Michelle and Marie-Noëlle,
back from Haïti and Chile,
took part in the annual meeting organised
by the National Service of the Universal Missionof the Church
in France at Lisieux from to
24 participants arrived from the four corners of the planet: Africa, Latin America, the West Indies, Iraq, Russia. Many had lived for a long time in these far-off regions that are, from many points of view, very different from France.
The three objectives which the Service of the Universal Mission had fixed for the session were :
- to share the richness of our different experiences,
- to discover together how French society has evolved how and how the Church in France has changed,
- to help those returning to find their place in the Church.
Several speakers gave us a presentation in broad brush strokes of the face or rather the faces of the Church in France. They addressed above all:
- a decrease in those who claim to be Catholic. « Catholicism » is no longer measured in terms of practice (only 4.5% practice regularly.)
- a distancing with regard to the classic formulations of the Faith.
- the decline in ordinations
Nevertheless there are growing buds that give us hope:
- A rise in the number of young people in preparation for baptism
- A rise in the number of people involved in humanitarian associations, in the scout movements, in student chaplaincies …
Another subject was the socio-political and economic mutations in today’s France:
- Our democracy is running out of steam, but another form of political life is beginning to emerge.
- The lack of a tradition of social dialogue does not help to resolve the conflicts.
- Ethical norms are evolving.
As we are in the jubilee year of Mercy we had a presentation on pardon based on a video made in Rwanda.
Finally we were asked to reflect on the place of returning missionaries in their Church in France.
- We have to witness to the universality of the church, of the Gospel lived in other cultures.
- We have lived different experiences that could and ought to enrich our engagements here.
- We have to look, to listen, to abstain from judgement.
- We should find places on the periphery when we can become involved as servants of the Gospel.
Of the three objectives set, for us only the second seemed to be attained. A more participative teaching style would have without doubt provoked a more beneficial sharing of our diverse experiences and a search in common concerning our insertions.
Even if the informal exchanges were interesting, they were a bit by chance as we met each other; they remained marginal in a session more centred on information given by exterior speakers (competent and appreciated) than on group participation.
Michelle Paul et Marie-Noëlle Christien fj.