I'm just overcome with gratitude. Last week, the entire GCCM staff gathered in Rome and Assisi, heartlands of our faith, for a strategic planning meeting. Coming from Ecuador, Brazil, Poland, the United States, and elsewhere in Italy, all of us were incredibly happy to share time together.Beyond making plans for the year ahead, we had the rare opportunity to grow the bonds of love that sustain us. You're an important part of this team, too. I'd like to bring you into the special week we shared.
During a papal audience, I had the opportunity to greet Pope Francis and discuss a few of GCCM's top initiatives for 2018. I gave the pope a rosary that was handmade by a women's community in the Amazon and brought to us by a Laudato Si' Animator (thank you, Lucy!). The rosary was strung with the seeds of a tree that grows in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It was a unique gift, celebrating Pope Francis' special concern for the Amazon and its peoples.
We briefly left the state of Italy to enter the state of the Vatican! We had a wonderful conversation with the Vatican's Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. This is a Vatican office that helps bring Laudato Si' to life in the Church. Our conversation strengthened the bonds we share. Throughout 2018 and beyond, GCCM will closely collaborate with the dicastery to support its mission.
Our time in Assisi was simply astounding. The bishop of Assisi, Abp Sorrentino, graciously led two masses for GCCM staff and friends, one at the site of St. Francis' renunciation and one at St. Francis' tomb. We worshiped and sang together-it was beautiful, and a few tears were shed.
After Mass at the tomb, Fra Mauro Gambetti warmly opened the doors of the Sacro Convento, where he is responsible for this institution and its buildings that date to the 13th century. GCCM staff ate with the friars and guests in their stone dining hall and enjoyed a tour of the frescoes, including masterworks from Giotto, in the basilica. The gifts of the Sacro Convento, the bishop, and all those in Assisi are truly a blessing.
For Season of Creation 2018, GCCM will coordinate an ecumenical prayer service in the Sacro Convento with high-level leaders from several Christian traditions.
Our time in Assisi also included the gift of work space and a tour in the Serafico Institute, which is home to disabled children and youth. The institute has been visited by Pope Francis and St. John Paul II, and it was inspired by the loving spirit of St. Francis. Its grounds are rich with gardens and wildlife, and its supportive services truly demonstrate compassion for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers.During our week together, the GCCM team followed the call of our faith to protect creation and the most vulnerable. Intriguing and innovative campaigns are underway, and we look forward to sharing them with you in the coming months.
I'm so grateful for the time we had together. I'm grateful to you for being on this journey with us. Thank you for all you do, both in prayer and in action. It matters.