On a warm June weekend, the CVC Alsace, the CLC in the Alsace region, hosted a “Fête des voisins”, a “neighborhood party” in the Center Saint Thomas, an educational center of the diocese in Strasbourg. 60 GCers from different regional communities in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland gladly accepted the invitation.
The theme of the weekend was “The face of Christ – in our lives, in our cities, in our community”. The central motif was a window of the Strasbourg Cathedral (“Christ in 100 Faces”), in which a 15th-century depiction of Christ by Hans Memling was redesigned from numerous faces of individuals. Thus, the impulse developed to search for and find the face of Christ in the city and in the encounters, and to find the red thread of the weekend.
After a short introduction on Saturday lunchtime we set out in groups of 7-8 people from different countries for a spiritual walk to different places Strasbourg: in the city, in the cathedral, to the garden of the two shores that connects Strasbourg and Kehl, in a large Protestant church or the Europaviertel. During the walk there were brief explanations at several stations, a biblical passage, a time of silence and then the opportunity to exchange ideas. Although we did not know each other before, there were very personal and deep conversations about the experiences on the walk, about their own way in the CLC, about the role that Ignatian spirituality can play in our lives as Europeans.
After returning, the groups presented their findings in plenary – some with a short game scene or pantomime, others simply shared some of their experiences with a few photos. Almost all told how the slow, spiritual encounter with places that might otherwise be explored with a guide rather than a Bible passage, gave them a different, deeper look. “I have never spent so much time in the cathedral – I have never seen so much there”.
In the evening, an “international picnic” with brought specialties from all countries and a colorful evening offered the opportunity to meet in a relaxed atmosphere.
GCLers from Strasburg and the surrounding area provided overnight accommodations with great hospitality, and so there were many exciting discussions (and short nights) in the evening and the next morning.
The Sunday followed – after the morning prayer – reports from the individual national and regional communities. For example, French regions and the diocese community of Friborg spoke of Open Meetings, which they offered to interested parties, the Luxembourgers presented projects with refugees, the GCLers from Switzerland and Belgium told of the challenges and opportunities which multilingualism in their country also posed for the GCL brings with it.
In a subsequent exchange in the same small group as the day before, we could look back on the whole weekend. It became clear in many groups that many had learned in the days that it was not a meeting of GCLers from different regional and national communities that met here, but members, companions in a community, perhaps even a joint mission in one Europe has the growing nationalism. As a result of the evaluation in the group one could send the delegates for the world meeting on a postcard a message, which one wanted to bring into the world meeting – be it a benediction, an encouragement or an aspect, which the respective group also for the whole world community seemed meaningful.
After lunch and a leisurely lunch break, which spent many of the park at the Center Saint Thomas, a long, quiet Eucharistic celebration with many meditative elements such as a picture review and the sending out of the delegates present for the World Meeting in Buenoso concluded the neighborhood party.
“Ce n’est qu’un revoir” – “we just say goodbye” – that was the conclusion of the program for the weekend! From barely known GClern from the neighboring countries have become friends, companions on this weekend, who are sure to meet again. Whether in Germany, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland or Belgium – there will be another such “neighborhood party” soon! It is worth it!
For the detailed programme please read: Meeting in Alsace