Community of Caritas

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BELOW: When new community members come into the community as “single consecrated” men and women, the children are the first to “toughen them up.” Often times during the daily Rosary in the Field, the single consecrated have to pray their “Hail Mary’s” with 10 kids around their neck!


Jeff with kids



“Those rising up as apostles of Medjugorje, apostles of Our Lady, are taking part in a Biblical moment…”
- a Friend of Medjugorje 



A stool with one leg cannot stand. What about a stool with two legs? It cannot stand either. The minimum number of legs for a stable platform is three. These three legs provide a solid base upon which much weight can be borne. The Community of Caritas is comprised of three legs: families, single consecrated men, and single consecrated women. This composition is based in a message of Our Lady of Medjugorje given on May 25, 1983. In that message, Our Lady gave some rules for those “...people who are ready to follow Jesus without reservation...” Our Lady concluded the message saying:

“...The persons who will follow these rules, will be consecrated whatever their state in life may be...”


A Friend of Medjugorje understood in the beginning formation of the community that this meant that everyone, no matter whether they were married or single, could be consecrated to Our Lady. Some men and women would be consecrated to Our Lady specifically as a single, not entering the vocation of marriage.

 

Men and women have come from all parts of the world to live in community in service to Our Lady as a single consecrated for a period of years or in a consecrated vocation for life. These men and women each have a vocation story of how Our Lady has called them, what they had to walk away from to get here, and an understanding in their hearts of what it means to “...Give witness by your life. Sacrifice your lives for the salvation of the world...” Our Lady of Medjugorje, February 25, 1988


For these single consecrated men and women, their walking into consecrated life serves to purify their hearts and minds, and is a beautiful way for God to make clean their slate to be better “extended hands” for Our Lady.


When the Caritas Community was first forming many years ago, a Friend of Medjugorje wanted the children to show a sign of respect in addressing the single consecrated mend and women, but not so formal as to overshadow the special friendship that these consecrated had with the children. Instead of addressing them as “sir” and “ma’am” - the single consecrated are called “Zio” for the men and “Zia” for the women. These words actually mean “uncle” and “aunt” in Italian, which is more of what the relationship is like with the consecrated. This is the building of culture in our own community. It forms bridges of the heart between the children and adults, and between the consecrated and the married who join together to form a wall of protection around the children through witness and love. 


Without the obligations of family life, the “Zios” and “Zias” are able to serve in different capacities in the mission of Caritas of Birmingham that would otherwise be very difficult to uphold. A required period of time as a consecrated single for all unmarried individuals who join the community serves as a period of growth with Our Lady and Her way of life that She formed in community, as well as a discernment period for what state in life God is calling these individuals to in the future.

 

Jessica on Bedroom day
Zio Reyes in medjugorje with group


The single consecrated are the ones called on to respond quickly to any need of the mission or community and do so with the joy of one truly serving the Mother of God. With no strings attached, as St. Paul taught, they can be used to a greater capacity than those in the married state. Under a Friend of Medjugorje’s direction, they are the extended hands of Our Lady that transmit Her words to the world. Their lives are fruitful, and the graces they receive from their consecrations will last them the rest of their lives, regardless of what their state of life may be.

 


Zia Ruth in medjugorje with group


Without the responsibility of children, the single consecrated, being more free to travel, are usually the ones to run the Mission House in Medjugorje and lead the BVM Caritas Medjugorje Pilgrimages in Medjugorje, of which a Friend of Medjugorje has laid down the groundwork to have the most impacting pilgrimage. Here, one of the single consecrated women leads BVM Caritas pilgrims up Apparition Mountain in Medjugorje.



 

Zia Joan and Zia Marissa with kids and bunnies
Zio Jeff and boys in gardin


The single consecrated are given the title of “Zio” and “Zia” which are the Italian names for “Uncle” and “Aunt”. To a Caritas kid, they are the names for those special friends in their lives, outside of their parents and their peers, who love them, care for them, guide and discipline them. They are the young men and women of the community who have dedicated their lives to Our Lady to discern their vocation and the grace they receive from Our Lady and the fruit they produce in the lives of the community children and those who visit is abundant.

 


Zio Zach with john on tracter


The single consecrated are often the best witnesses to good work ethics and are looked up to by even the smallest in the community. The children are taught at a young age to love work and the parents know that they can rely on the “Zios” and “Zias” to transmit this to their children or to discipline the children when needed. The parents build respect for the single consecrated, and in this way, they build security in the hearts of their children and strong relationships that will last for life.

 


Zia Brooke reading to kids

The children are always a part of the community’s life. The single consecrated share special moments with the children, often making time during their work to read them a story knowing that to “inconvenience” themselves for the moment will manifest into a future “benefit” for the mission and community. They laugh the hardest at the kids’ jokes and give a hug or pat on the back when one is most needed or deserved.

Zio Jason moving logs with boys

On top of their full schedule working for the mission, the single consecrated spend as much time as they can with the youth to help mold them to Our Lady’s way. They teach classes in Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse, join in the “youth prayer group” on Friday nights, or take hiking trips up the mountain. Whether at work or play, these times are filled with fun and laughter to build beautiful memories into the hearts of the youth and it is an opportunity for them to see the witness that the consecrated have to offer.




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