When Chiara Lubich began her experience with her first companions in Trent, a city wounded and impoverished by World War II, she was under the influence of the light that flowed from the discovery of God Love, and drew her followers with her. That discovery, which awakened in her companions the desire to love God, was realized in love of neighbour. “We aimed to implement a certain communion of goods. It’s not that we wanted to love the poor for the sake of the poor, or love Jesus only in the poor. We wanted to solve the social problem.” The Gospel became more and more a rule of life and the practice of “giving” was not simply activism, it became a lifestyle, a culture.
Almost fifty years after this experience, during a trip to Brazil, Chiara found herself living an experience that revealed in all its drama the reality of poverty and misery she had already met on previous trips. The sight of the ring of slums surrounding the modern megalopolis of São Paulo, which Cardinal Arns, the city’s archbishop, called the “crown of thorns of the city,” made her realize how the communion of goods was still not enough to meet the needs of the poorest. An idea took shape that something much larger and more global could be done. It was in 1991 when she proposed the idea of the Economy of Communion: “It seemed to me then that God was calling our Movement to something more and something new. Although I am not an expert in economic problems, I thought that our people could set up businesses that could tap their expertise and resources to produce together wealth for the benefit of those in need. They would then have to be managed by competent persons capable of making them function, deriving profits from them. These profits would then be put in common.”.
Life and practice therefore became thought, and thought became life, and a new branch of economics that was recognized with two honorary doctorates (the Catholic University of Pernambuco Brazil in 1998 and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan in 1999.) In his speech at the ceremony in 1998, the Rector Father Theodoro Paulo Severino Peters said, “Not without good reason has the Department of Economics of UNICAP proposed to the University Council that Chiara be recognized as the author of an alternative solution for serious social problems, through the Economy of Communion Project.”