Georg Schwarz grew up in Lichtenegg, Lower-Austria with his seven siblings. Farmer parents, so the children were raised for work, and became involved in cultivation and livestock farming already in their early years.
“Faith has always been important in our family. We prayed the rosary, gave thanks to God before the meals and attended the Sunday services” – recalled his childhood Georg Schwarz.
I was ashamed of the gypsies we were accommodating
Though the family was living in modest circumstances, they helped the needy in an exemplary way. “My mother always had something for beggars and the nomadic gypsies. It happened sometimes that gypsies spent the night in the barn of our farm. That time I was very much ashamed of it, since we were the only ones providing shelter for them. By now I’m fully aware of what good-hearted persons my parents were.”
Upon finishing the elementary school, Georg enrolled himself in the timber vocational high-school in Kirchschlag, to become a carpenter. The boy had turned just 14, and besides his new higher education further changes occurred in his life. First only on weekends, but later on, along the whole week he tried to ease the increased tension by turning to alcohol. Heavily drinking and partying had become a part of his daily life, leaving a mark on his performance both in the school and in his job as well.
The slow and the sudden death
“I was struggling with lots of problems. I was dissatisfied and shy, did not feel myself relaxed, so I buried myself into alcohol. The social pressure, the phobia to live up to everything, all meant a huge burden for me. […] In fact, I knew that I should have rebuilt my entire life from rock bottom, while giving up not just the drinking. But then, I always swept that thought under the rug.” Buddies, partying, alcohol, drunken driving eventually led to a series of tragedies. Georg had lost four of his friends in a road accident. Still he wasn’t yet encouraged to change his life as a survivor either. Under the circumstances his mother lived in constant worries. “She could not sleep for fear I’d have an accident and the police would call her.” Georg’s mother and sister were praying a lot, hoping for a turn that the life of their beloved one would change.”
“At a certain point I gave up everything I had been taught for by my family and faith. I became an alcohol addict.” – recalled his past Georg.
I was just unable to love
In 1991, following his friends’ death, another tragedy hit him. Georg’s mother passed away of a heart attack. After this fatality the 23 years old young man buried himself into alcohol. But his family did not leave him alone. His siblings took him to Medjugorje. Though he felt very much alienated amongst the pilgrims, yet the idea of a life change was there somewhere back in his mind. Upon returning home he failed the attempt of recovering himself. At the same time his addiction was tearing apart both his mind and physical strength. “I had become a meaningless, lonely and sad person. I was unable to love either myself, God or anyone else” – as he described this life period later on.
My passion, the suffering of others
At just the age of 30, he was taken to a psychiatry, where he participated in a detox treatment. He spent lots of time in the hospital chapel, looking for consolation. He cried, claimed and quarrelled with God. “Even in the deepest pot-hole I did not fully let God to go. Whenever I drank myself to death, lying on the ground I was looking up to the sky.”
In May 1999 he could finally leave the psychiatry. Upon his sibling’s repeated intercession his life path led him to Kleinfrauenhaid, to the Cenacolo community. Though Georg was fully clean physically, deep inside his soul was still ruled by sadness and sense of guilt. “There couldn’t have been a better place for a purification than the Cenacolo.” Georg’s soul was still tormented with guilt for his mother’s early death: “Addicts’ families are also suffering. The family’s cross might be even heavier than that of the alcoholics’. There were times when I thought I could live my life as I wanted. What a stupidity it was! No one lives for himself only. Parents, brothers and sisters are also suffering.”
Self-help life school
“Cenacolo”, the word derives from the Italian word: eating together. The community was founded by Sister Rita Petrozzi, known as: Mother Elvira, and identified by many as “the nun of the drug addicts”. She opened the first Cenacolo house in 1983 in Saluzzo, North Italy (a 60 kilometres from Torino). The Cenacolo community welcomes and provides lodging for young people -mainly drug and alcohol addicted ones- in need to be helped and cured, while helping them with opportunities for the restart.
The 84 years old Mother Elvira is living in the Saluzzo Motherhouse of the community, her days are devoted to prayers, to training the young sisters and to paying visits to the brothers and sisters. The community door is open to all being in need, regardless of nationality or religious conviction. The house rules are simple: no TV, no computer, no smoking, no alcohol and not even any medicine. As an alternative the young people devote their life to the Benedictine motto: “Ora et labora” – Pray and work! Cenacolo is based on Christian values, namely it is not a therapeutic institution rather it considers itself as a self-help life school. The elixir is the community itself. That is to say, the youth turn and go straight without doctors, social workers or psychologists. As for their daily life, besides the work and true friendships, the focus is on the prayers. Those with a desire to recover spend an average 2 years in the community and almost everyone manages to get rid of their addiction. Nowadays the Cenacolo community operates more than 60 houses in 18 countries.
Mother Elvira relocated George into the Saluzzo Motherhouse, so that he could leave far behind his previous life. “I entered the community, but I did not speak Italian. I did not understand a single word, still I knew whatever she told it was so.” Following the difficulties of integration, Georg quickly felt at home and found friends. He started to work again as a carpenter. Five years – In Italy, later on in Medjugorje – had passed with self-awareness and recovery, thereafter Georg made an eternal wow of becoming a missionary in his own country.
The prayer of 25 junkies
Together with his friends from the community they decided to build a house for the addicted young people in Kleinfrauenhaid, far more spacious than the previous one was. After long years of waiting and prayer they received the authorization, volunteer friends and enthusiastic young committee members kept joining the works. It took two years to set up the new centre. It was during the construction that Leopold had got in contact with the community. The craftsman arrived as an atheist, but upon the influence of the people around him he converted. When he became seriously ill, Georg handed over to him an Easter candle and said: “Should you feel unwell, just lit a candle and you’ll know that 25 junkies are praying for you.” Prior to his death Leopold had found Jesus through the Cenacolo, and as a gesture of his gratitude he donated a cow to the community.
Currently the Kleinfrauenhaid community has more than 30 young people with the desire to recover from addiction. Besides the prayers they find joy in many different activities: pottery, cheese making, carpentry, cooking, sport and gardening.
Nowadays Georg Schwarz himself is actively helping the youth in their recovery and restart. “First comes a slow deterioration, then arrives the moment when you are pulled down into the deep. I’m so grateful to God of having been hit rock bottom. Should I ever felt just a bit better I would have never accepted any help.”
Between 5 and 12 September 2021, Georg Schwarz is going to give a lecture as a guest speaker of the International Eucharistic Congress.
Sources: cenacolo.at, youtube, radiomaria.at, kathtube.com