International Assembly of Responsibles 2023

In August, a group of people from the United States traveled to La Thuile, Italy for the annual International Meeting of Responsibles. Here some share their experience from the trip.

This year, upon my arrival in La Thuile, I checked in and went directly to my room to drop off my bag. My roommate was already there. “Hi I’m Lorenzo and I live in Denver, Colorado.” “Nice to meet you. I’m Simone and I live in Moscow, Russia.” Moscow? How is it possible that a guy travels from a country at war to attend this? Over the next few days I’d learn that he moved to Russia to work 10 years ago, met his wife, who’s Russian, married her and became the father of two daughters. I would also meet his friend Darina at lunch with a few other fellow Americans and learn about the struggles of the war and of their relationships with the CL community in Ukraine. One of the greatest gifts of attending the AIR is to see how the charism can be lived in so many places, by people so different from me, and under very different circumstances. How does that happen? Through someone. This is simply the method of God, which He uses not just to intervene in the history of people but also in mine. He doesn’t leave me with geopolitical theories and analyses but he gives me someone.

Lorenzo, Denver, CO


This was my first attendance at La Thuile and the friendship I witnessed was even greater than what I expected. There were many beautiful moments, but I wanted to share one in particular that I saw when visiting the tomb of Fr. Giussani on my last night before departing. I went with a few people to this grand cemetery, a place so full of fascinating sculptures, statues, monuments, images and even stories that it drew your attention as far as the eye could see and further. There was a steady stream of tourists in the place, as the cemetery itself is truly a world class attraction. However, when I arrived I found about a dozen people gathered in front of Fr. Giussani’s tomb, animated by friendship and an interest in each other. This was the grandest thing in that entire monumental place. Fr. Giussani was surrounded by many famous people who had died and were buried there, but as far as I could see, the very spot where he was buried, unlike any other in the cemetery, was a magnet for people seeking each others’ happiness, a tiny oasis of joy in a place full of the dead and buried!

Roland, Evansville, IN


The first full day, we headed up the mountain via the chairlift. I was in line with a dear friend, but when we stepped up to the chair, we got separated, he on the first chair, and me behind with two Italian men I had never seen. After getting situated, I had the whole gamut of thoughts, “Do they speak English, should I try in Italian, will they want to speak at all, or will they want to speak to me?” Before I could decide on a course of action, we were already talking, and beginning from the simple exchange of names, all of life came out. By the time we reached the top, we were friends, so much so that it didn’t occur to me to leave them and walk with my friend who was only a few yards ahead. We walked together to where we were going to sing the Alpini songs, and they introduced me to more of their friends who instantly became mine.

Anyone who has stuck around for five minutes with us will have had the same experience — I’ve had it many times — but in the multiplicity over five days together this impression took root in me: this exceptional fact in which perfect strangers discover that there is no distance between their hearts is really heaven, a piece of heaven. Your heart is the same as my heart, and so with you I am free, I am totally myself. It’s not our charism that makes our hearts the same, though, it’s the fact that we are made by Christ. And it’s Christ who, through this particular people and this particular place, has managed to find me, to make me a friend of His and tell me to stand here next to Him and see the world the way He sees it, full of a brimming positivity.

Looking the way He looks, that is, letting the eyes of the Church become my eyes – which come close to me through the guys on the chairlift, or my closest friends, or the Pope – makes me desire to lay hold of all of reality, to cling to the circumstances with all their features and expect that between my heart and any heart there will be no distance.

Carie, Jacksonville, FL


I, along with twenty others from the US, joined some 500 or so other responsibles from the four corners of the world over the last days of August for five intense days of common work. While the beauty of the location and the cool, fresh mountain air is perhaps the first thing that moved me as the bus arrived after a couple hour drive from sweltering Milan, it was the beauty of the encounter with persons – each one very different than me, living in different parts of the world in very different life circumstances, who witnessed to a new humanity that is simply impossible to imagine or live without Christ. While there were many striking witnesses during these days, I wish to focus on part of a response of Bishop Massimo Camisasca to a Ukrainian widow with three children, who spoke in Russian (from a worldly point of view, how is that even possible?), and who expressed her desire to witness to an experience of hope in the midst of the seemingly meaningless war. In responding, Bishop Camisasca said there is much sanctity among us and that we risk missing what God is doing among us. That God brings light into our pain. That God is present. He said there is an experience of the richness of humanity that humanism no longer knows, namely, the humanity of Christ. It was this lived humanity of Christ that I encountered in those last days of August in the mountains of Italy. I left confirmed in the Faith.

Steve, Silver Spring, MD


In the final synthesis of the meeting in La Thuile, Davide Prosperi said “to be free, society says to judge by yourself, but we say the opposite. It’s communion that liberates my I.” I could see this in conversations with friends, sharing what I have been living in these past months, or in exchanging stories of our initial encounters with the Movement with new friends who I met this week for the first time. The point from Prosperi and the conversations I had were all reminders for me to continue seeking out this Presence who wants to meet me in completely unexpected ways! While it is sometimes my tendency, especially at work, to just put my head down and get things done, or to fall into lazy habits or old ways of thinking, it is certainly the times spent sharing life with family and friends, among the cloud of witnesses, as mentioned in the Fraternity Exercises, that makes me the most free!

Brad, Evansville, IN



I had the gift of accompanying my bishop, Earl Fernandes, to the International Meeting of Responsibles. It was an occasion for introducing friends: Rose, Bino, Alejandro, bishops, Sr. Rachele, and many others. One lunch was with a good friend Sara and her “community” from the Saudi Arabian Peninsula: Lina, Luca, and Bishop Martinelli, all Christian living hundreds of miles from each other in predominantly Muslim countries. Sara moved from NIH to Qatar 9 years ago as a lead scientist and clinician at Sidra Medicine, a center for women and children led by a predominantly Muslim staff. Sara told us of Aesha, her gravely ill patient who was with child and dying. One morning, Sara asked her Muslim colleagues to offer their work for Aesha, explaining that God can use our sufferings to relieve those of others. They met daily before work to pray and offer their day. Miraculously, Aesha not only survived, but she made a last-minute name change to her newborn, calling him Mubarak, or “blessing”. Sara’s witness, and those of many others that week, put flesh on the prophetic words of the Holy Father on October 15, 2023 (which Davide opened AIR with): “the precious gift of your charism can still make many lives flourish”.

Holly, Columbus, OH


My days with 500+ others at the mountain resort in La Thuile for the annual International Assembly of Responsibles was fruitful in the many gifts that moved me—
· A gratitude for beauty, in the mountain landscape with fresh snow on the peaks, in the music and songs
· A delightful new friendship with two American bishops, attending the AIR for the first time
· A rekindling of friendships that began 35 years ago when our community in Tampa was born
· A total and complete surprise in bumping into a friend who had lived in Florida over 23 years ago and now is at the AIR from his native Argentina
· A meaningful and instructive conversation with Carie about how her vocation can inform my own.
And yet, perhaps the lessons are even more significant, because they prompt and provoke in me the questions that I often conveniently ignore. After judging events in my life, trying to ascertain their value and meaning, how often do I really ‘verify’ that value and meaning? And if I do verify, are these judgments truly put to use as ‘knowledge’? It was during that three-hour ‘assembly’ that I discovered the distance of my heart, my hesitation to abandon myself to this following, this method that proposes living intensely everything! All these moments add ‘bricks’ to my certainty that I belong to a great people, that I am loved and guided within a true friendship—a place that prompts and provokes me to pay attention to all of my life!

Joe, Tampa, FL


In La Thuile I once again saw a miracle, a people united, “reunited” by Christ through the “yes” of Fr. Giussani. Some of these people are living incredibly difficult circumstances with great faith, and hope. Almost insanely.

I need to look at them and learn from these companions on the same, but at times very mysterious, path.

Luigi, Kensington, MD


I am from Seattle, also known as Existential Siberia, and I never thought I would be a diocesan priest there, nor did I imagine sharing my path with those present at the International Assembly of Responsibles, as I did this year. I was asked to speak about mission and preparing to give this witness was a big help for my own life. It became more clear to me than ever that God has placed me in Seattle, at this parish, and has given me a zeal to share Him and His love with His people. What I have encountered in CL is a gift first of all for me, but consequently for all of the people in my parish. It helps me to discover that everyone I meet is ultimately looking for Him. He is their fulfillment, and I want to accompany them as they desire and beg for this fulfillment in their lives.

Fr. Colin, Seattle, WA


“What your heart is looking for really exists.” This was said at the conclusion of a witness at the International Assembly and it characterizes the substance of my judgment on those days.

“I am ready to go with you” was the thought continually resounding in my heart in my time there: go with Clare and Rose to their women in Uganda, go with Carie to the middle of the ocean, go with Darina to the middle of Russia, go with Alejandro to Venezuela, and so on. The “yes” each of these friends give to Christ in the midst of their daily life is immensely attractive to me, and I find myself ready to go to the ends of the earth with and for them. Yet, through these witnesses, the greatest discovery for me in La Thuile is that mission is not to go anywhere, but to go where He calls you. It is to live this radical availability – this “yes” – to encounter Him in everything: in the midst of the vocation, faces, and circumstances He sets before you. This is the kind of radical availability I met in the faces of my new friends –those who are far from home, and those who have never left home.

My heart is looking to meet Him in the fabric of my day-to-day life. I returned from La Thuile with new eyes, not wanting to miss anything He is setting before me. It is beautiful to live what He gives me, especially when I perceive it within the great horizon of the “cloud of witnesses” I continually am given to encounter. Because everything I am given to live is also for Clare and Rose and Carie and Darina and Ale, and for everyone who makes up this belonging that makes my life beautiful.

Hannah, Cincinnati, OH