Friday, September 13, 2013

Pier Giorgio's Niece is having a birthday!

Christine Wohar with Wanda Gawronska, Rome 2006
When I met Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda Gawronska in Rome back in 2006, I had no idea it would be a life-changing experience.  I was in Rome to celebrate Holy Week with friends.  One of them, knowing that I had started two Frassati Societies in Nashville, arranged for us to have lunch with Wanda on the afternoon of Holy Saturday.

Who can say it was a coincidence that I met Pier Giorgio's niece on the same day that Pier Giorgio came into this world?  (He was born on Holy Saturday in 1901.) 

My friends and I had plans to leave Rome on Easter Sunday and travel to Turin to visit Pier Giorgio's tomb.  We would stay at a hotel there and then set off for a personal pilgrimage to France.  At lunch, Wanda learned of our plans and insisted that we cancel our Turin hotel reservation and instead stay at the family home in Pollone.  I remember her asking us rhetorically, "Why would you want to stay in a hotel when you can sleep in the house where Pier Giorgio lived?!"  She telephoned her sister who was spending the Easter holiday in Pollone and confirmed our arrival with her.  

Easter of 2006 was quite an occasion.  We attended the Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with Pope Benedict XVI and then spent the bulk of Easter Sunday in the home of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  Easter Sunday fell on Pope Benedict's birthday that year, by the way.  Another coincidence?

It was there in Pollone while praying at the foot of Pier Giorgio's bed that I received "the call."  It made no sense, of course; but I heard it and understood what the Lord was asking of me.  One month later, I walked away from a professional career to put out into the deep of ministry work.  Upon hearing the news from my father, my oldest sister -- a psychologist -- called to "discuss it" with me.  I joke now that she of all people should have recognized what a crazy thing it was to do and put a stop to it!  But somehow I guess I was able to convince her that it was really the Lord's will and that was enough.  

By August, I was back in Pollone, enjoying the rare privilege of celebrating the 104th birthday of Pier Giorgio's sister Luciana with some of her family.  In October, I celebrated Wanda's 79th birthday with her in Rome.  By the end of November, I was back in the U.S. preparing the paperwork for beginning the non-profit ministry FrassatiUSA.  

That was seven years ago and it all happened as the result of a lunch encounter with Wanda! 

Wanda will be celebrating her 86th birthday on October 28th.  I hope to be able to send her a booklet of well wishes like the one I prepared for her back in 2006.  (She is holding it in the picture above.)  It will be both a financial and a spiritual bouquet as a token of thanks for her lifetime of work on behalf of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  I hope you will participate.  Click here for the details.  Verso l'alto!