On October 4th 2017, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the first missionaries of the Shalom Catholic Community arrived in the heart of the 20th arrondissement of Paris, near the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Cross, in Ménilmontant. It is a very lively district of the capital, thanks to its diversity of lifestyles and the different origins of the populations that live there.
The Chez Moi Associative Café, run by the Shalom Community since January 2018, offers a cozy and creative atmosphere with Brazilian specialties such as tapioca and tropical fruit juices. But more than this, the Café is a welcoming place, like a rather neutral interface, where we can receive all people, even those who don’t go to church. The Café Chez Moi is the center of our evangelistic activities, in the spirit of a “culture of encounter”.
In the Café’s small chapel, the young students of the parish gather for animation after mass every Sunday For the Wednesday praise group, a larger space is needed to accommodate the church choir. Evangelization also takes place in the streets of our neighborhood and we have a Shalom prayer group in Massy, a city in the Paris region. Our mission is to be disciples and ministers of peace for the evangelization of today’s young people.
On April 15th, 2019, all of France and the world were shocked by the fire that destroyed the spire and roof of the Cathedral of Notre Dame which is visited by 13 million people every year. While the fire department valiantly worked to save the Church, the faithful prayed at home and also publicly, at the beginning of this holy week. As missionaries in this land, we have closely followed the discussion about the historical and religious significance of this Church located in the heart of Paris, and in the heart of Europe. It is more than stones, concrete and wood, or works of art, even more than sacred relics. It was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and symbolizes the faith of the Catholic Church. In the words of Archbishop Mons. Aupetit:
“These stones are the testimony of an invincible hope that, with the talent, courage, genius and faith of the builders, has raised this luminous lace of stones, wood and glass. This faith remains ours. She is the one who moves the mountains and we will rebuild this masterpiece.”
This “burning” faith and hope, by the very facts, can have different meanings. We feel that we must conceive of a paschal and missionary meaning: the victory of God after his apparent failure: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (Jn 2: 13-25). The reconstruction of the Temple, requested by God to the people after the exile in Babylon: “Go up to the hills and get wood and put up the house; and I will take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord.” (Haggai 1: 1-15). The reconstruction of the Church requested by Jesus to St. Francis of Assisi:
“Francis, go repair my house, which, as you see, is falling into ruin”.
The Shalom mission in Paris, in front of this “burning faith”, hears the same call of St. Francis, to contribute with the Church to the resurrection of faith in the hearts of the French.
It is in this spirit that the Church of Paris, indeed of France, has survived the shocks of revolutions and desecration, has given many saints to the Church and has sent missionaries and martyrs out into the world. It is also in this spirit that the Shalom Community wants to be a symbol of peace, resurrection, the power of the Spirit for a New Evangelization in the heart of the world.
Shalom Paris mission
Translation: Jhoanna Climacosa