quenched… If this is the situation, the most burning question, which nobody can avoid, is as simple as it is inexorable: “Quid animo satis?” (What can fulfill my soul?). Someone who makes the hereafter present in the here and now: Christ, the mystery made flesh. These years have been the story of affection for this concrete flesh, a concrete ‘You.’ (Julian Carron, The radiance in your eyes, p. 48-49)

Elena, Sydney.

In 2018, I spent a period in Sydney as a researcher in university. I was at the end of my Ph.D., and I had many unresolved questions about what to do next. Australia was not the first choice: I wanted to go back to the USA where I had already been, but I won a fellowship in Sydney. To say "yes" to this inevitable circumstance was the first possibility to discover whether reality is indeed positive. I asked myself: "Is this something for me even if it does not follow my plans?" and received the first surprise. Before leaving Italy, there was already someone there, who was waiting for me and helping me to find a home.

Sydney skyline (Photo: Brian O'Donnell)

The beginning was not so easy: new job, new flat mates, literally a new word. Sometimes when I went back home after my work at university, I felt lonely. A friend of mine, who I first met upon arriving, provoked me: "what do you mean you are alone?" Taking into consideration this question, without trying to shut it down immediately with an answer, has helped me to be aware of reality. I started to be interested in understanding what was happening around me.

The School of Community was another provocation. Initially, we had School of Community only on Skype, because of the long distances and the difficulty of meeting in person. Every time I had to turn the computer on after work, I had to ask myself why it was important. This forced me to give the reason for that gesture and be present and not just connected. One evening, during the Skype meeting, a friend of the community provoked us with this question: "in a place like Australia, where there is a beautiful environment and climate, it is so easy to find a good job, is the fact of Christ still interesting?" The months in Australia were an opportunity to verify if the faith could be useful to cater for the present needs.

I also participated in the Spiritual Exercises. In the beginning, I moralistically compared them to the Italian ones. For example, we were planning to be all together, with the children too. I soon found out that this position of mere critique did not correspond to me. I was surprised by how this provoked me to say "yes" to even small things, like preparing a flyer to invite friends to the exercises or helping in the choice of songs. So those days were an opportunity to discover even more the title of the exercises "SEE, I AM DOING SOMETHING NEW: >DO YOU NOT PERCEIVE IT? ". There for me was the novelty of an exceptional company that only the presence of Christ could explain.

Before I left Sydney, I invited a flat mate to a party with CL friends. On the way home, she said, "Thank you for today. What nice friends you've met here, but how did you meet each other?". On the day of departure, a colleague sent me a text: "it was with a heavy heart I went to the University this morning realizing you won't be there anymore. I guess you don't realize how important some people are to you until they are gone". A week after, another flat mate texted me: "I have missed you. We are back to living everyone in their own room, without moments spent together".

All these episodes have made me wonder: Who are you, Christ, Who makes such unity and familiarity possible with unknown people, not only in the Christian community but also with colleagues and housemates? What has happened in these months under my eyes?

I returned from Australia with greater certainty that I have met Someone who loves me so much as to prepare a home for me even on the other side of the world. Every day is an occasion to re-discover it.

Stefano, Perth.

My story with CL in Australia begins at the end of 2018. I am an Italian student, and at the time, I was looking for an opportunity abroad to finish my studies in biomedical engineering. One of the proposals I received was to work on a project in Perth and initially I was quite scared since it meant going to the other side of the world, literally. One of the first things I did was to contact the Italian CL secretary who told me that in Perth there was a small community. I contacted one of them, John, and he replied simply: “We are waiting for you”. This simple sentence made me forget all my fears, so I decided to start this new adventure.

Fingal Bay (Photo: Brian O'Donnell)

I left Italy at the beginning of June 2019. The second night after my arrival, John invited me to their weekly school of community. I was tired because of the jet lag and the school of community was around 40 minutes away from my place . However, I was very curious to get in touch with the people that were waiting for me. James was so kind to give me a lift and so I went to the first meeting. It felt like being in a new family. Everyone was interested in who I was, they helped me with my poor English. Anna and Gray asked me if I wanted to live with them while looking for a new apartment: I saw there was no difference with my CL experience in Italy.

During my four months in Australia, the friendship with the CL community grew over the days throughout simple gestures: school of community once a week, chanting Morning Prayer with John at university, meals, trips… I felt loved by people I had never met before; they became a harbour I could go back to whenever I needed anything. I started experiencing one of the most fascinating sentences from the Gospel: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 16,18): The love of Jesus was present in my life through the unexpected friendship with the CL community in Perth. I could mention tons of episodes that reveal the correspondence I encountered: the friendship with Gabri, Bea and their daughters, the CL people I met during my trips to Sydney (especially Andrea and Cecilia) and Melbourne (Matteo and Raffaella), the spiritual exercises in New Norcia, my birthday party, the friendship with Tom, Elizabeth and their family... but it would take too long, just to state a simple clear fact: Jesus Christ was present for me in Australia, on the other side of the world, through faces that loved me, in an unexpected and corresponding way.

Read also The Radiance in Your eyes