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Marist Bulletin - Number 324


Religious and lay people seal a “new alliance

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In Lourdes (France), last weekend October 20-21, the French Episcopal Conference, convoked a gathering of more than 1.500 lay people and religious belonging to more than 200 charisms of the Church, to reflect on the new ecclesiastic phenomenon of “charismatic families”: religious and lay people who meet around the charism of a founder to share their spirituality and mission. We think it would be very interesting to share with you an article from the French Catholic newspaper La Croix about this ecclesiastic encounter. It is good to survey the horizon of the Church from beyond our Marist house.

La Croix 23/10/2007 - François Vayne

More than 200 institutes dedicated to the consecrated life decided to work in close collaboration with lay people who want to share their charism.
The Magnificat resounded at the end of the Sunday Mass in the church of Saint Bernadette, sung in choir by 1.500 representatives of numerous spiritual families united in Lourdes in October 19 to 21. Gray or blue veils, white or beige habits mingled with coloured garments of all ages, giving to this assembly an original and joyful look.
In this World Day of missions, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux and president of the Conference of the Bishops of France, spoke of a significant moment for the church with this first gathering of lay people, and religious sharing the same spiritualities.
From the Daughters of Jesus of Kermaria to the Hospitalers of Saint-Joseph, through the Sisters of Charity of Saint-Marie of Angers, more than 200 religious institutes chose to prepare fro the future by participating in this meeting organized by the Major Superiors of France.

The same call, the same mission

For more than twenty years new relationships have been establishing themselves between laymen and religious anxious to live a similar call and a similar mission together , explained Jeff Tremblay, a married man who is a member of the Assumptionist family. He and his wife Marie-Angel were delighted to be taking part in a historic event during these days of sharing which revealed an authentic rainbow of evangelical families . More and more laymen belonging to various statutes (oblates, friends, partners…) joined with religious institutes or monastic communities, in the steps of founders whose charism has enriched the history of the church.
Thus, the lay Assumptionists experience a spirit of alliance for example, with the religious family of the Assumption. We pray for the beatification of Father Emmanuel of Alzon, our founder, and we try to achieve his aspirations in our daily lives specifically to bring about the kingdom of God, testified Paul Filippi of Marseille. As a Hospitalier of Notre Dame-de-Salut and faithful to the national Pilgrimage to Lourdes, he expressed the desire for theological and pastoral frameworks for lay people for whom he proposed cycles of formation, and the founding of new types of local communities.
Another lay-religious forum will bring together the Assumptionist pioneers of this new face of the church, in Valpré, near Lyons, next November 23 and 24. It is particularly about nourishing ties, without trying to develop a procedure of recognition in advance , underlined Father Jean-François Petit, Assumptionist. “One thing at a time, he pointed out realistically.

The danger of the instrumentalisation of the laity

A number of these lay people live as volunteers for religious communities, while others receive a mission letter from a community, like Luc Fresneau, who looks after homeless people on a barge at Conflans-Sainte - Honorine (Yvelines). “Will these mission letters one day be given to others by the lay people themselves? someone asked in one of the workshops at the Lourdes meeting, coming close to the edges of experience and questioning again the practices inherited from the past. The question of power is indeed the major point of the conversion to which we are all called , noted Nicolas Joanne, a member of the Ignatian movement CVX (Communities Christian life) and director of l’Espace Bernadette des Sœurs de la Charité in Nevers.
In the course of a round table discussion facilitated by Father Michel Kubler, religious editor-in-chief of La Croix, Nicolas Joanne warned against the danger of instrumentalizing the laity by making them do the work while keeping the power . The collective will to avoid this pitfall, thanks to a true partnership, was extensively affirmed in Lourdes, Sister Marie-Helen Martin: the general superior of the Ursulines recalled that holiness must generate communion … Everyone has agreed to speak of oasis, of stained glass windows, about this happy surprise that these newly arrived shoots will regenerate religious institutes, for the good of the whole church . For Michel Kubler, this October assembly will have caused in numerous communities something of Saras laughter on discovering herself unexpectedly fertile in her old age.

And the new communities?

The new communities, often founded by lay people who have heard the universal call to holiness sent out by Vatican II, have not always been welcomed with open arms. “What will become of these new spiritual families?” wondered Marie-Jo Thiel, a theologian from Strasbourg, in a very well received conference. She alluded to the critique of the type of presence of these lay people in the parishes, where some see themselves as emptied spiritually because of the multiple services they have to carry out.
It is not a question of the church on one hand and the spiritual families on the other , insisted Cardinal Ricard with the authority of a pastor. He brought to an end these days of discussion by declaring, quite seriously: What faces us is the disappearance of the church. Who will be the sign of Christs love wherever people are? Together we are responsible for the testimony of the Gospel.

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