Meet the nun who set aside her karate black belt to take up Franciscan life

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Her name is Elena Tuccitto. During her youth, her prowess in global karate competitions garnered acclaim for Italy.

Life led her to eventually set aside the black belt for the Franciscan cord. Elena now belongs to the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany.

Although it may not appear this way, karate and spiritual life have many things in common.

“When you fight, you try to understand your opponent's emotions so you can choose an adequate strategy. It's the same as this spiritual journey, where it's crucial to pay attention to the little things and strive to get to know God and understand how He thinks.”

Elena first encountered the Franciscan spirituality as a young child, but her sister, who had Down syndrome, was the one who encouraged her to live her spirituality more strongly.

“She always pushed me to live out the sacraments. She always wanted me to go to Mass with her, or to pray the rosary. So she was the intermediary in my encounter with God.”

Elena used the will and discipline she gained from karate competitions to strengthen her spirituality and nurture a spirit of resilience.

Beyond building her athletic strength, Elena's karate training sessions helped her develop several virtues. Years later, while on mission in Brazil, they proved to be very useful.

“One time a man with bad intentions came in and hid inside the water tank. While we were waiting for the police to arrive, I felt an obligation to intervene. In that moment, I thanked God for the courage He had given me, since the man could've been armed. Neutralizing him was easy. He was smaller than me. I had to hold him down forcefully, but I didn't hurt him.”

In difficult moments, Elena and her community, the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany, haven't let their guard down in helping the needy around the Italian town of Terlizzi.

Last year, they provided 18,540 meals and distributed 2,081 bags of food, thus helping 260 families.

“We have experienced, firsthand, the reality that man doesn't save himself. All of humanity lives this same condition. The symbol of salvation is that which I wear around my neck: the symbol of the Cross, the Tau.”

Elena says it's the moment to roll back one's sleeves and reconstruct fraternity “with the antibody of solidarity,” one of the values that characterize her vocation.

Daniel Díaz Vizzi

Translation: Claudia Torres

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