Left: Mariapolis participants share experiences of building unity in the family, workplace and parish.  Right: Family games with an environment theme.Left: Mariapolis participants share experiences of building unity in the family, workplace and parish. Right: Family games with an environment theme.

More than 100 people of different nationalities gathered for a three-day experience on the meaning of unity and how to start building it.

The event was the annual Mariapolis (City of Mary) organised by the Singapore community of the international Focolare Movement. The event is held all over the world during the summer months for people who want to know more about Focolare’s spirituality of unity.

At the local event in Johor, participants listened to talks and personal experiences about how to bring about unity. The theme of unity has been written about extensively by Focolare’s founder, Chiara Lubich, and more recently the current president of the movement, Ms Maria Voce.

She had said that unity is a gift from God. Nevertheless, by having true empathy for others, each person can bring about unity among people, whether at home, work, school and play.

During the event, Mr Patrick Nugent, a lay consecrated Focolare member, presented some of Ms Voce’s writing.

In keeping with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, this year’s Mariapolis also featured sessions on mercy as well as Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.

Mr Lawrence Chong, a parishioner of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, gave a presentation on mercy, stressing that mercy is integral to the relationship between God and man.

Mr Steven Tan, who also attends Mass at Nativity Church, presented a session on Laudato Si’, highlighting the relationship between God, man and earth.

Among the mainly Singaporean and Malaysian participants this year were Stefano and Elisabeth Cho, a Korean couple in their 50s who recently moved to Singapore.

Mrs Cho said the Mariapolis had a family atmosphere and allowed her to get to know people personally.

Newly-baptised Frances Liu, 26, from the Church of St Vincent de Paul, who attended the Mariapolis for the first time, said the gathering was different from others she has attended.

“You don’t have to say very much; the message is brought out through actions,” she said.

The Focolare Movement, or Work of Mary as it is known officially in the Church, is a lay movement founded in 1943 by Ms Chiara Lubich, an Italian woman.

Today, the movement has spread worldwide.

For more information about the Focolare, visit www.focolare.org

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