Summer Series – Summer Sessions (2/5). In Paray-le-Monial, hundreds of travelers come on pilgrimage every summer. The session organized by the Emmanuel Community is an opportunity for them to live their faith together, to receive the sacraments, to form and to evangelize.
The light of the setting sun falls on the large plot where more than two hundred caravans are gathered, near the sanctuary of Paray-le-Monial. Families, young and old go to the big tent set up in the center where a “mercy vigil” is organized by the Emmanuel community. Four men play guitar; women’s voices united in chorus rise with power. Confession, prayers of a specific intention, procession and blessing of the Blessed Sacrament for each present are the highlights of the evening. Tears stream down many faces as the Lord works in secret.
An opportunity for family evangelism
“I was healed here by the Lord. He took the weight of the pain that was weighing on my heartsays Isabelle, who came to Paray for the first time three years ago and has gone back every year since. During Easter and during the summer this year was from July 12 to 17, the Emmanuel Community offers a session for travelers, parallel to those organized for everyone, with a program adapted to their lifestyle. . “In the morning, the men work (construction sites, gardening, etc.)», explains Jean-Michel Meilhac, «stationaryin service with “travellers”, according to the vocabulary used. Those who wish can come for times of praise, worship and mass. The children discover the catechism during the activities organized by age group in the afternoon. “Many come here to receive the sacraments», continues Jean-Michel Meilhac. After accelerated preparation, many will receive baptism, confirmation or first communion at the end of the week. “I was married here seven years ago; we were six couples doing it at the same time” says Paulo. “We understand that marriage in the Church is not just for sedentary peopleadd “L’Abîme” and her husband “Petitnain”, nicknames of these travelers from the Emmanuel community. The blessing of the caravans is also an opportunity to evangelize families who come to Paray more for the comforts of the land than for the pilgrimage.
“The challenge of these sessions is to form travelers responsible for the evangelization of their own people.“, explains Father Grégoire Kornprobst, priest for travelers in Emmanuel for eight years. The missionary challenge is all the more important because it is effectively taken up by evangelical Christians, numerous among the Travelers and sometimes strongly against Catholics. Pilgrimages, common among travelers who go from one sanctuary to another during the summer, are also a way for them to weave social bonds and live their faith in the church. “A traveler is defined as a practitioner if he goes to Lourdes every year. Living his Christian faith in places of pilgrimage is part of his culture” says Father Grégoire. Paray-le-Monial is therefore a popular destination. “The other pilgrimages are more Marian or for saints, but here, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are at home.», emphasizes Rudy, traveling member of the organization team.
“They drop everything to meet God”
The Emmanuel community thus meets travelers in Paray and welcomes them in its midst from the early 1980s, and in a renewed way since 2009. They are today around sixty to be part of it. “We understood that we had a complementarity of living between sedentary and traveling within the Community“, explains Anny Hilling, who has followed them since the beginning and now lives year-round on the land that Emmanuel has borrowed. “They teach us to surrender to Providence when we find it so hard to let go. Their way of traveling determines their way of living their faith and their specific vocation in the Church. “The traveler must maintain a certain freedom, not allow himself to be imprisoned, live by the grace of God and the rhythm of the windexplains L’Abîme. “Their life in the present moment brings them to the life of the Holy Spirit», emphasizes Father Grégoire. Rudy thus wonders about the faith of his people:The people who come here can barely read and write, they have few means to get around, but they drop everything to meet God. We truly live this sentence from the Gospel: “What you have hidden from the wise and learned, you have revealed to little ones” (Luke 10, 21)”.