The 13th and 14th March just past, Marie-Noëlle Christien, Madeleine Le Beau et Annick Quérellou took part in the 2015 “CEFAL Days”, organised in Paris by the Latin American Pole of the National Service of the Universal Mission of the Church. They share some echoes of this session with you.
The session participants were welcomed in the vast entrance hall of the Conference of Bishops in Paris, then directed towards the auditorium. Father Luc Lalire, head of the Latin American Pole, greeted them and presented Mgr Laurent Dognin, auxiliary Bishop of Bordeaux, who is replacing Mgr Marc Stenger at the Latin American Pole.
In preparation for the session we had been invited to consult a certain number of documents.
We were then invited along with some sixty other participants to meet the speakers who had lived a missionary experience in Latin America or the Caribbean, within a framework of universal mission.
First of all, “ the missionary experience of Latin-Americans in the French department of Aube”, presented in the form of a film which traced some important aspects :
- A friendly meeting between Mgr Ricardo Tobon, bishop of Medellin (Colombia) and Mgr Marc Stenger, bishop of Troyes (France) who wanted to create links between their two dioceses.
- The diocesan churches of Troyes and Medellin who then undertook to live the mission of the Church as partners.
- The arrival in France of Colombian seminary students with a missionary programme, offering them a formation through the study of French and theology and pastoral insertion, and ordination to the diaconate in their mission diocese.
- The departure of a French priest : a missionary from the diocese of Troyes to Medellin.
- Visits of laypeople from Troyes to Medellin
Central to this experience were the words : “Adventuring together … Daring to call young missionaries … Doing everything to make them feel welcome … Welcomed – welcoming … Living out the Gospel, being passionate about it and sharing it with others”.
The presentation by Father Bernardo Colmenares, a Colombian priest, who has been in France for 12 years, rounded out the film. Fr Bernardo recalled the different moments of the experience from the meeting of the two bishops up to the symposium of the 29th September – 1st October 2014 at the Catholic Institute of Paris : “Concerns and challenges in the coming together of local missionary cultures. A re-reading with the Latin American Church!”
A second experience, lived as a family in a shanty town in Brazil (Salvador de Bahia) revealed to us the lay missionary dimension. Through the organisation Fidesco (created by the Emmanuel community), Sébastien and his wife Mathilde, both of them teachers, accepted to go for 2 years with their two young daughters.
Leaving a secure professional life to answer a call to serve the poorest, is a step that needed reflexion and 9 months of formation given by Fidesco. Once there, Sébastien asked himself : “What will remain of the experience?” The important thing was to take the time to be welcomed. Their children were a link with the children of the shanty town, and therefore with the families. Their mission lay in educational support in the context of the parish with the intention that this mission could then continue without them. It was a Brazilian who took on the responsibility and so the mission also took on “a local colour”.
Once back in France, Sébastien and Mathilde took up their profession again. Transformed by the experience in the Brazilian shanty town, they continue to live the mission of the Church.
We appreciated this day of simple, fraternal meeting between the bishop, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people who had lived a missionary experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting sent us back to “the universal mission” in our own country, there where we are sent today. In the workshops, we had been asked to answer the question : “What is mission for you?” A question for each one … that we invite you to make your own too.
Marie-Noëlle, Madeleine, Annick