From June 20 to August 29, 2021, the FIMP Franciscan Missionary Center of the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP) operated its summertime missionary exhibition booth on the banks of the Tiber River for the seventh year.
The event, called “Along the Tiber: Rome—A River of Culture,” was scaled-down this year because of the Covid 19 pandemic. However, plenty of people still came to stroll along the banks of the river, to enjoy the enchanting scenery and the thousands of lights and colors decorating the towering flood walls. People also came for some healthy leisure time, strolling along two-kilometers [one and a quarter miles] of cultural, artistic and religious exhibition booths, refreshment stands and vendor’s tents. The friars operated their own exhibition booth every evening, for seventy evenings. They carried out various activities in the context of “evangelizing” the people as they silently flowed by, looking for something to make their vacation more pleasant during Rome’s “summer nightlife.” Many people enjoyed meeting the friars and sharing anecdotes, dialogue and life stories. Some wanted to hear a word of consolation or compassion or get a sense of Franciscan witness. Given the secular nature of the place, the sight of friars wearing their habits certainly raised a lot of questions, sometimes leading to healthy and liberating dialogue and debate. Several people asked to carry out long-distance adoptions, others made donations. One of the most common questions during this time of pandemic concerned the health of the children being cared for by the Conventual Franciscans, in schools, hospitals, and missionary soup kitchens.
There were several highlights during this two-month event. One was the presentation of the book “Friar Nightlife – Mission Possible on the Banks of the Tiber” written by Friar Paolo FIASCONARO, Director of the Franciscan Missionary Center, and published by Messaggero Padova (192 pages). Other highlights included the visits from the Minister General, Friar Carlos A TROVARELLI, the Assistant General for the FIMP Federation, Friar Giovanni VOLTAN; the Minister Provincial of the Italian Province of St. Francis of Assisi (Central Italy), Friar Francesco LENTI; and the visits from the many friars of the General Houses in Rome.
On July 25, the Marian procession statue called the Madonna “Fiumarola” [“coming from the river”] was received in front of the missionary booth, in the presence of His Eminence, Angelo Cardinal DE DONATIS, Vicar General of Rome; the Honorable Virginia RAGGI, Mayor of Rome; and thousands of devotees of the Madonna “de Noantri” [the statue’s other name—literally “Our Lady of the Rest of Us” (meaning: the people on this side of the Tiber)].
The presence of the friars on the river walk attracted considerable attention from mass media and social media outlets. The friars were featured in newspaper and television reports. The presentation of the book “Friar Nightlife” was covered by the newspapers Avvenire, Corriere della Sera, Repubblica, Messaggero, the broadcasters Rai and TV2000, and received about twenty reviews on various social networks.
See the video “Mission Possible sulle banchine del Tevere” on the YOUTUBE channel “Missioni OFMConv” https://youtu.be/GqzRTFLnnFc
Lorenza CASSANELLI, Secretary of the Missionary Center