Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate - Celebrating the Olympic Spirit

Celebrating The Olympic Spirit

In January, Fr. Vincenzo Bordo, O.M.I. was given the honor of being a torchbearer for the Winter Olympics in South Korea.  Torchbearers were selected for having made a significant impact in their communities.  Father Vincenzo runs an extensive charitable organization in Seoul that serves the homeless and disadvantaged.  Here, Fr. Vincenzo writes about the honor of being selected as an Olympic torchbearer and how the Olympic spirit of brotherhood is part of his story in Korea.

 frbordotorchThe voice on the other line said, “This is the Korean Olympic Committee calling, and we want you to be an Olympic torchbearer.”  I thought it was a joke.  I am Fr. Vincenzo Bordo, O.M.I., an Italian.  Why would they pick me?   Then I remembered the spirit of the Olympic games is a spirit of universal brotherhood and hospitality.  So without hesitation I accepted their request.

After I hung up the phone, I felt honored to live and work in a nation that has the values of reception and attention to immigrants.  Yes, I'm a foreigner, too.  Today, talking about immigrants is not easy because this word is too often associated with social degradation, violence, theft and much more negativity.  I've been through this difficult reality myself.

I remember the shock and prejudice I met at the beginning of my life in Korea.  There were misunderstandings because we knew nothing about each other.  I did not understand and I did not speak the language.  I did not know the habits of the Koreans and they did not know my culture, my origins, the reasons why I had come to a country so far away from mine. I felt their distrust and their fear.

Then I started running a center for the poor and the street people.  Some city officials accused me of smearing the good name of the city, because at our center so many underprivileged, the abandoned, the beggars came to ask for help and have a hot meal.

Slowly our center has become bigger and bigger: 550 meals distributed every day, a dormitory for the homeless, a small craft workshop for the unemployed and four homes for street kids.  To manage all these activities there is a constant commitment of 600 volunteers, 5,000 benefactors, 40 young employees - social workers, educators and counselors.  It became clear we responded to the real needs of people, and at that point, no one could deny the positive contributions we were making to Korean society.

I understand that when a stranger arrives, it's an instinctive fear and a natural shock because this person is different from us, speaks a language to us incomprehensible, eats food with odd smells and prays to a God we don't know.  But the immigrant is not a curse or a cancer on society, but an opportunity, an enrichment, a challenge.  He's a man or woman who leaves their country of origin to improve their life in another land.  We realize that we are an endless story of immigrants, refugees and exiles.

Pope Francis says it is important to promote “a culture of the meeting.”  We are to be open to others, as a person, as a brother or sister to know and respect, with their virtues and flaws, richness and limits. 

We are in a wonderful moment in our history, a period of unprecedented challenges and fabulous opportunities.  It's up to us to open our doors and to make new opportunities that history offers.  We are at the beginning of a new and wonderful sunrise.  Every sunrise brings with it the infinite beauty and the certainty that the shining sun will warm and light up our joyful humanity. Let us be confident and courageous in facing this new sunrise.

And together, may we create that “culture of the meeting.”