Our visit to some of our communities in France proved to be a sort of trip to our charism and the motives of our existence as Redemptorists. During these days we had the opportunity and privilege to sit at the table with some of our older confreres. We are beginning to realize that they are often the ones who still want to take risks, with missionary identities in their bodies and a keen eye to read the signs of the times. We have been with men of Hope! Made from that Hope that stems from the intimate relationship with God and the lowly.

One of the oldest we met was Brother André, in an unprepared conversation. With three chairs pulled hastily, we sat down and began to talk. The 88-year-old André is perfectly aware that is place is next to those in need, even though his energy is not the same now. For several years, he has been collaborating with the ATD Quart Monde organization, which seeks to fight poverty particularly among the many immigrants and refugees who come from all over the world to France, struggling with difficulties and anguish. “Good people!” He repeated several times in English, getting emotional remembering some of the stories people shared with him.

Another confrere we sat down to chat with was Father Germano. One morning, after breakfast, we heard Germano repeat over and over that we Redemptorists must be different from other priests or congregations. We don’t have to be special and much less superior to others, but, he said, “We are missionaries and we need to let it show!” At one point in his life, along with some other confreres, he felt that he needed to start working in a regular job. He needed to be side by side with people and to be more in touch with their sufferings and yearnings. Thus, he began to work at night; he rested in the morning, and then was available for other missionary work. He found this phase a very exhausting one but still it was very important to shape himself as a Redemptorist. Germano makes an assertive reading of the signs of the times. He says we may have been slow to read them in Europe, but believes in the strength and work of the Spirit and, in one way or another, he believes that we will continue to seek faithfulness. “I can’t deny reality, but I have Hope!”

Later, in the new Redemptorist community on the outskirts of Paris (Redemptorists now have a community in Épinay-sur-Seine, which started two years ago) we met Father Mischler Herbert. He was there because he had been invited by the community to preach a spiritual retreat at the opening of the pastoral year of the five parishes under our responsibility. The retreat was preached with simple language, which characterizes us, and with the feet firmly based in the Gospel. The ever-present humour and closeness to people marked us and the participants, who were keenly attentive. In fact, our confreres, laughing, told us that people have already asked them: “Have you all been through the same casting process to be Redemptorists? It’s just that you are all the same as regards the simple language and proximity to people!”. We laughed too, happy with what we saw and heard.

During these days in Paris we felt there were several reasons to be grateful to be part of this family. One is the way our confreres live in community. It is an intercontinental community with three confreres of three different nationalities: Joseph from Vietnam, Désiré from Burkina Faso and Juan José from Colombia. And what a testimony of community they give! Life and pastoral care are thought-out in common. The difficulties of language and culture, if any, are all overcome and potentiated! Even at the table, where, depending on the day, the menu is enriched with the dishes and traditions of each one of them. In an area of the city filled with so many immigrants from all over the world, the witness of such a community is explicit preaching! And people recognize that! When they invite one of these priests to dinner or to a celebration, they already know (or quickly realize) that what makes sense is to invite the other two members of the community too. We saw this happening and it is very beautiful.

Community life is indeed a great witness to the Kingdom of God. This is how we have experienced it ourselves during the days we spent in Épinay-sur-Seine with these confreres. It looked like we were seeing the incarnation of Constitution 21:

“(…) An essential law of life for the members is this: that they live in community and carry out their apostolic work through community. For this reason the community aspect must always be kept in mind when any missionary work is being accepted (…)”

To live in community with the last and least of society.
To be image and likeness of God.
That’s how Hope grows here.

We’ll see you around,

Zé ku Teresa


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s