Called to Hope

Called to Hope

It is wonderful (even if challenging!) to feel “called” to live and work in a reality greater than oneself: one does so, with joy and an ever-new impetus, on a well-founded Hope! Because, when God calls, we can always count on his grace that leads, accompanies, gives strength… And it is even more beautiful to discover that others, too, have received the same call – but with different tones and concrete expressions. This is how it is when different charisms meet! Converging in great freedom, discovering the myriad things that unite us, amplifies the beauty of each, refines and strengthens common goals.

Last year, in Timisoara/Romania, the Friends of TfE once again experienced being called to unity, an unforgettable experience, which filled their hearts, minds and souls.

Despite the fact that the world – including Europe – seems to be crumbling, there is a growing number of people who have been walking together for 25 years, experiencing the generative power of peace in going with an open heart towards the different, in welcoming each other even when it costs, in serving the Church and society together. These people know that the word ‘hope’ is not something that only refers to the future, but something already alive among them. “Called to Hope!” Hence the choice of this title for the meeting in Graz.

In and around the picturesque Hotel Schloss Seggau there will be time for getting to know each other, for dialogue, for making plans together for the good of our Churches and societies, and… also for an ‘ecumenical walk’ through the city of Graz, which is full of history in this respect. There will be opportunities to meet with leaders of local Churches and civil society. And, of course, there will be times for learning more about our charisms and for prayer.

We look forward with joy and full of renewed HOPE to this appointment – open to the surprises that its human-divine potential holds in store for us!

Cornelia Koni Brand

Connection Generations

Connection Generations

On 8 May, Together for Europe celebrated Europe Day 2024 together with the Carinthia Region and Europahaus. Schools from the region, EU project promoters and representatives of various Movements that form part of the Network participated.

The varied programme included prayers and personal reflections on Europe by the participants.

At the end of the ceremony, a choir of forty pupils sang the well-known melody of the European anthem (9th symphony by Ludwig von Beethoven) in a new version of the text developed by the Lutheran theologian Herwig Sturm. The singing conveyed gratitude, hope and joy to all those who were there.

A day of celebration and encouragement for all generations!

Manfred and Fini Wieser on behalf of the Team TfE in Carinthia

Having coffee together!

Having coffee together!

On the theme ‘Seeking peace together and what is best for the city’ (cf. Jer 29:7), some 30 Christians committed to Together for Europe (TfE) met on Tuesday 16 April 2024 in the parish hall of St Paul’s in Innsbruck, to take a shared look at the city of Innsbruck and the region of Tyrol with reference to this motto.

They were joined by Thomas Römer (YMCA) and Michael Guttenberger (Vineyard), who had come from Munich.

Thomas Römer began by inviting the participants to introduce themselves according to their membership of a Church, Community or group: Schönstatt Movement, Lumen Christi Tirol, Focolare Movement, Sant’Egidio, ENC (European Network of Communities), Free Christian Community.

The speakers realised, with good intuition, that there was still a good ‘room for progress’ in the relationship between the groups present, and asked each movement to briefly expound on their characteristics. On the basis of this, Thomas Römer emphasised the essentials of each one, thus enabling a deeper mutual understanding and greater appreciation of the different charisms. In this process, carefully accompanied by the two long-standing ‘fighters’ of Together for Europe, all present experienced and enhanced gratitude to God for the different gifts and charisms, which appeared in all their evidence. The joy of fraternity was tangible among all.

Reviewing the history of TfE, Römer emphasised the decisive contribution of the Chiara Lubich’s charism of unity.

In the course of the dialogue, several participants asked how the goal of ‘Together’ (for Innsbruck, for Tyrol, for Europe) could be carried further. One of the answers was surprising in its apparent banality: ‘Having coffee together!’. By this, Thomas Römer meant meeting without ulterior motives, with the sole desire to get to know each other better, to appreciate diversity as a whole and to enjoy it. Other points were explained in a PowerPoint.

At the end of the official part, much gratitude was shown to the two speakers, accompanied by refreshments with snacks and drinks, which allowed for further conversations and an even deeper getting to know each other.

by Gusti Oggenfuss, TfE Innsbruck

Photo: Armin Inglin, Anna Maria Gasser-Renzler


Building bridges of hope

Building bridges of hope

Europe Day in Vienna, 6 May 2023. More than 100 people from six Central European countries gathered for the event promoted by ‘Together for Europe – Austria’ in the Schönstatt Centre in Vienna-Kahlenberg.

Under the title ‘Building Bridges of Hope’, ten speakers shared their experiences as ‘bridge builders’. On this day, the dream became reality, a day of encouragement in an often-discouraging daily routine.

In Innsbruck, Gottfried Rießlegger is involved in an ecumenical exchange between a Catholic and a Protestant parish, which have their own churches, and an Orthodox parish without a church. Two churches, 150 metres apart, separated by a fence. One day the desire to be together was stronger than fears and reservations – two big scissors, one on the left, one on the right – and already there was a big hole in the fence, the beginning of a blessed enrichment. The Orthodox community has a kit in a large chest; and every Sunday, after the Catholic liturgy, the iconostasis is set up in front of the altar.

From Slovenia, Marjeta Bobnar reported on the fruits of the ‘Summer job’ project. This project builds relationships with people in need through aid of a physical nature and, of course, between young people from different parts of Slovenia.

In Hungary, Tibor Héjj is ‘building bridges’ with minibuses. People with disabilities are transported day by day to the workplaces of various companies, where they work and live with people without disabilities.
Also, from Hungary we had the choir ‘Vox mirabilis’, which made bridge building a tangible experience.

In the Czech Republic, Dagmar and Petr Peňáz are bridge builders with heart and soul. They build bridges for people with special needs. They build bridges between Christians, for example through ecumenical pilgrimages in Moravia, and bridges between the nations of the former Monarchy.

MEP Lukas Mandl recounted the tensions he experiences in his parliamentary work, in which he could not agree on everything. However, as a Christian, he always tried to uphold human dignity and respect the freedom of others. Working together requires concrete work in committees, but also spiritual inspiration.
Eva ed Erich Berger gave him a 44-page collection: small stories of bridge-builders, stories from the daily lives of Christians, which can give courage and hope.

On this 6 May 2023, God showed his people that he is capable of building bridges for everyone. An injection of courage.

The building of bridges must continue, in a concrete and lasting way: on 7 May and every day thereafter.

Edited by Diego Goller

Photo: Christoph Fürböck

How to overcome divisions

How to overcome divisions

Meeting in Graz to mark the Europe Day, May 7, 2022

The venue was a recently refurbished hall that previously was the refectory of the Franciscan Friar Minors. Now it is the baroque heart of a modern conference Centre in the city centre of Graz. The date was May 7, 2022 and the participants were members of Christian communities from diverse denominations. The purpose was to mark Europe Day and it was organized by Together for Europe.

There were about 130 participants and these came from various places in Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland. They came together to listen to the Word of God and to share lived-out experiences related to the topic of the conference: “How to overcome divisions”.

The various inputs included:

  • A dialogue project in Hungary to deal with controversial political opinions;
  • Building trust between refugees and those opposed to their presence;
  • Reconciliation of families of victims and executioners 75 years after the Holocaust;

Needless to say, all participants were struck by these and they created the right atmosphere for a lively exchange of ideas in small-group meetings.

The leaders of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, together with those of the Baptist community, had words of encouragement. Friends from Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy who could not be present due to their commitment with refugees, or for health and other reasons, sent their greetings.

After a shared lunch and a guided visit of the city, the afternoon was dedicated to an ecumenical prayer for peace.

All the present difficulties, like the war in Ukraine and in many other parts of the world, the climate crisis, the Covic-19 pandemic, the economic uncertainty… were presented to God. This touching intercession prayer was organized by a family from the Schönstatt Movement.

The participants felt strengthened to fulfil their task in the Church and society by the words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “May the God of peace… equip you with every good thing to do His will” (Hb 13, 20-21).

The meeting was enhanced by the contribution of accomplished musicians who injected the event with a festive and spiritual atmosphere. The participants responded very generously toward a project to help Ukrainian refugees being hosted near the Hungarian border.

In the background of the hall there was an expressive painting of “Jesus feeding the five thousand”, a fitting reminder. The day, which was full of enriching encounters, came to a close with the hymn: “Stay with us Lord, because evening is fast approaching. Stay with us Lord, because it’s getting dark. Stay with us Lord”. 

Michael Murg, TfE Graz

Photo: privat



May 9, 2022: a European expression

Once again, this year many original initiatives were organized to mark May 9, Europe Day. The following are just glimpses of some of them.

A trans-borders meeting was held in France and Germany. From Strasbourg (France) the one-hour walk under the banner ‘For a peaceful Europe’ ended at the Church of Peace in Kehl (Germany). At the end of the event, one of the 200 participants stated: “This day will be remembered for a long time. Together we offered a sign of unity and celebrated hope for all Europe”.

The EU declared 2022 as the European Year of Youth. Thus, Together for Europe in Italy focused on “Education” to mark May 9. The online sharing of experiences between young and old persons clearly showed that there exists a mutual dependence between the two for a happy and successful life. The meeting was followed by about 1,800 persons.

About 300 persons from Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Switzerland met in Graz (Austria). Friends from Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy sent their greetings. The meeting reach its climax in the afternoons with a common prayer for peace. The participants then responded generously to the appeal for donations in favour of a project to support Ukrainian refugees near the border with Hungary.

In Munich (Bavaria), Together for Europe went up a panoramic wheel. The gondolas performed numerous rotations, always with eight persons on board – who held a conversation and a meeting at high altitude!

Beatriz Lauenroth