This is the story of two Brazilian students, Deacon Rafael Gustavo S. Lopes and Bro Danilo A. Guedes. They were travelling back to Rome for theology studies and had a Heathrow transfer. At that point they were stopped by immigration and were not allowed to continue to Rome until they had isolated for 14 days in the UK.
It was then that the provincial of Campo Grande province in Brazil contacted us to see if we could set up isolation for them for two weeks. The two brothers arrived and went straight into isolation in the Don Bosco Centre only having a distant sight of the rest of our community. They emerged 14 days later still sane and still friends to celebrate with the community before getting the taxi to the airport. At the meal they shared with us their experience of lock down in Battersea and you can read their words below.
"We don't have gold or silver, but what we have we give you". Acts.3.6
What was supposed to be just a brief air connection between Brazil and Italy, became two strained weeks of silence, prayer and study, but above all a testimony of a great Salesian fraternity! At the beginning we were afraid and insecure, because we do not speak the English language fluently and because of the concern of being a burden for the community, since it was not foreseen.
However, these two weeks in the Battersea community showed us the deep sense of a true and noble welcome. For in each moment, despite isolation and distance, we feel embraced by each of the brothers, with simple gestures: from a greeting across the hall, from preparing Brazilian foods for us, from asking how we were.
We found our strength and motivation to live well each day through the Holy Eucharist, the bread of eternal life, food for the body and soul, generously brought by Fr Tom Williams and Fr David O'Malley. We are grateful for the good food we received these days, for the affection, zeal and attention in the preparation, all done with affection by the cooks and brothers.
In our Salesian Constitutions n55 we find that "The Rector represents Christ who unites his own community in the service of the Father", we feel this presence in particular, in the paternal figure of our Father Don Bosco personified in the person of Father Tom Williams in his paternal, generous and cordial smile together with his great attention towards us. His charismatic simplicity was an example for us to be followed in the rest of our Salesian lives.
Praying the rosary every afternoon in the beautiful garden of this community, we asked the Virgin Mary Help of Christians to bless this community, this Province and the young people so that holy vocations may arrive for the greater glory of God and the salvation of youth. We will always be united through the power of prayer, we are immensely grateful. God bless you!
Deacon Rafael Gustavo S Lopes
Bro Danilo A Guedes