Padre Daniele Badiali

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Meeting the OMG

In the summer of 1977, don Antonio takes his group of young people to a work camp for the missions of the Mato Grosso Operation. This juvenile movement started in 1967, through the work of Salesian Father Ugo De Censi, who was then in charge of the ‘oratori’ of Lombardia and Emilia. He answered the call for help of his missionary brother and friend in the Brazilian region of Mato Grosso, promising to give him a hand.

The first group of young people leaves for Brazil from various parts of Italy. They are touched by the experience of working among the poor and, on coming back, they decide to go on helping by raising funds to send to the mission: the first groups are formed. They try to experience charity by freely offering their skills and time in work and by taking personal risks. In the following years the MGO widens its field of action outside Brazil, opening missions in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The movement is not known in Faenza and the first work experience is led by Giorgio Nonni, a young man from Faenza, who had recently come back from the mission in Campogrande, Brazil, where he had spent two and a half years in a leper hospital.

Daniele con Giorgio NonniCristina, one of the first group members, says: “We were on a work camp of the Mato Grosso Operation, the first organized in Faenza and we were picking peaches on some farms. One evening a group of young people came with a young priest. Among them were Gabriele and his cousin Daniele, possibly the youngest, 15, with short trousers and a clean round face, like a child’s.”

Giorgio remembers: “The simple essential kind of life we led, the hard work for the poor, 9-10 hours a day, struck Daniele, who immediately fell in love with this path of life, made of learning to give and making efforts. He too, coming from a farmer’s family, was a hard worker; he never drew back. He was generous and always the first to sacrifice himself in the humblest works, like washing up. He was also a good musician: he played the guitar very well. He was always close to me. Music and singing were always present at our meetings. Ready to sing any song; even when he did not know the chords, he could find them fast.”

Almost all of them were students and what linked them together was the enthusiasm to work for the others and discover that that made them happy.

They are welcomed in San Giuseppe’s parish church by the parish priest don Dionisio Vittorietti: they meet on Monday and Thursday evenings to discuss and organize the work to do, both during the week and at weekends, to earn money to send to the missions. Cristina remembers: “They were years of great commitment, in which we learnt to become a group. Working for the poor was only the first step: we started a long path of self-change, a path which required us to be humble, learning to accept and correct one another because we had a greater dream to achieve. Our parents did not always understand: we were considered extremists, anticonformists. Sometimes on Sundays we used to go to Trebbana, a place on the Appennines to restore a little church in ruins that don Antonio, Daniele’s parish priest, had taken to heart. There too you had to carry all the materials on foot and on your shoulders.” In 1978 Daniele followed some adults of San Giuseppe’s parish to Friuli to help the victims of the earthquake and did the same also in 1980 after the earthquake in Irpinia.

To avoid taking the wrong direction, we had to trust someone older, someone who cared for our future and our vocation. This became evident by looking at Giorgio Nonni’s life: from his example many of us developed a desire to go on the mission, to follow Father Ugo and seriously consider the path of charity.

In 1980 Giorgio decides to leave for Peru and study to become a priest. Daniele will be particularly touched by this choice:

“I like what you do and look for, I’ll follow you, I wish to live like you”.

When Giorgio leaves, the MGO group continues with the others, who have become more responsible in the meantime: some of them leave for their first missionary experience for four months and this gives enthusiasm to the others who stay in Italy.

Daniele leaves only in 1984, after doing civil service at San Giuseppe’s parish..