Bretagne: at the Village St. Joseph, a strong experience of communion

A unique experience in France: business ownersres and “the disadvantaged,” together to bear witness that a new world is possible

By Chantal Grevin

120331_Village_St_Joseph_02_ridThe date of  31 March at the Village Saint Joseph (Bretagne) marked a the conclusion of a series of appointments held in France for the 20th anniversary of the EOC, and it was a unique experience of its type in France: the two main actors of the EoC, the business owners and those assisted by the EOC, together to bear witness that a new world is possible.   

The Village Saint Joseph is a place that “opens its doors to those who need respite… people who suffer from loneliness, homeless families, the marginalized… A hospitality that can be lived in different ways: a respite for a few months, a week-long stay, a meeting for a couple of hours, a spiritual retreat, a moment of prayer….”  The project is brought ahead by different local associations.

On 31 March, 130 persons were present: residents of the Village Saint Joseph, members of  the Focolare Movement and persons who had been invited to get to know the EoC (among whom the Vicar General of the Diocese of  Saint Brieuc); the experience was that of feeling immersed in a climate of communion where each one received more than what they had given. There were also scholars to lend their support to the EoC: Anouk Grevin, professor and researcher, and an African doctoral candidate were present.  

After a brief presentation of the EOC by José and Chantal, the business people of the EoC took the floor: Philippe Picard, Xavier Charon, Jean-Louis, and Irène Plot and Jean-Guy Thomas, who gave their real life, deep testimonies. The questions from the audience allowed them to go even further. Bernard from the Village Saint Joseph then got up to say: "Today I have reconciled myself with the business world, For me, before this, business  owners were to be put down. This is a true healing that I have received and I want to bear witness to it.” 

Lunch served outdoors was the opportunity for a deep exchange, free of all barriers. Each one communicated from the depths of their hearts. 120331_Village_St_Joseph_01_ridThen the visit  around the Village allowed them to enter into the practical aspects of the residents’ life, with the activities they do: mosaic and ceramic work, gardening and animal husbandry, with the cottages organized by “focolari” and the chapel in which the residents meet regularly for moments of prayer. 

The presence of Jesus is palpable in this place. You can especially see it in the faces of those who lived particularly difficult situations (alcoholism, drug abuse, psychiatric hospitalizations, a life on the street…), now transfigured by this new life with Jesus, discovered thanks to the life at the Village. And these people gifted us by telling us about their lives, the hell from which they had escaped when they came to the Village, and the way that Jesus showed himself to them.  We listened to them tell many how after having gone through a number of rehabilitation treatment programs, without lasting results, here they have made it  “without suffering from abstinence,” and they recognize that it was Jesus to “save them.” Two of them will soon be baptized. 

It is impossible to describe what these testimonies stirred in each of us.  Love circulated freely. The small groups that we then divided up into allowed each one to personally enter into this current of communion. We were experiencing what lies at the heart of the EOC: the reciprocity between the two extreme poles of the EOC chain, the business owner and the “poor” who have so much to give, but a chain that was pulling all of us, whatever our financial status, into the same current of love. Each one gave, each one received; we were “one body and one soul.” Through our unity, we sang out Mary’s Magnificat!

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