[Province of Madrid – Santa Luisa] On August 19 a group of Sisters accompanied by Sr Antonia, Visitatrice, Fr Joaquin, Director, and Sr Rocio, Councillor, began our pilgrimage “Following Vincent’s footsteps”. Sr Ascension Larrad, the Sister Servant of Hispano American Association San Fernando in Neuilly-sur-Seine, was waiting for us at the airport. The Sisters presented the different services entrusted to them: Welcome, accompaniment, prison, and home visiting, a hostel for students and young pregnant girls, and a bilingual health center open to all. Their faces revealed a generous dedication to God in the poor. The celebration of the Eucharist helped us to continue in the presence of the Lord. In the afternoon we went to the center of Paris to visit some of its most significant monuments.
On the next day at our visit to the Mother House, Sr Maddalena, the archivist, welcomed us. She showed us original letters, minutes, objects and memories from the beginning of the Company until today. Everything invited us to an in-depth reading of what St. Vincent and St. Louise were discovering as the will of the Holy Spirit, inciting in us a desire of vocational renewal.
Eucharist in the chapel of the Apparitions. We appreciated that Sr Kathleen, Superioress General, joined us for Mass. Sr Carmen Briones, from the General Secretariat, explained to us the different quarters of the Mother House, after which, we joined the Mother House Community and the faithful for Evening Prayer.
Third day: Vincentian Route through the main places of the beginning of the Company. Each corner took us to a scene of the birth and development of our history, delving into the formation of our being Daughters of Charity. In the afternoon was a pilgrimage to Clichy, where St Vincent was a very happy pastor. Then we visited the national Basilica of Sacre Coeur.
Fourthday we spent a few hours in Taizé. There we prayed and had lunch with thousands of young people. The young volunteers perform all tasks for a good organization. They taught us that there is another way of living, with more austerity.
Trip to Fain-les-Moutiers, the birthplace of St. Catherine. The Sisters welcomed us and at the Eucharist, in the small chapel, we thanked God for everything we received during the day. The next day we walked to Moutiers-St. Jean praying the rosary. The objects present in St. Catherine’s family house inspired in us different ways, as well as the attitudes of simplicity, hard work, sacrifice, trust in God that forged St. Catherine’s character and openness to God and helped her to be favored with the visit of Our Lady. Fain-les-Moutiers meant revitalizing the virtues of a Daughter of Charity in our lives.
5th day Chartres Cathedral. Here we recalled St. Louise’s pilgrimage. In the Eucharist at the crypt, we renewed the offer of the Company that she made at that time. We carried candles singing: “In our darkness, light the flame of your love, Lord.” We put the whole Company at Mary’s feet, remembering the time of Assemblies, so under her guidance, they will be a true passage of the Spirit and strengthening of fidelity in the “Little Company”.
Last day Eucharist in St. Lazarewhere lies the body of St Vincent. We felt questioned by the words that St. Vincent addressed to St. Louise “Go then, Mademoiselle ___”. We put each one of our names after that phrase and felt sent to the mission that God has asked us. Fr Bernard Schoepfer, General Director, came to greet us.
We returned to Madrid with our hearts burning in love of all people, and especially of the poorest, with whom St. Louise and St. Vincent fell in love. We thank God, the Provincial Council, Sister Ascension Larrad who prepared the itinerary, the Neuilly Community and all who made possible this immense gift of pilgrimage to the roots of our Company and we return with this feeling “The Lord has been good to us and we are happy.”
May the experience lived in these days help us to be better servants of God, of the poor and the Company!
A Participant Sister