Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Nello Brunelli

A life on the borders to then aim high

Around the world and always looking for Jesus. Then a phone number opens a new relationship.

I was born in Switerzland, in March 1975, from an Italian mother and a Swiss father, near a border that was not only a geographical one. There was a difference perceived between things and people. Many family friends were Italian but the institutions and the style were Swiss.

My parents had both received a Catholic education. My father, an anticlerical who was very angry at something which urged him now and again to enter church and pray. My mother, more serenly distant. They decided not to baptise me. At elementary school I was the only one.

Then their separation. My mother and I moved to Chiavari (Genoa) in my grandmother’s big flat. I was seven. My mother was a school teacher. For the next three years I had to request a residency permit like a non-EU citizen.

From the beginning of my life, then, I found myself on the border betweeen different ways of living, of doing things and of thinking.

My father died in 1990. The pain urged me to travel, to go outside my little city. Thanks to a school exchange program, I attended the fourth year of high school in the United States. There, I was welcomed with great love by a Methodist pastor and his family, in Texas. In the church, a campus with a theatre, refectory and sports facilities. It was my first encounter with an explicit Christianity: community life, prayers before meals, reading the Bible and gestures that provoked in me a strong curiosity about the person of Jesus. I started wondering who he was, what he had intended to do and why he had decided not to flee, but to submit to the cross.

In 1999, after the matriculation exam at the end of high school and some exams at university, civil service as an alternative to military service, in a nursing home. The contact with the elderly, the humanizing experience of service to their precariousness revealed to me in a definitive way the Christian message. I asked for baptism and started the catechumenal path.

It was in this period that some friends and I planning to form a community, to share everything. Don Nando Negri, a priest whose cause for beatification is now underway, offered us a house in the hills and laid bare our limits. So we gave up the project.

Meanwhile, I was working in Milan as a software programmer. For two years I volunteered at Caritas, teaching Italian to foreigners without a residency permit. But my heart was unhappy. My hopes vanished in a quotidianity of work that was often far from all that I believed in. I sensed, through their absence, all the things that escaped me. Nothing satisfied my thirst, not even the relationships I always lived intensely until their conclusion. I started a slow virtuous process that would lead me to the definitive exit from some corrupt working environments and to my transfer to London.

In the summer of 2014, whilst on holiday in Chiavari, I was invited to an informal interview in an IT company which was a world-leader in its field. With great surprise I started working with cutting-edge technology in the city of my infancy. The pay was less, but this particular was by then immaterial to me.

It was in this period, so serene and enriched by encounters, that a friend gave me the phone number of a “good priest in Genoa”. I knew the fame of Jesuits and of their Spiritual Exercises but I would never have imagined that I would meet them in the Novitiate. It was one of the most important events in my life. Thanks to the Spiritual Exercises, I changed my relationship with the Lord which I now feel is intimately linked to my emotions and my desires, a relationship which will go on whatever happens.

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