Letter of Jean François and Aurelio, Vernon, March 2017

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Dear brothers,

We have worked this week on Fraternity affairs and especially, in relation to those who are at the heart of our concern and who motivate us, that is to say, each one of you. In this little Nazareth that is Vernon, at the home of our brother François MARIN, who has hosted us as if we were his sons, we remember you and thank God that you are our brothers. Many thanks, François, for providing a resting place for the pilgrim and receiving your brothers.

We centred our work on reviewing pending Fraternity issues in a good climate of dialogue, sharing ideas, viewpoints and the concern to resolve outstanding matters and for the immediate future operation of the Fraternity: the questionnaires for the European Assembly this Summer in Poland, and for the World meeting in India in January 2019, the finances of the International Fraternity, the furnishing of a 2016 Fraternity report to be sent to the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican, the new fraternity in Haiti, preparations for the meeting of responsibles and delegates of the Charles de FOUCAULD Family in April in Aachen, echoes of the Centenary of brother Charles, which arrive from different countries, our concerns for the health of Félix, from Madagascar, and the recovery of Suso, from Spain, having undergone surgery, etc.

On Monday, 6th March we shared with the responsibles for the Regions of Île de France and Normandy (Yves de MALLMANN, Joseph JOURJON, Louis YON and Xavier CHAVANE) in an extended time of dialogue and encounter. It was wonderful to be able to meet each other in fraternity, in order to share in common the realities of our fraternities and our concerns. We believe that in Europe we are living through a time of transition which is a real Nazareth with the ageing of our Fraternities. There is a very serious call to live this moment with optimism and with of love for this Nazareth spirituality while we are ever older with few young members joining us. Living simply and at the same time the commitment of a universal brotherhood in an Europe that is very focused on itself, and inward looking, rejecting the stranger, the refugee, full of fears that give rise to an increase of populist politics and reactionary trends. Faced with all this, and in line with Pope Francis, we feel called to give witness to Brother Charles’ message of universal brotherhood and the missionary character of our charism as the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests. Dialogue with Muslims in Europe we believe to be possible, and many expressions of rapprochement are to be found in a great many Christian communities. Prejudices must come down and the temptation to regard others as a threat. For example, in France, a third of working class areas are Muslim. We must learn how to enter into dialogue with this reality.

On Tuesday 7th we had a visit from Jacques GAILLOT, Titular Bishop of Partenia, a member of the Fraternity who came from Paris to share in our work in Jean François’ home. The time we spent together was a great gift from the moment we picked him up at the Vernon train-station until his departure. We could learn from the wisdom of the simple how to be more humanitarian, how to be priests in a difficult world, how to be open to hope and how to live without the securities and comforts of being Westerners. Thank you, Jacques, for coming to spend time with us and for all the testimonies throughout your life of a dedication to the cause of Jesus.

On Wednesday 8th we worked in the morning and in the afternoon, we approached Gouville, in order to be with Michel PINCHON, whom we found to be strong and sound. His home is open to numerous visits of the people of the locality or from further afield with whom he shares with generosity his experience and wisdom. We had supper with Jean Louis RATTIER and took part in the meeting of the Bible workshop of his parish in Damville, sharing on his pastoral activity and his day to day work. It is always rewarding to take part in each brother’s Nazareth, both exterior and interior. Nazareth is the lived experience of how we situate ourselves fraternally before all that surrounds us, in an ever-closer union with Jesus.

We highly valued the work of Fernando TAPIA, Jean Michel BORTHEIRIE and Manuel POZO in Almería, Spain, drawing up a basic outline on the Month of Nazareth. This document will be studied for approval at the Bangalore Assembly. Thanks to these brothers for having responded to this request from us in the International Team.

Let us remember that we must make an effort in all regions to support the International fund, especially as the next World Assembly in Bangalore in 2019 has a budget to meet and we need to cover expenses. As an International Team we try to save resources as much as possible. Our thanks to those fraternities who have already generously paid their share.

Our web-site iesuscaritas.org is open to the contributions of all fraternities. We await your articles, news and notices of forthcoming to publish them in our Diary. This is a means of communication that brings us closely together.

Our time of reflection has also taken into account the call to live, as a Fraternity, our ministry as missionaries within the diocesan presbyterate, wherever we are based, be it a parish, a hospital, a prison, or with organisations that help refugees, or people displaced by war or poverty, or in places that care for the needy of our societies, with the call to go to the last, like Charles de FOUCAULD, because it is there that we meet Christ. As Pope Francis reminds us, there is no spiritual life without an open, generous and merciful heart.

Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ…I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security… More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus tirelessly repeats to us: Give them something to eat yourselves” (Mk 6:37). (Evangelli Gaudium, 49)

From Vernon, we wish you a holy Lent and a path to Easter with Jesus and the brothers and sisters as companions on the road.

A big embrace.

Jean François and Aurelio

Vernon, Normandy, France, 10 March, 2017

(Thanks so much, Liam, for translate to English)

PDF: Letter of Jean François and Aurelio, Vernon, March 2017, eng.

WEND BE NE DO, a project born in the fraternities

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WEND BE NE DO was born of a united spirit between Burkina Faso and Spain by means of the Charles de FOUCAULD fraternities. To go to the last, to be with them, to work for them, to place ourselves on the periphery of the comfortable world in which we live day by day, is a challenge which the Tienda Asilo Foundation of San Pedro de Cartagena has taken on seriously since 2005 and, likewise, all the people, organizations, institutions and parishes who have helped and continue to help us to carry on the project that charms, that makes you feel that it is worthwhile working for the people of Burkina Faso and especially for the children, adolescents, youths and adults of WBND in the area of Bam, who are affected by HIV-AIDS. We can see that the project is spreading, that it is growing that the people are getting better, that it is like a big family that leaves nobody out. It is a human space where you don’t feel foreign even if our skin betrays that we are Westerners.

PDF: WBND Report January 2017, eng

THE ISLAND OF LESBOS, A REFUGE OF HOPE. Carlos LLANO

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Carlos LLANO is a sportsman, economist, founder of the NGO Childhood Smile and a volunteer and co-worker with the Foundation Tienda Asilo de San Pedro of Cartagena, Spain, in the WEND BE NE DO project in Burkina Faso. He recently went as a volunteer to the island of Lesbos, in Greece, to work with refugees. We offer his valuable testimony. Thanks, Carlos.

We live at such a pace and so attached to our mundane first world needs that if we could to stand back and take a good look at ourselves, we would feel ourselves revolted. The world has serious problems to solve: it is estimated that there are 300,000 child soldiers and that already in 2016 some 5,000 refugees or migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, but generally we are more concerned about our petty first world problems than that which may be happening beyond our borders, terrible and all as these events are.

We see them so distant that, since we think we can do so little, we end up doing nothing. The problems of the world are not solved by accepting them with resignation or indifference or by blaming governments. The world’s problems are mine, they’re yours, they are ours. The world changes affected and inspired by our day to day behaviour. If I don’t want to see any more drownings, I must make the firm decision to go and do my tiny bit, that no matter how small it is, it is gigantic compared to inaction or the hundreds of messages that we can post on our social websites.

Lesbos is a small Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea very close to the Turkish coast. There are two refugee camps there: Karatepe, which still retains a certain dignity, where there are entire families, mainly of Syrians, but which could even have families from the Dominican Republic. Yes, I repeat, from the Dominican Republic. When you have nothing, you will even risk your life, because you have nothing to lose besides it, and desperation can reach such a level that even life becomes worthless.

In Karatepe each family has its own UNHCR tent, they have blankets, mattresses and the REMAR volunteers assume the task of bringing them two meals daily delivered to the very door. The children play in the tent ‘estate’, and with hope for a better life it seems that not all is lost.

The other refugee camp is Moria. An old prison with capacity for 2,000 people where more than 5,000 are crammed into large field tents which float when it rains and the mud slides down the embankment. The tension is patent and one’s only desire is to get through those high fences full of barbs. Here there are no families, there are lots of young men and some women with young children. Each one with their own nationality, customs, language and culture. Nigerian youths who are fleeing because Boko Haram kills, kidnaps and tortures whoever they wish. Pakistani teenagers who no longer wish to live in a country where Isis comes to a village to slit the throats of all the women and shoot all the men until the village is left without a trace of life. These are true stories that they have recounted to me while I helped for hours carrying out the banality of cutting kilos and kilos of potatoes to allow those thousands of youths, women and children to eat united in desperation seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, seeing that the authorities keep them there forgotten and with the passage of time we remember them less and less in our thoughts. The dehumanization is such that criminal gangs have turned the problem into a profitable business where they charge between 3,000 and 5,000 euros per person for a boat journey without any security, overweight as a result of cramming more and more people without even room to move, where no individual is allowed carry any luggage, as it would take up space that another refugee could pay for, and with a few lifejackets filled with rubbish rather than air, which in case of need and for its lack of buoyancy, will cost another life, adding to the number of 5,000 people who have already drowned in the Mediterranean in 2016. Our disquiet or our indifference remain in the face of this human disaster that seems to be a total impasse. To change the world is in our hands.

Carlos LLANO FERNÁNDEZ

PDF: The Island of Lesbos, a Refuge of Hope, eng

Mark MERTES: Howie Calkins in the Paradox of 21st Century Fraternity

Mark MERTES

We remember gratefully our dear brother Howie Calkins who passed away this past Good Friday. Thank you to Sammy Taylor for keeping us up to date and for all his loving attention to Howie’s needs these past several years. Howie’s passing has called forth some reflections in my heart. Knowing that his funeral was imminent, and given that Holy Week and Easter Week in my parishes were filled with already scheduled events, I internally decided that I would not be able to attend his funeral, whenever it might occur. When I heard that the funeral was to be on a Saturday, April 22, because of my Easter week and weekend schedule, I chose not to attend.

While I was comfortable with my decision, I felt, all week long, the pull of this important event. To say farewell to one of our early leaders in the Fraternity, and to do whatever I could to support other brothers in the Fraternity at this time of loss seemed to me of inestimable value. I know that through the miracle of air travel I could make it happen. On the other hand, I felt the call to be in my parish……or in my case, my parishes. For it is in my parishes that I participate in Br. Charles’ charism of being present and of “shouting the gospel with my life.

In fact, Br. Charles deliberately made it impossible for himself to be physically and geographically close to those he loved and what was familiar: “I chose Tamanrasset, a village of twenty families in the middle of the mountain, at the heart of the Hoggar and of Dag Rali, its main limb, away from all the major centres. It does not seem possible that there could ever be any garrison, telegraph or European here, and there will not be a mission for a long time. I chose this distant spot where I want the only model for my life to be the life of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Two Dancers in the Desert, Charles Lepetite, p. 53) To be in Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests has been for me a constant encouragement to discover the Risen Christ in all that is simple, hidden and ordinary, especially as I walk with my people on the peripheries of life. For me it is a paradox that I hear Br. Charles’ call to be with on the periphery, and at the same time I have unprecedented resources to travel, to communicate, to basically do whatever I chose to do. I have abundantly more resources than my people! They don’t have my freedom to travel, to get about as they wish; my parishioners are bound by limited resources, immigration issues, demanding work schedules and bills to pay which render them unable to often even attend a parish meeting.

In the end I took this to prayer (what else can we do!?). It was at Eucharist, and in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and in adoration that I could actively participate in our universal vision of our priestly fraternity. What did Br. Charles experience as he gazed into the monstrance all alone in the desert of Algeria? Communion! One of my favorite images of Howie, (apart from him pondering life while smoking his pipe) was him in our holy hours at national gatherings making a profound bow, on both knees, before the Blessed Sacrament. At those moments we gaze into the mystery of Christ’s love, the Mystery that inspired and sustained Br. Charles, the Mystery that allowed him to live so apart from the world and at the same time be intimately connected with it. It is the mystery of Communion, Christ present in the Hogar and in Mount Vernon, in the young and the old, in the healthy and the infirm, in the stranger and the friend, in my parish and in your life. Christ is present all ways and everywhere, gazing on us kindly and accompanying us to new Life. Now, Howie receives the loving gaze of Christ in a new way; may we share anew in this Communion. Amen!

PDF: Howie Calkins and the Paradox of 21st Century Fraternity