Living in Paris, at 310 rue de Vaugirard

on 12 Mar, 2022
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Paris (France), 03/12/2022, Sr Monique Colrat.-  At the end of October 2021, the sisters arrived to 310 rue de Vaugirard in its new buildings. Sisters from various Congregations with their Charisms: three Auxiliary Sisters, two canons from the Congregation of St. Augustine of Notre Dame, two Dominican Sisters of Roman Congregation CRSD, two Xaverian Sisters and the others from Dominican Sisters of the Presentation. 20 sisters have taken their residence in the new building and live in the places that some of us will remember.... But now, everything is quite different from what it was before or it is almost different.

Faced with the changes affecting our society and all religious Congregations, the Province of France began a serious reflection about ten years ago, on the future of the presence of religious life and more concretely, of our Congregation and its presence in Paris, precisely from the point of view of our properties. In the previous years, we had to get away with several institutions and close many communities both in the suburbs and in the city.

The reflection brought us to the key point: leaving the history behind, the evolution of religious life reveals that we have passed from "autonomous" places of life and mission, to "works of the Congregation", through diversified forms of living in small communities from where the sisters respond to various calls for mission: from pastoral animation to salaried work, offering services through teaching or health care.... In this way, we have developed a closeness and cooperation with others that enables us to begin an inter-congregational life. We were also very concerned about the aging of our sisters, to be taken seriously and this brought forth considering an intergenerational dimension.

As a result, we asked ourselves, How could we give life to our site in Paris, which involves a renovation not just in the physical level but also a human and social improvement? One thing was certain, we wanted to preserve this place in Paris, but if we wanted to rebuild a house, the Congregation, together with other social organizations, we need to develop a common project. This is what happened with "Habitat et Humanisme d'Ile de France", which shares the same human values as of ours. This place of life would be called Maison Saint Charles, because of its history in the surroundings, and developing an intergenerational living from the diversity of its residents: shared with young students or workers, guests passing by Paris and sisters of an advanced age.

Thus, the sisters living today at 310 Paris, participating in a project centered on true convictions that I think it is important to mention:
 
  • The buildings that we have inherited are precious for this mission. They can only maintain this goal if we accept and are ready to think with others, because the Congregation alone can neither renew nor animate such an important and complex project.
  • Religious life, in France, still preserves a sense and a witness of life in the "following of Christ" beyond the uniqueness of different charisms. We follow the same Lord, we belong to the same Church, and the proclamation of the Gospel to the poor cannot polarize our lives.
  • It is never too late to dedicate time to a project that gives meaning to the present moment of life that has been given to us. And it is wonderful that, even in old age, we can join with others to live our Charism in this way.
  • We trust the decision of the Province of France that dared to undertake a bold step for renewal through this project, focused not just on their own sisters, but opened itself to welcome other congregations as well. This is a new environment that brings us closer to and in solidarity with the people who come to this place, without much shiftings.

Having said this, we have a new, modern, bright and suitable accommodation, located in the heart of the apartments for single-parent families, of which there are 11, for students or young workers with low income, and ultimately for tenants from all classes of people.

This human setting has a heart: that is the chapel, also completely renovated, full of lights thanks to the stained-glass windows decorated with mimosas. This is a place where it is good to stop alone, to gather with others to celebrate the Eucharist or liturgy of the Hours. The sisters of the Province of France who live in Paris inaugurated the chapel to celebrate together the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, even before the opening of the house as a little introduction to the life near.

The community is situated on three floors, a dining room where we take our meals and a community room located in the choir of the old chapel, quite enough fit our group, with comfortable chairs and armchairs. This is where we gather for our community meetings and where we can welcome and share with our visitors.

In this miscellaneous group, there is a great mutual respect, kindness and an admiration for the journey of each one as we share moments of life that sometimes bring us closer to one another or surprise us. We feel that our consecrated life is directed by the invisible and this sharing never ceases to give life to others. None of us ever imagined that we would live in an inter-congregational environment with people of all ages and races. Sometimes I think that I had reflected on the "inter" quite a lot, now it is time to live it and it has a slight evangelical flavor. This little experience could be part of what the Church offers us, focusing on synodality, as this community also seeks to walk together and find practices that manifest the dynamics that guide us to a common search.

In this manner, the community finds itself in solidarity with all those who live or will live in this campus, a solidarity that will find its particular expression in the times ahead of us, given the persons involved. The social project has not yet started, everyone is babbling for the moment without knowing well what will be the outcome of it, it is a call for patience. It is important to be simply there!

So, to conclude this brief presentation and taking into account the two months of experience in this place, we can modestly say the following: in this complicated world, the sisters of St. Charles are involved in participating in the spirit of the project, wishing with all our heart to be a warm presence of closeness and peace in the heart of Maison Saint Charles.

 

 

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