Behind the door – Part one

 

In a double presentation, two Daughters of Jesus in mission in Paris talk about their complementary commitments. Each one explains how the encounter with the other has made her grow in humanity. Sr Monique Créno speaks first …

 

On the 14th of November 2021, “World Day of the Poor”, two neighbourhood associations in the 5th arrondissement of Paris organised an “Open Afternoon“, inviting the public to come and discover their solidarity actions. Two Sisters of the community, rue d’Arras, were involved: Monique at the “Coeur du Cinq” (“Heart of the Fifth”) and Rhona at the “Bagagerie Cœur du Cinq”. For each of them, it was an opportunity not only to participate actively but also to reflect on the meaning she gives to her commitment. In this article, Monique talks about what she gives and receives as a volunteer.

 

 

 

Behind the door

Founded in 1990, the “Coeur du Cinq” is a small structure, which opens during the day, to welcome, listen to and accompany adults of all ages who live in precarity. A salaried social adviser and a young person on civic service help these people with their often-complex administrative procedures. An intergenerational team of volunteers, of which I am a member, ensures a presence.

 

 

For me, this choice of volunteering, half a day a week, responds to a desire and an expectation: a desire for multiple encounters through welcoming and listening, an expectation of human and spiritual enrichment. I am convinced that I am :

 

“honouring the Sacred Humanity of the Son of God”

(Rule of Life no. 3).

 

I try to offer an unconditional, warm welcome, and a sympathetic ear to any person who is present, whatever their skin colour, origins or religion. They give their first name if they want.

 

 

The people we care for are looking for a chance to rest or talk together over a coffee, a tea, a hot chocolate, and so break their solitude. They can play a favourite board game … chess, cards, scrabble … and enjoy an enjoyable moment.

 

 

“What are you talking about on the way?

Those we receive talk about everything and anything and freely discuss various current topics: politics, health, culture. I am in awe of their knowledge of literature, art, science, geography … I feel so poor in many of these areas! Listening to their experiences of life demands that I make myself available, that I allow myself to be touched, surprised, confused, that I admit that I don’t understand:

 

– “I’m hungry, at lunchtime the social restaurant refused to serve me because I was late due to a transport problem.”

– sleeping in the street … being bitten by rats

– being afraid … being cold … having your things stolen.

 

In the face of that, I cannot but question my own comfortable life, our living together where we don’t have to worry about tomorrow?

 

 

Thankfully, there is often “good news” going around :

 

I got a residence permit for 4 years.” “I’ve got somewhere to stay.”

 

I marvel when I witness the mutual aid between the people I host. They exchange addresses: where to eat, where to find clothing, where you can shower or sleep.

 

A sense of listening

These words of Maurice Bellet resound in me :

 

“To listen is to be the guest of the one who comes. The host is not concerned with teaching him, leading him, making him confess the truth. He speaks or remains silent according to what seems to be the other’s will. Hospitality is discreet. It is limited to giving the traveller the necessary to live by during his or her stopover. Listening is inner hospitality.”

 

The road is beautiful, where instead of passing each other, we meet. I give the best of myself, but above all, I receive from the other something that I lack : a smile, a thank you, a hello, being listened to, gratuitousness, wonder, solidarity, respect for the other… “You are a Christian, I am a Muslim, we have the same God.”

 

 

Sr Monique Créno dj

Paris, France

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