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Troyes Pilgrimage Reflections

Marijke Gerretsen, CND, Kingston

As we celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Marguerite Bourgeoys’ birth, there have been different events and activities around the world to mark this milestone. One of these activities initiated by the English-speaking CND associates was a Pilgrimage to Troyes to “Walk in the Footsteps of Marguerite” in her hometown from September 17 - 23. The associates asked me to lead them on this venture and I was more than happy to do so. It was both an honor and a privilege to be part of this event. I would like to share some reflections on the pilgrimage.

Nineteen associates from across Canada and the U.S. and two sisters from Blessed Sacrament Province took part in this pilgrimage. The Canadian associates came from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and P.E.I. The associates and sisters from the U.S. were from the east coast. What a rich diversity of backgrounds! What a delight to have five couples in the group! Our meeting place was the airport in Paris where we boarded a chartered bus. Although many of us
were meeting for the first time it took no time for the group to gel. The common bond of the group was the deep love and admiration of Marguerite and a desire to deepen her spirit and vision by visiting the places connected with her in Troyes, her birthplace.

Our first activity upon our arrival in Troyes was the celebration of the Eucharist at 5:00 p.m. in L’Eglise St. Jean. Fr. Laurent Thibord, the parish priest, welcomed us warmly. He said the Mass in English and even gave an English homily. After Mass we took time to visit the church, to pause and ponder its connection with Marguerite. It was here that she was baptized and her family attended religious services. It is here that the beautiful statue of the Visitation which has such a deep spiritual meaning for CND sisters and associates is present in the sanctuary always ready to inspire us to be like Mary going out to others.

The following morning we met in the parish hall for the conference prepared by Sr. Louise Côté entitled “Hope in Mission and Globalization with Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys”. Due to unforeseen circumstances Sister Louise was not back from Canada and thus not able to give her conference, so I replaced her. The associates were very attentive and interested. They asked many questions and commented on the content. It was a wonderful introduction to the next event, which was “Walking in the Footsteps of Marguerite”. While I lived in Troyes I led various groups on this walk but this time was different. The knowledge and detail the associates had of Marguerite and her life  impressed me deeply. They had come on this trip to deepen their love and commitment to Marguerite’s mission. This was evident.

Another event while in Troyes which was very meaningful was the meeting of the French associates with our English associates, which took place in the parish hall in the evening. In spite of the language a lively sharing took place while enjoying a meal together followed by a sing -song in French and in English. Bonds of friendship were created or renewed.

Besides our days in Troyes connected with Marguerite there were other places we visited such as Langre, the birthplace of Jeanne Mance; Clairvaux where St. Bernard built the largest Cistercian abbey; the Palace of Fontainebleau; the Chateau de Vaux-le- Vicomte.

Our days in Paris were an example of “Man proposes and God disposes”. We had to alter our program drastically because of an unexpected “Yellow vest” demonstration followed by the next day being “A no car day” in Paris. In spite of the changes we had to make we had memorable days. We attended Mass at St. Sulpice Church followed by dinner at “Procope”, the oldest restaurant in Paris. Then we took a boat tour on the Seine River from which we saw Notre Dame Cathedral, which is still a magnificent sight to see even as a part of it is boarded up awaiting reconstruction after the fire. The day we could not go into the downtown area because of the demonstrations we took a day trip to “France Miniature” and Chartres where we visited the magnificent Cathedral known for its stained glass windows.

All too soon our week together sharing meals or visiting while on the bus or walking about came to an end on September 23 when some of the group went on to other places in Europe or returned home to Canada or the United States.

About 2 months have passed since our Pilgrimage experience. I’m sure that each one of the participants has reflected back to those days as they look at the photos taken during the trip. I hope and pray that the memories of our time together in Troyes will remain alive in the hearts of all as a source of strength and inspiration. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to walkwith the group. The commitment and dedication of our associates greatly inspired me.




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