“When I began to make my way through the ‘deserts’ of our splendid Rome and to enter, on the tips of my toes, the terribly painful stories of the ‘people of the night’ – Chiara tells – I never imagined that I’d encounter such wiped out throngs of desperate people, of lonely people, marginalised, begging for love, scarred deep in their hearts by indifference, abandonment, and violence, victims entrapped in terrible situations like they were caught in hellish octopus tentacles.
The new horizons adventure begins in ‘91 when chiara amirante decides to go to the rome termini train station at night to encounter the countless young people living in situations of dire distress who have made the street their “home”.
How many splendid young people parched for love, reduced by the seductions of the world and from life’s terrible lashes to creatures with icy gazes and hearts of stone. How many young people gripped, in the prime of their youth, with faint nausea, terrible existential emptiness, with mortal anguish! How many young people destroyed and deceived, deprived of their innocence. How many desperate brothers and sisters embraced me with tears in their eyes, pleading: “Chiara, please get me out of this hell!” … and what pain I felt to not be able to find any place to take them.
I felt too small fragile and helpless, impotent before the piercing cry of the people of the night… Then, a ray of light, a certainty: Love is stronger, love wins. Love works miracles because God is Love!
That’s how the idea of a shelter community came, where to offer a path of self-awareness, of healing of the heart, and of psycho-spiritual regeneration.”
In March of ’94, Chiara opens the first New Horizons shelter community, in Trigoria (Rome), where hundreds of young people, coming from extreme experiences, begin to rebuild themselves through the therapeutic rehabilitation programme she devised.
From the very outset, the response of the young men and women taken in is truly surprising and inspiring.
In May 97, in Piglio, in the province of Frosinone, a Community for formation and reception is opened that would grow to become the New Horizons headquarters.
From 1998, there is an increase in solidarity initiatives, shelter communities, centres for formation and reintegration, social projects and humanitarian initiatives, and projects in developing countries.
In a short time, the community is transformed into a genuine ‘factory of love’, a powerhouse of solidarity and reception. In fact, the same young people that are taken in, after spending a certain amount of time in the Community, feel an urgency to be engaged, in first person, in acts of solidarity to support those in serious distress.
In the late ‘90s, in the city of Rome, the New Horizons Community tries out a new pastoral methodology of street evangelisation, one that proves to be especially effective: these will come to be called the ‘street missions’.
In touch with so many young people in such varied situations of distress, Chiara goes on to elaborate a pedagogical rehabilitation pathway, for those who turn to her and the Association so they can free themselves from addiction, escape from various tunnels of hell, and rediscover the joy of living life to its fullest. Living the gospel ‘to the letter’ in everyday life remains at the core of the experience of living, and around this, is a journey of self-awareness and healing of the heart (the Art of Loving) that becomes the hallmark of Chiara’s proposition for the world of rehabilitation communities as well.
In Easter of 2006, upon her return from the Holy Land, Chiara launches a new proposal: The Knights of the Light. And within only a few years, more than 500,000 people adhere to this commitment: to bear witness of the joy of the Risen Christ to those who are most desperate, to try to live the gospel to the letter to renew the world with the revolution of Love! The Knights of the Light, scattered across numerous countries, remain united through the initiative of the word of light published daily on Chiara Amirante’s public Facebook page: a commitment to living a phase from the gospel of the day together.
The commitment grows to bring messages of hope to those who have lost theirs, through media and new-media as well.
Over the course of these years, the New Horizons Community has seen thousands of young people, coming from extreme experiences or in search of meaning for their lives, rebuild themselves in the light of love and pass from ‘death’ to life. That first house in Trigoria with mattresses strewn across the floor has evolved to about 1000 team members for services, numerous Centres and Works in Italy and abroad, and the realisation of the Sky Citadels, small villages of reception and formation where the law of love wants to be lived, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.
An incredible feat, a true miracle, one that could not have been realised without the help of God, of hundreds of volunteers, and of many, many friends. On 8 December 2010, New Horizons was also approved by the Holy See as a Private International Association of the Faithful.