Giuseppe came in 1996 for a few days to help with the olive harvest. He never left! First as a resident volunteer, then resident maintenance man and finally coming from “off campus” to care for our facility, Giuseppe has become a dedicated and essential part of our staff. He already had considerable skills in fixing clocks and old radios and a passion for chess. Over the years he has developed his skills in maintenance to often say, “Ci penso io”, a reassuring phase that means “I’ll take care of it.” He knows when to call in a technician from the outside but he typically is able to attack any of the multiple problems that pop up in our old villa and complex systems necessary in our work. He also has saved us tremendous amount of money by his dedication these past many months to the restoration of our historical theater-chapel.
What is interesting with Giuseppe, something typical in all Waldensian establishments, be they hospitals, facilities that care for the elderly or youth, guest houses or schools, is the fact that he has nothing to do with the church. In fact, like so many Italians, he is against the church, despite having grown up almost literally in the shadow of Saint Peter’s dome. Some persons note that while Italy has a Catholic culture, the Italians done seem to be as religiously Catholic as, for example, the Portuguese, Spanish, Polish or Irish. Perhaps this is a result of being too close to Saint Peter’s dome. At any rate, sometimes I find it useful to remind Giuseppe of the value of the churches and that there is something good in all of them.
And I remind him he is working for a church! That does not seem to bother him, perhaps because, for good or bad, the Waldensians are very “soft” in expressing themselves to others. While the Waldensians indeed have been criticized by some for this openness, others obviously appreciate it, which is evidenced in the great numbers of tax payers who on their filing forms opt for entrusting a part of their cultural and social tax to our church.
Returning to Giuseppe, he has other qualities that make him a candidate for working with us. One is that he actually wants to live simply, very useful with the 30 hours per week we can give him and with the salary he earns.
The Waldensian centers have many “outsiders” like Giuseppe working with us. So many, in fact, that we could not offer our various services without them. They are a precious resource for us, and their presence and contribution keeps us open towards them, helping us respect their perspectives and of course value them as individuals.
Our services, whatever form they take, also are open to everyone. A closed Waldensian center would be an oxymoron. At Casa Cares a great number of our guests are not from churches but want to be with us. The income they provide permits us to continue, and their participation in our life assures us of an open and welcoming hospitality.
Conclusion – a big thanks to everyone accompanying us on our journey!