Our first centre in Italy, now known as MA Centre Italy, has finally become a reality. The property is located in the beautiful natural surroundings of Località Nebbiolo in the municipality of Gavi, Piemonte, about 60 km north of Genoa. Spread across 20 hectares, it will become a gathering place for Amma’s Italian community to share her teachings of love and selfless service and then work together on the resulting humanitarian and environmental initiatives.
Said Marina Ghezzi, President of MA Centre Italy: “For us, the centre represents Amma’s presence in our area, a permanent and stable presence throughout the year. A place where we can regenerate and recharge. It is our wish to be able to represent Amma’s hands of love and compassion in Italy.”
For more than 20 years, people with Amma Italia were searching for a place to establish a centre, but because they could not find one to meet all requirements, it remained a dream. Through a twist of fate, a location was located during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that meant it was not possible to organize a visit with a large group of people. To bridge the gap, volunteers used online apps to show each other the location, the features, and keep each other up-to-date on the progress of buying the land.
“The biggest challenge was dealing with property evaluations during the pandemic when seeing each other was difficult. But the organized online process was still a success,” said Ms Ghezzi. “We just had to have faith that the financial resources for the purchase would arrive and remain confident that everything would be possible. We did not let the economic and pandemic challenges discourage us and persevered in our goal.”
The purchase is being made via the generosity of donors and fundraising activities, for which the previous owners have the kindness of heart to split the payment into two interest-free stages: July 2022 and Spring 2023. It means the centre’s volunteers have space to breathe and raise funds gradually.
“Amma è felice di vedere tutti i suoi figli!” said Amma via webcast from Amritapuri during the centre’s inauguration on October 9th. The translation is: “Amma is happy to see her children!”
Ms Ghezzi explained: “Amma said the centre was born out of love and that with love it must be maintained. She sent kisses and blessings to all present, making us totally feel her presence with care and love. The Italians present were very touched by this interaction with Amma and expressed their joy and gratitude by waving red hearts back to her.”
Guests for the opening ceremony included Dr. Carlo Massa, Mayor of Gavi; Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences; Swami Shubamritananda Puri, one of Amma’s senior disciples and Director for Europe; and Swamini Amrita Jyoti Prana, another senior disciple and President of Amma France.
Also present for the celebrations were Anna Agnelli, director of the documentary “Amma’s way: An embrace to the world” and Yari Carrisi, a musician who is the son of the Italian-American pop duo formed by Albano Carrisi and Romina Power.
In her address, Amma spoke of unity, collaboration, and commitment as fundamental elements to keep the centre thriving. She also conversed with Monsignor Sorondo about the importance of prayer as a fundamental act to restore peace in the world.
Mayor Massa underlined the pleasure and honor of having such an important reality as the Amma Centre in Gavi and declared the administration’s full willingness to give any kind of support, highlighting how the values on which the centre is based are closely in line with the community’s own. The mayor said he was moved by the breadth of ETW’s humanitarian initiatives.
“I was very impressed by the last major project Amma inaugurated in the Delhi region, the large Amrita Hospital. As a medical doctor, it touched me very much,” he said. “I was also impressed by the kindness and sense of responsibility of the Italian representatives who contacted me for this inauguration. The administration is very happy to have this reality on the ground that embodies the values of love and peace.”
Monsignor Sorondo began his speech by recounting how he came to know about Amma. For the Joint Declaration Against Modern Slavery signed at the Vatican in 2014, he was asked by Pope Francis to identify a charismatic leader to represent the Hindu creed. Amma was recommended to him and she attended the meeting along with other religious leaders. The bishop, therefore, had the opportunity to meet her and see her vast network of humanitarian projects.
“Amma’s ways and also the embrace gesture are very close and remind me a lot of Pope Francis. I traveled to Amritapuri because Pope Francis wanted to present Amma with a cross, and Amma, in thanking me, said that I was welcome to come visit. There I saw Amma in total action giving darshan and could see up close all the love she has expressed through her many projects,” said Monsignor Sorondo.
Swami Shubamritananda in his speech shared some thoughts on the meaning of a centre—a place that allows one to find peace and harmony inwardly and to expand this peace outwardly through the projects that will be implemented.
“The MA Centre Italy is now a reality thanks to everyone’s desire and will, but this is only the beginning. We need to continue our efforts to make it live and grow,” he said.
Swamini Amrita Jyoti recalled the birth of the French centre near Paris and explained how today it has become an established and vibrant community. She said: “The start of the French centre 20 years ago was very difficult because local people did not know our organization. But today the centre has become a large community that carries out projects and activities open to all.”
Ms Agnelli shared how her documentary about Amma took birth, as she was inspired by the encounters of those who had met her. She said: “I wanted to focus the documentary by not doing an interview with Amma, as meeting her cannot be explained in words. I preferred to let the people who have been close to her and involved in her organization for years speak. Thus witnessing the transformation that Amma brings about in many people, thus creating a vast humanitarian network”.
Meanwhile, Mr Carrisi reflected on some coincidences that led him to attend the inauguration of MA Centre Italy. He is a friend of Sean Lennon, the late John Lennon’s son. Mr Carissi and Sean Lennon have shared many moments, and inspired by music, Mr Carissi leads youth art meetings to bring the voices of many together.
“I would like to sing ‘Imagine’, which I know Amma likes a lot and because it reminds me of times spent in my youth with John Lennon’s son. October 9th would be John’s birthday and is also Sean’s,” he said.
During the official celebration, a lamp was lit, symbolizing light, wisdom and hope and two apple trees were planted to once again emphasize this special day and underline the deep bond we have with the Earth. The long and intense day ended with great joy with songs led by Yari Carrisi’s music group and music led by Swami Shubamritananada.
“The inauguration of the new MA Centre Italy will remain forever in our hearts and memories, with profound gratitude to Amma for the precious opportunity to be able to have a place of peace and harmony inspired by her example of love and compassion in our land as well,” concluded Ms Ghezzi.