Monday, March 17, 2008

LDS in Italy

A Lucky St. Patricks day to all.

I wish to continue my post on LDS life in Italy.

Post 2
LDS in Italy

I think that the one term that best describes the members in Italy, but also many members in Europe is solitude. Being a member in Italy is like swimming against the current. Just a few examples:

We have two older single men who have been in the church for twenty years now but have never found a mate. Both are active, both are great people, but both desire to find a mate who is equally active in the church. They attend all the conferences (actually one is president of single adults for the stake and he organizes the conferences) but neither has found a partner. They are brothers and sustain one another, but it becomes a very lonely life when you can't share the gospel with a mate and form a family. We have three single young adults women who are all talented, intelligent and single. One is now on a mission at Palmyra, New York, the other is finishing her master's degree in international tourism and the third is just beginning university. We also have a young adult male who just won a scholarship to study a year in Japan. All four are active, wonderful people, but none has found a mate. As a result, none of the youth of Ferrara have formed new families, many have dropped out along the way because of loneliness, no babies are being born and the branch is slowly dying.

Loneliness is not restricted to the young and single, we have many widows who are elderly and alone. They all have physical problems, but notwithstanding their ailments they all come to church faithfully because it is the highlight of the week for them. It is often the only time they have to converse and share the gospel with each other and feel part of a family. It would be easier if all lived in the city of Ferrara, but many live outside the city in the countryside, some twenty, thirty or even forty miles away, and don't drive. The relief society is very active telephonically and they call each other often to sustain their fellow sisters.

As a traveling branch president I am not very present in the everyday life of the sisters and would like to do more to help but live faraway and work long hours.

Anyone have suggestions?

Next time the formation of a new stake in Italy - stake number 6.

I would enjoy hearing any comments that you may have


Christine Thackeray said...

Your challenges are not unique to Italy. Many small branches in rural parts of America suffer from the same ailment. In Minnesota where we used to live the majority of the community was very anti-mormon. Most were Lutheran. Although their solitude is real, the key is to encourage friendships and service to those around them, not waiting to interact only with church members. Part of their calling as disciples of Christ is to spread his love all around them. It sounds like they need to be encouraged to serve and love and then report their experience on Sunday rather than wait until Sunday to feel like they are doing anything.

The two brothers are a different matter. They need to stop looking for perfection and look for someone worthy. Are their expectations even realistic?

We have never lived in a place where there are a lot of Mormons. Except for this last move, my children have usually been the only ones in their high school who were members but when we were serving and befriending those around us, we found there were many opportunities to discuss and share the gospel.

Trafford R. Cole said...

I know what you mean. When I lived in New York, way back when we were a group, not even a branch and my scout troup consisted of five boys from three different towns.

The difference is that there are maybe 10,000 active members in all of Italy and how many million in the US. Any youth in Italy has to choose between a few hundred other active youth. Not everyone can go to BYU!