Our pilgrimage began in Notre Dame Cathedral on March 8, 2017 – International Women’s Day – at a Mass attended by 1,000 AIC France and other nationalities. It was the first of several encounters with the Heart of St Vincent in our presence. Later on, after the vin d’honneur reception in Quai d’Anjou, which included our very own Sisters Marie Raw and Kathleen Appler, 800 members and friends proceeded to Maison Mere, the Rue de Sevres, Lazarists House “a gouter” – afternoon tea to you and me!
It set the scene for what would be an exhilarating, effective and deeply spiritual experience in Chatillon with almost 400 women celebrating living in the Vincentian charism.
The theme of “our Common Home” with keynote speech by our Spiritual Director Fr Alvaro Mauricio Fernandez, CM set the scene for an Assembly with sustainability permeating the whole proceedings. Stimulating presentations included project work from diverse developing and more developed countries, including our own CAFOD Live Simply campaign.
Speakers like Daughters of Charity Sr. Pilar Caycho, Peru with a fulsome talk on Sr. Louise and Charity, workshops relating to “Vincentian spirituality in our grassroots actions today” followed on Fr Celestino Fernandez, CM’s talk on “Vincent de Paul, a leader for our time.” Sr. Francoise Petit, DC, Assistant to Sr. Kathleen Appler, facilitated a workshop on, “The teachings of St Louise to welcome ‘the stranger’ today,” and the other numerous DC and CM Spiritual Advisors met with our Superior General, Fr. Tomaz Mavric. Our own Sr. Bernadette Ryder and Sr. Clare Sweeney, Ireland attended.
A tour of Chatillon, with sight of the original Charter of the Charities, in St Vincent’s House was a highlight! With such a rich diet, we felt nourished and fired up to return with great energy to create ways to support those people living in poverty in our own home.
The Statutory Assembly was the business part of the March 12th -15th days we stayed in Chatillon, Ars and the surrounding countryside. Attended by 42 Full Rights and Associate Member Presidents – out of the 53 countries with AIC organizations, it took much to cut through the cultural differences of democratic debate and election procedure. Ideas emanated from this about training needs, challenged us to remember that some members come from Communist countries, like Laos and Cambodia where members meet in secret, and other paternalistic societies where it is difficult for women to achieve positions of responsibility.
Letting our hair down at the “Talent Show” (no prizes – no competition) allowed the UK gals to sing a Beatles parody of “She loves ya” reworked to include lyrics lamenting Brexit “We still love ya – yeah, yeah, yeah” and an Irish ‘Danny Boy’ with USA back-up singers! Did we have fun? yeah, yeah, yeah!
So many memories, so many dreams and plans forming from our heightened experience in this our 400th year!