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17.04.2015 16:34:41 10161x read.

In September 2014 we, Brothers Frans School and Yos Berkemeijer, were among twenty eight pilgrims who went to France in the footsteps of Vincent Depaul, Louise de Marillac and Frédéric Ozanam. It was a mixed group of sisters, brothers and lay people, who are connected with Vincentian congregations and inspired by the great Saint of the Poor. The pilgrimage was organized by the Brothers CMM and the Sisters SCMM from Tilburg. Bro. Ad de Kok CMM was our guide and Fr. Tjeu van Knippenberg CM and Bro. Jan Koppens CMM were our spiritual leaders. The catering was cared for by the SCMM sisters Netty Daamen and Mel Heuver. The pilgrimage lasted from 11 till 23 September 2014. We went by touring car and the starting point was the CMM Generalate in Tilburg.
In France we stayed at and/or visited all the memorable places that were significant and important in the lives of Vincent, Louis and Frédéric:
- Folleville in North France: we visited the church where Vincent preached his first mission sermon and where he was really converted to a priest of the poor. - Paris: there we went to the chapel where the body of Vincent Depaul lies in state. We also visited the church where the bodies of Louis de Marillac and Catharine Labouré, Daughters of Charity, lie in state. In Paris we also paid a visit to the church with the tomb of Frédéric Ozanam, the Founder of the Vincentian Society. - Château l’Evêque: we visited the church where Vincent was ordained priest. - Le Berceau, in the South of France near the town Dax: this is the birthplace of Vincent, where his historical family house is still conserved in the midst of a big premises with a chapel, buildings for spiritual courses and retreats, guesthouses and a museum. Here we had two reflection days on Vincent and Louise and we visited the church in the village Saint Vincent Depaul, where Vincent was baptized. - Oradour, the “village of the martyrs” where nearly all the inhabitants were murdered and the church and the houses burned by the Nazi’s, on the 10th of June 1944 during World War II. The village is not rebuilt, but everything that remained is kept in the same state as a permanent reminder of the atrocities of war. - Chartres, the city south of Paris: Chartres is the place where Louise went on pilgrimage several times during her life.
In all those places we reflected and meditated on the stories and the words and deeds of these three important and great people. What was their drive, motivation and inspiration so that they could honestly and sincerely say: “The poor are our masters, our teachers”?
And how can we, inspired by the example of Vincent, Louise and Frédéric, become more and more people dedicated to the poor and destitute. What is the mission and task of each of us in the situation and circumstances we live in?
In those different places we came together for prayer, reflection and sharing. We celebrated the Eucharist and had prayer services on historical places around themes of Vincent and Louise, with inspiring words of Fr. Tjeu Knippenberg and Bro. Jan Koppens. In Le Berceau, the birthplace of Vincent, we had a short retreat, including a Eucharistic celebration and prayer services. Also during our journey, when the bus took us from one place to another, we had short periods of silence, reflection and meditation. In this way we became a kind of celebrating community, more and more inspired by Vincent and Louise.
Besides the praying, reflection and meditation we took the opportunity to enjoy the rich culture of the cities we visited. We made a historical walk through Paris, visiting among others the Sacré Coeur, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel tower. We also made an evening boat tour on the river Seine. In Chartres we had ample time to visit the beautiful Cathedral with its famous stainedglass windows and labyrinth. We also visited the historical centre of the cities Périgueux, Bergerac and Dax.
During those thirteen days of the pilgrimage we, as a group, grew closer to one another. We helped one another with the suitcases, to get in and out the Metro in Paris, and with other little services. We enjoyed one another’s company during recreation, during our walks, sitting in the bus and on a pavement in front of a café, during picnics alongside the road, playing games during the evening, making jokes, telling stories and singing songs together. In the course of the days we became a really nice and committed group. The whole pilgrimage went along in a good, brotherly and sisterly atmosphere.
All in all the Vincentian pilgrimage was an interesting, inspiring and fruitful experience, which brought us closer to the Vincentian spirituality and its practical consequences for our being Christian and religious in everyday life. Bro. Frans School

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