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Heart's Home: 'Maternal' Help to Abandoned Children (Part 1)

Interview With Its Founder, Father Thierry de Roucy

ROME, MAY 13, 2004 (Zenit) - Among the institutions that have responded to John Paul II's call to assist abused children is the Catholic association Heart's Home, which opened in 1990.

This private association of faithful offers young people the possibility to live for 14 months or more in some of the poorest neighborhoods of the world, in order to offer consolation to abandoned children.

On Sunday, the Pope called for an end to the abuse of child labor, saying it impedes millions of children worldwide from receiving a primary education. The Holy Father's words came on the eve of the Children's World Congress Against Child Labor, being held this week in Florence, Italy.

To have a better understanding of Heart's Home, here is an interview with its founder, Father Thierry de Roucy.

Q: Why did you found Heart's Home?

Father de Roucy: In January 1990, when I was superior general of my congregation, the Servants of Jesus and Mary, while praying the rosary with my brothers, I suddenly received the call to found a work of compassion and consolation, a work that is rather more contemplative in its way of looking at reality and aid, a work that is different from many of the NGOs that exist today.

From this perspective, I perceived several elements. This work would not be a "classic" religious congregation, but instead an association that would send young people for one or two years to places where children are in need of spiritual, emotional and psychological support, in a word, of "maternal" support.

I also felt that the mission of this work would be truly based on the life of prayer and adoration of the young people participating, and that their stay in Heart's Home would be like a one- or two-year retreat for them.

In brief, I realized that our volunteers would take Mary's place at the foot of all those who are crucified today, and look at, love and encourage them in their trials, and give meaning to their lives. A mission that might not seem very effective in the eyes of the world but that, in a word, would be Mary's mission by the side of Jesus.

Q: How do young people react after spending some time in Heart's Home?

Father de Roucy: After two or three weeks, many write me to tell me: "Father Thierry, I think I made a mistake. I thought I would give more than I could receive from our neighbors, but it is just the opposite. Our friends give us much more. This experience is enriching me as I never could have imagined."

One of the important principles of Heart's Home is St. Vincent de Paul's phrase: "the poor are our teachers." In contemporary civilization, the poor remind us that what is essential in human life are relations, that faith is not belief in an abstract principle, but that it is daily life with God, which is manifested in trust in him at every moment, and which invites us to walk on water without fear.

In these neighborhoods, in which there is so much suffering, one perceives almost in a sensible way that grace is a constant gift to support these persons. During these 15 years I have experienced in an amazing way the presence of divine grace.

It is impossible to live what our friends live in the "favelas" or in the slums if Someone doesn't strengthen them hour after hour, day after day, and doesn't enable them to overcome all the trials that afflict them, such as the successive deaths of their children in the case of mothers, the omnipresent violence, the insecurity, the fear of tomorrow.

If God wasn't there to give so many people wounded by life the grace of a smile, the strength of hope, I don't know how they could endure it.

In fact, on more than one occasion, I have had the happy opportunity to meet with persons who have been in prison for a long time because of their faith and they have told me: "The years I spent in prison are undoubtedly the best of my life." Without God, how is it possible to explain these testimonies?

Q: What is a Heart's Home?

Father de Roucy: A Heart's Home is a small house in which lives a community of "friends of the children." In each one of them, there is a small chapel with the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Even in places where there is no custom of entrusting the Real Presence to Catholic young people, the bishops have always given us their permission.

There are one or two rooms for the girls, on one side, and one or two rooms for the boys, on the other. Each Heart's Home has, in addition, a room in which we simply receive the persons who come to see us.

The morning is dedicated especially to community life in the house -- shopping, preparation of meals, washing of clothes -- prayer and study. In the afternoon, the ...

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