Paris is arguably one of the most cultured cities on the planet. As this year’s Spiritan pilgrimage neared, I couldn’t but be distracted by thoughts of its architectural sites, objets d’art and museums. At Dublin Airport on departure day, I could almost hear the accordion playing La Vie en Rose!
The reality of Paris, with its stunning buildings and relentless rhythm, hits like a wave but not everyone has been gathered up by the current of industry and creative expression, and the plight of the less fortunate is also apparent.
While Paris is undoubtedly beautiful, a more enthralling vision emerged when we re-traced the footsteps of the Spiritan founders Claude Poullart des Places and Francis Libermann, visiting the colleges and churches where the original group of young men trained, lived and served.
The sacrifices and perseverance of the men, as they overcame great obstacles to provide for the destitute children of the Parisian streets, were both humbling and inspiring. Over three hundred years later, the fruit of this work was tangible in what is today known as Les Apprentis d’Auteuil. The Spiritan vision permeates the delivery of this foundation’s educational programmes. With board provided, thousands of children come from all over France, as well as from countries in Africa and Asia, allowing many young adults and their families to have confidence in the future. At its HQ, a Mass celebrated in Chappelle Sainte Thérèse allowed us to absorb all the work and history of the foundation, as well as to reflect on our own Spiritan vision today in Irish school communities.
The 2018 pilgrimage brought new friends, different perspectives and an invigorated sense of the founding Spiritan vision. A huge thank you to Ronan Barry of SET and all who made it happen.+