Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Now the Spadoni name is associated with an amazing international charity

Just when I thought that nothing could match other surprising discoveries that I’ve made about the Spadoni and Seghieri families, another revelation smacked me in the face the week after our family reunion this May—one almost too amazing to believe.

Selene Pera, Paul Spadoni, Luigi Spadoni, Carlo
Spadoni at the entrance of il Convento di San Cerbone.
Who would have guessed that the Spadoni family has its own version of Bill Gates working in Italy, and indeed all the world, to help needy individuals with his own foundation. Obviously, he is not quite as rich as Mr. Gates, but Luigi Spadoni, age 69, is doing his part to spread love and compassion, and for me to discover that his mission center is centered within view of my home in Montecarlo left me momentarily stupefied.

I can’t take any credit for this discovery. That was all the doing of cousin Carlo Spadoni, who himself was surprised when he heard there was a retreat center located near Lucca called the Spazio Spadoni—Spadoni space—in the Convent of San Cerbone.

Il Convento di San Cerbone, near Lucca.
Carlo contacted Luigi to find out more about Spazio Spadoni, and Luigi invited Carlo, Lucy and me to share a dinner with him at San Cerbone, where we toured the facilities and learned more about his organization. We were joined by Luigi’s chief administrator, Selene Pera, and we shared a simple but tasty meal prepared and served by the resident sisters.

Lucy and I look out from the convent. We can
see Montecarlo in the distance.

The location is stunning in its own right, nestled among oak and olive trees and overlooking the plain of Lucca, but it is the facility itself that really impresses. It is a mix of ancient and modern, and it contains dozens of rooms for meetings, prayers, study, dining, fellowship and contemplation. It also has more than 50 dormitory rooms for guests as well as several outside courtyards for soaking up the sun while enjoying the company of others or for individual meditation.

Luigi rents the convent for his nonprofit organization, and it is a place where religious groups, misericordia* and other groups with a desire to improve the lives of the poor or needy can meet to pray, plan and receive inspiration. But Spazio Spadoni is much more than just a convention center. Luigi envisions the mission of the organization as one that can touch the world in many diverse ways. Here are statements from the Spazio Spadoni brochure.

Spazio Spadoni was born on 11 September 2020 to foster creative collaboration between people with interests and experience in volunteerism and social commitment and female religious organizations that have social, community, and humanitarian experiences in third world countries, particularly in Africa, South America and Asia. A sense of mission is the common theme that connects all projects of Spazio Spadoni. To make this virtuous process sustainable, Spazio Spadoni supports existing missionary organizations involved in works of mercy and promotes new initiatives and activities to nourish the rediscovery of volunteers and support their interest in missionary experiences. Spazio Spadoni will foster and encourage:
• training for executives, young people, and parish groups
• organization of hospitality and spiritual exercises for voluntary associations
• development of publishing, study, and activities that deepen understanding and spirituality
• structuring of moments of action, education and social planning
• meeting and collective study through “Making Space,” the convention center of Spazio Spadoni.

Attendees at the recent conference
on courage learn about Progetti 
At the heart of Spazio Spadoni is a project called HIC SUM, a Latin phrase that can be translated, “Here I am.” Luigi wants to activate 72 HIC SUM mission projects around the world, and he explained to me how this will work.

“Spazio Spadoni gets in touch with an association and a Catholic woman’s missionary organization,” he said. “A nun comes to Italy to receive training and she is supported by a tutor from the Spazio Spadoni staff. They make a coordinated plan, and then she returns to the mission land and carries out the plan.”

His goal is to activate 72 HIC SUM projects around the world, and each is encouraged to operate a service called “Il Pane di Misericordia (The Bread of Mercy),” which will produce foods or agricultural products common to the local community such as bread, rice, chocolate or other specialties. These products can be sold to generate income aimed at self-sustenance and social promotion, but a portion must be donated to the poor, according to the needs of each community.

Spazio Spadoni will provide guidance and financial support for each project for the first five years, but the goal is to have each mission become self-supporting with little outside leadership needed to continue.

The organization has a number of other aims as well, including its function as a cultural workshop where groups and individuals can obtain funding and support to study and develop media and events for the betterment of society. The brochure goes on to list a wide variety of philanthropic and charitable activities that the organization proposes to support.

Photo taken at the recent conference at
Spazio Spadoni
Last week Spazio Spadoni held a conference on the theme of courage as it relates to worldwide works of charity and good works. The conference was attended by members of charitable organizations from Italy, Philippines, Congo, Kenya, Germany Buenos Aires, Argentina, India, Mexico, Ruanda and several other African countries, according to Hna Angie Valle, a missionary in Mexico City who participated. Lucy and I had hoped to attend a dinner and evening concert at San Cerbone during the conference, but we are living without a rental car to save money, and the convent is an hour and a half from Montecarlo by bicycle—too long a trip for us to take, especially after dark.

What is Luigi’s motivation for the organization, and how is it funded? This is where my earlier comparison to Bill Gates comes into play. In 1989, Luigi founded Spencer, which grew to be one of the world’s largest suppliers of medical equipment for emergency services. It is obvious that Luigi was a hands-on owner who cared very much about the quality of his equipment and the people it served. He was also active as a volunteer in the Misericordia, a lay confraternity which is active in practically every city in Italy, providing emergency care and a variety of other charitable services. He recently retired and sold his company, and, having no heirs but maintaining a strong interest in helping the needy, he used the proceeds to found Spazio Spadoni.

I must confess that I don’t fully understand the scope and activities of the organization, but I am impressed by Luigi’s vision and vibrant personality. He is obviously a man with a big heart, but he is also a man of strength and action. While Spazio Spadoni will be working closely with groups affiliated with the Catholic Church, he said he is not enamored with some of the bureaucratic aspects of the church. “I admire San Francesco,” Luigi told me. Saint Francis is known for his simple lifestyle and charitable works, and he once wrote, “I consider myself no friend of Christ if I do not cherish those for whom Christ died.”


In the short time we spent with Luigi, he made a strong impression on us, and I asked Selene to give me more information about him. You can read more about who Luigi is in this blog entry: Luigi Spadoni . . . an extraordinary man.


*Explanation of Misericordia
It is difficult to find an organization in the USA that corresponds with the Misercordia groups in Italy. Founded in 1244 by Saint Peter the Martyr, the Misericordia (“Mercy” in Italian) performs acts of charity such as transporting the sick to and from hospitals, providing burial to the poor, feeding those in need, servizi sociali (social services) such as transporting dialysis patients between hospital and home and servizi d’emergenza (emergency services) on an ambulance. The Misericordia's ideology is simply: “It is our duty as human beings to help those in need whenever we are able to do so.” During the years of the black death, the Misericordia had the task of aiding those infected with the disease and helping them through their suffering. During these times, members of the Misericordia wore black, hooded robes to hide their identity while performing services; they believed that one should do good for the sake of doing good and not to receive recognition or thanks.



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