Travel with 18 Vincentians for three weeks as they experience the places that were significant to Vincent during his life.
There are two ways joining them.
Click on the following links from Fr. Dan Borlick’s blog and savor the trip in three parts.
If you prefer you can skip the links and scroll through the three weeks here. Linger where you will, to reflect on the images.
Week I, CIF 2014 Missionaries’ session
Friday, April 25th, 2014
Since 1993, the International Center of Formation, St. Vincent de Paul (CIF) has developed and led programs for our members and those of our “Vincentian Family.” For our own priest and brother members this has been an opportunity for personal renewal and to experience our holy places, i.e. those sites where our founder, Vincent de Paul, was born, grew up, and developed into the saint and founder we know today. The center over the years has adapted these “ongoing formation” programs to particular groups and needs, such as those who work in seminaries, parish missions, with youth, our lay brother members, our leaders and others.
CIF has just initiate a new “session” called “CIF for Missionaries” – this is the first time for confreres who work outside of their home culture (and language) and/or serve as missionaries to immigrants within their provinces.
All 18 participants arrived on time. The group is quite international: eighteen confreres from thirteen provinces, each with different missionary experience. This evening we introduced ourselves to each other, assisting with our own translations – French, English, Spanish, and a bit of Portuguese and Italian.
Saturday, April 26th, 2014
In our first formal gathering of this session, the CIF Director, Fr. Dan Paul Borlik introduced the general program of this special session. After a brief orientation and history of CIF , he introduced the methodology of this session. He also presded at our first Eucharist, in the House community’s “Oratoire”, concelebrated by all participants of this session.
In the afternoon we took the underground (the celebrated Parisien METRO), to see the site of the ancient home of Saint-Lazare. We visited the church of Saint Laurent which was the parish church of Saints Vincent and Louise de Marillac our our foundation from the 1630’s until the Revolution (1789) as the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. We then went to the street of the nearby Rue Saint Denis, to see the still-visible walls of the ancient chapel of Saint-Lazare, the striking outside wall sculpture Vincent’s face, recently dedicated to the saint by local residents, as well as other remains of the hospital chapel Saint-Lazare.
Sunday, April 27th, 2014
The most important event of the day was Eucharist in the main chapel, at the tomb of our Founder, saint Vincent de Paul. Presiding among us along with the other members of the House was the Mother House superior, P. Bernard Schoepfer. On this Divine Mercy Sunday we prayed for the assistance of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, two new saints of the Church.
After Mass the participants of session took a tour of our “Maison Mère” and its chapel.
We had dinner together with resident confreres who live here at 95, rue de Sèvres in Paris.
Monday, April 28th, 2014
After our early (7:00) morning prayers and Mass, we met in the “Salle Frederick Ozanam” (the CIF instruction room with translation and projection equipment), where we listened to our first presenter, Fr. Alvaro Restrepo, who spoke of documents missionary of the Church, the encyclical of Benedict XVI of 1755 up to Francis’ exhortation of last year. This survey, a historical-critical presentation, prepared us for work in our three language groups, to correlate recent three missionary documents of the Church: the Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi of Paul VI, the encyclical Redemptoris Missio of Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Francis’ recent exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
Group work began in the afternoon. After discussion, we gather together in “plenary session” to share results. We note remarkable evolution of the thought of the Church. There was much we had in common, indeed we most most struck by how much these official reflections had in common, while not always consistent with methods and practices apparently adapted to cultural trends and the mindset of previous epochs.
Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
This day was given to presenting and reflecting on the documents of the local churches where we serve, i.e. the Bishops’ Conferences reflections on missionary activity. In the morning we worked in language groups, shared those materials already prepared for this subject.
In the afternoon, in a meeting in the Salle Ozaname, the English and Spanish groups related what they had discussed in the morning – presentations were organized according to region. They illustrated the context of bishops’ preparation (education) and underlined the peculiarity of every country, as well as the variety of methods for evangelization, liturgy, and catechesis.
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
That day in session been envisaged pilgrimage in Folleville. We left Paris in the morning early. Env. 09 h 30 we arrived at Gannes, where waited for us Mr Michel Sorel. It showed us the church. Then we went instead of birth of the Congregation, to Folleville. We celebrated mass there, governed by an associate of Madagascar – P. Jérôme Ralahizafy CM.
After mass we saw the ruins of the castle and we went to Amiens, where the Missionary Community received us. We had dinner with our confreres who live and work in Amiens. We also visited the church St Ann, their base community for a number of ministries in the city.
Another unforgettable part of our visit in Amiens was the two hours we had to pray in, visit, and study the splendid gothic cathedral – the highest in France. Our guide in the cathedral was Fr. John Rybolt CM.
After the visit of the cathedral we came back to Paris to enjoy pizza, beer, and fellowship in our newly refurbished Salle Pouget.
Thursday, May 1st, 2014
We celebrated this official holiday for workers, by working ourselves ! Our sessions began at 9:00 am with the conference of Fr. John Rybolt, who introduced the historical context of Vincent de Paul’s life and missionary activity, where we noticed the same, if deepening sense of the word ‘mission ‘. A lot of well-known events of the life of our Founder can now be seen in a new light, thanks to those many who have worked on the volumes of the history of the Congregation.
The afternoon began with an introduction for group work. Each received different portions from the Common Rules (of the Congregation of the Mission), and tracts taken from Abelly and from other writings, which illustrated the various elements of mission. Having worked in linguistic groups, all participants shared their points of view, particularly on popular missions. They pointed out the context of these missions in the time of St Vincent and more recent times, of the methods and of strategies or of other elements, all of which for the participants seemed quite valuable.
Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Fr. John Rybolt continued today with a new set of conferences: following the historical context of popular missions and showed how this work was accomplished from the times of St Vincent until our own. Examples comes from different countries and from different circles. In the same time our guide explained why next to mission appeared other writings. Which was the reason of the extension of activity of the Congregation.
The session of afternoon was opportunity to share the experience of popular missions in different countries and in different environments. What approches do we have today to popular missions, and what are their particular characteristics? Three of our confreres spoke about their experiences of popular missions: Thomas Lunot (Paris Province), who spoke about the experience of the Frenchmen, Giuseppe Ciappa (Naples Province) who introduced Italian missions, and Jérôme Ralahizafy, who introduced missions in the environment of Madagascar
The afternoon ended with preparation for our “long pilgrimage”, which begins early tomorrow, and will have us arriving tomorrow evening at the birthplace (Berceau) of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Memories: Week II, CIF 2014 Missionaries’ session
Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
Our long journey to southwestern France (the Landes region) began with a 6:00 am breakfast Soon we were boarding our bus, leaving Paris at 7:00 am to arrive at Richelieu at 11:00 am. There wewere welcomed by Fr. PatrickPouplin, the parish priest and representatives of the local parish community and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Together we celebrated Mass, with our Assistant Director, Fr. AdamBandura (Province of Poland) ourpresider andhomilist. After mass we had a picnic together.
We could not stay long, however, since we needed to arrive by nightfall at our next destination, the “Berceau” (birthplace) of our founder, Monsieur Vincent de Paul.Photo: Just a few steps away from the parish church and the old Vincentian buildings attached, are the remains of The Gardens of Richelieu
Sunday, May 4th, 2014
After our first of two nights at St. Joseph Hall in the Berceau, and an early “petit déjeuner” we made our first visit to the church in the village once called Pouy (now named after Vincent) where Vincent de Paul was baptized.
Our next stop was Our Lady’s shrine in Buglose, where we visited the parish church as well as the Chapel of Miracles, located on the expansive grounds behind the church. Our Director provided us with the story behind this shrine – well known even to Vincent and his family in the 1600’s, as well describing our Congregation’s history and presence in this area.
After our midday meal we boarded our bus to Dax, there where we began our walking tour of this town famous from Roman times, to the Rue des Fusillés, where Vincent stayed as a young student, at family home of Monsieur Comet, his patron. We then stopped in front of what had been the Bishop’s palace but today is the town hall. We could only view the outside of the Cathedral of Saint Mary because it was closed in the afternoons. However, we were able to spend time at the hot springs in Dax and to enjoy the gardens and sculptures of the public arean of the city.
Nicely concluding our Sunday together was our concelebrated Mass within the Ranquines – Vincent’s childhood home, led by Fr. Samuel Rinley Foster (Honduran missioner of the Barcelona Province).
Monday, May 5th, 2014
After our morning departure from the birthplace of our founder, Vincent de Paul, we stopped at nearby Tilh. The newly ordained Vincent de Paul had been named as pastor there, although he was never able to successfully pursue his claim. Nor were we able to visit the country church, it being closed this morning. So we looked, took photos, and enjoyed the countryside. Then we went to Bétharram – a place of pilgrimage, a baroque shrine of the XVIIth century, a jewel of Pyrenean art. By noon we had arrived at Lourdes, to stay at a retreat center called the Centre Assomption, only a short walk away from the center of the Shrine dedicated to our Lady.
After lunch back at the Centre Assomption, many of us went to visit and to pray at the Grotto ; for the majority of our group this was our first and likely only opportunity to visit this famous center of prayer and healing. We gathered for a 4:30 pm mass at the Basilica, where we had reserved the small chapel of Saint Ann.
Celebrating it principal was Fr. Antonio Carlos Da Silva Alves (Fortaleza Province, Brazil). After dinner, we joined the other pilgrims at Lourdes for traditional candle-lit evening procession.
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
Immediately after our early breakfast, we departed from Lourdes, heading in the direction of Ars, over 700 km away. But first we stopped at Tarbes to concelebrate Mass in the Cathedral where Saint-Vincent was ordained sub-deacon and deacon. Fr. Joaquín Nwaorgu (Province of Nigeria) presided and preached at our Mass, celebrated in English, Latin and Spanish.
By early evening, after a long journey, we arrived at Ars-sur-Formans, a small village of Dombes known to the whole world thanks to saint Father Jean Mary Vianney, the 19th century “Curé D’Ars”.
Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
Very early this morning many of us went to see the home of the Curé d’ Ars and to pray once again in the Basilica next door. After breakfast, we went to Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne, which at the time of Vincent de Paul was named Châtillon-des-Dombes. It was at Châtillon where Vincent de Paul first organized the first Confraternities of Charity, which later became known as the Ladies of Charity and today the International Association of Charity (AIC). This one, the first of its kind, began in reply to a dire need in the village. We celebrated mass in the chapel which once had been the quarters of Vincent de Paul, whilst he was briefly the pastor here. Our principal celebrant and homilist today was Fr. Geowen Porcincula (Province of the Philippines).
After mass, guided by the Daughters of Charity who serve as docents here, we looked at a presentation on the events of Châtillon and visited the parish church.
By early afternoon we had departed for our long return trip to Paris, with a picnic along the way. To end our pilgrimage together we prepared and enjoyed a late supper in the Salle Pouget.
Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Fr. Dan Borlik began our day’s work with a brief summary reflection of where we had visited these past few days along with highlighting our experiences these days of an “intercultural community.” He offered us an article we would study today in preparation for tomorrow’s conferences with Fr. Robert Maloney.
In the afternoon, everybody had an opportunity (and Metro tickets!) to discover Paris.
Friday, May 9th, 2014
Our presenter today had once served as our Superior General for 12 years – Fr. Robert Maloney. During the morning sessions he explained the subject of “horizon shifts” within Congregation in the course of last 40 years. Some of the examples were our new found understanding of the Vincentian Family, a change in our attitude towards people who live in poverty, and the new manner of service and administration in the Congregation.
Fr Maloney’s method this afternoon was story-telling, as he recounted numerous stories of systemic change in our time, beginning with the remarkable yet simple story of dramatic change in the region of San José de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic, in a hilly region of 100 small villages. Due to the lack of potable water was the root cause of many tragic difficulties such as infant mortality, unemployment, and a host of other social ills. When one visiting member of the Society of St. VIncent de Paul began collaborating with the pastor and the residents to channel water down from the nearby mountains, village life was transformed. Fr. Maloney underlined the essential strategies for Systemic Change. Happily we have begun to witness additional examples within the Vincentian Family such as Fr. Pedro Opeka in Madagascar and others in the Philippines, Kenya and elsewhere.
Chronicle and photos by the CIF Directors
Memories: Week III CIF 2014 Missionaries’ Session
Saturday, May 10th, 2014
This day’s work continued to be guided by Fr Maloney. Today we studied and compared strategies which could become instrumental in bringing about systematic change especially affecting the lives of people who live in poverty. This was organized into four categories:
I. Strategies oriented to mission; II. Strategies oriented to the people themselves; III. Strategies oriented to the problem; IV. Strategies oriented to co-responsibility and participation.
We used this afternoon for a general clean up of our common areas, and to explore the city.
Monday, May 12th, 2014
We worked together today, the CIF directors along with all the participants. Each missionary had been asked earlier to prepare two reports – oral and written – concerning his particular ministry and experience working within other cultures or along with others from diverse backgrounds. We hoped that their written reports might provide material for a future article. However, due to time limitations of our three weeks together, much of the day’s presentations had to do with the wider issues of our confreres’ provinces, their region’s challenges, successess, and plans for the future. Work continued through the morning and afternoon sessions.
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
In the morning, our guide was P. Bernard Massarini CM. During the morning session he outlined critical Vincentian documents concerning evangelization and mission activity. Above all he highlighted our own Constitutions, our Ration Missionum, and the final texts of our most recent General Assembly 2010.
In the afternoon, we continued the tasks remaining from Monday, our participants reporting on their provinces, their works and experiences in mission.
Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
In the morning, our presenter, Marcelo Manimtim (past CIF Director, member of the Province of the Philippines) introduced a conference called « Transforming community living to Community for the Mission ». With references to previous conferences and in the history of the Congregation of the Mission, he showed the importance of how we live together in becoming a community for the mission. At the same time, he spoke about thos factors which assure commumity living in a correct way.
This afternoon, all participants were invited to work in language groups to reflect on modifying or re-directing our current practices of life in a community in order to enhance our mission and efforts at evangelization. After this group work, all gathered in the Salle Ozanam to share our thinking.
On this day we were visited by our Superior General, Fr. Gregory Gay. First of all, we enjoyed an informal conversation with him in work space (the Salle Ozanam) and then, later, during our “aperitifs” each of us had opportunity to speak personally with the Father General. Indeed, his visit with meant very much both to us personally in our understanding of this CIF program.
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Our task today was, as previously requested, to reflect on our own formation in preparing for the mission and our early experiences of support and development while in the mission fields. Our work began with quiet, reflecting personally. Then in language groups, we discussed what preparation seemed helpful for mission, those opportunities for training in the course of mission and finally, what we would recommend to our leaders for the future.
Before dinner, Fr. Elie Delplace (Provincial Visitor, Paris Province) and Fr. Philppe Lamblin (Provincial Econome, Paris Province) invited us to their newly refurbished headquarters, on the opposite side of the Maison Mère’s building complex. While enjoying aperitifs together, they showed us a precious and original book – still used to this day, listing those confreres (both ordained and lay brothers) who signed their names (along with their written vows) to the Congregation at the Maison Mère. On the first page we were delighted to find the signature of St Vincent de Paul himself !
By the afternoon, we were back to work. The secretaries of each linguistic group reported to the wider group the results of the morning.
Friday, May 16th, 2014
Before midday, during a general meeting in the room of B. Ozanam, all participants assessed our session. Speeches were divided into three parties: what you appreciate most; can what be changed or ameliorated; recommendations for a future session. Meeting ended with practical information in departure of Paris.
The afternoon began with a cleaning of our complete area – all our common space, work spaces, corridors, etc. Our goal, to bring back the halls and workrooms to their original splendor… or as close to it as possible!
Continuing our general cleaning, we concentrated this morning on our personal quarters. At 11:00 am we gathered in the large chapel of the Maison Mère.
In front of the tomb of St Vincent we celebrated the Eucharist, giving thanks for our time together and concluding this session.
In afternoon we began preparing the final feast. The team of cooks, on the direction of our CIF Director, Fr.Dan Borlik, prepared delightful dishes. The feast began at 7:00 pm in our common room (the Salle Pouget) where we were joined by our distinguished guests : the House Superior, Fr. Bernard Schoepfer, the Provincial Archvist, Fr. Claude Lautissier, and one of the CIF founding Directors, Fr. John Rybolt.
After dinner, every participant received a certificate of completion of this program. We would soon to part ways, which, in our case, would mean to all four corners of the globe, but we will not forget our time together here where Vincent de Paul started it all!