“If a poor man enters where you gather who is dressed in rags and has nothing, do not leave him standing at the back to give his place to one more important.” — From the Song of Introduction for the Community of Sant’ Egidio at Prayer.
Prayer. Communicating the Gospel. Solidarity with the poor. Ecumenism. Dialogue. These five principles form the spiritual path of the Community of Sant’ Egidio, a Catholic Church lay association founded in Rome in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi. The mission and spirituality of the movement has inspired a group of Catholic Studies students and alumni to found a Sant’ Egidio community in Minnesota.
Today, the Community of Sant’ Egidio has more than 50,000 members in Rome and has spread to nearly 70 countries throughout the world. Individual communities are united by an emphasis on prayer shared in common (particularly prayer for the poor), by a commitment to friendship with the poor and to evangelization. In Rome, community members extend friendship to the poor by visiting the homeless in Rome’s bustling main train station, Termini, and offering them food, drink and conversation. In the United States, such service often takes the form of befriending the elderly in nursing care facilities. Throughout the world, Sant’ Egidio communities have also founded educational facilities for underprivileged children, pioneered peacemaking efforts in war-torn Mozambique and ministered to those on death row.
The first branch of the Minnesota Sant’ Egidio community was established in 2002 by Craig Wood and Dale Schmidt. In 2006, Zach and Laura Zeckser, Catholic Studies alumni who had visited the Sant’ Egidio community while students in Rome, formed a second branch by engaging a group of friends, many of whom had also studied in the Catholic Studies program in Rome, in sharing the Gospel and praying together in the spirit of the movement. These initial gatherings took place in homes and around meals – the perfect place to begin discernment about life together in community. For many of us who were involved, these early conversations resonated with our desire to live the Gospel more intentionally and authentically. Grounded in prayer, community with each other and friendship with the poor, the way of Sant’ Egidio has helped us put our faith into action.
The two branches of the Minnesota Sant’ Egidio community now meet regularly for prayer and opportunities for service. Prayer groups gather at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays at Risen Savior Church in Burnsville and Fridays at Saint Richard’s Church in Richfield. At 6:30 p.m. Sundays we visit with the elderly at Centennial House in Apple Valley. And after prayer on Fridays, we befriend the poor and homeless on the streets surrounding the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis. All are welcome to join us.
More information about the Minnesota Sant’ Egidio community is available at: www.santegidiomn.org. For more information about the community of Sant’ Egidio in general visit: www.santegidio.org/en or www.santegidiousa.org.
About the Authors – Denae Fielder is a 2002 graduate of St. Thomas with a theology and psychology double major. She is currently assistant director of ministry and outreach in St. Thomas’ Campus Ministry. Her husband, Tom Fielder, graduated from St. Thomas in 2003 with a Catholic Studies and business double major and is currently a graduate student in Catholic Studies.