From time to time, Sister Joëlle receives a call. At the end of the line a “old friend”. Joëlle knew her well in Mulhouse, from food aid. ” How are you ?asks the lady – It’s okayreplies Joëlle – We pray ? », offers the lady. The two women recite an Our Father together, sing a hymn to the Virgin, then Joëlle asks: ” It’s better ? – Yes, I am feeling better “, and the lady hangs up. She is ill, and praying soothes her.
Supporting the faith of others, in particular that of the poorest, is one of the dimensions of the congregation that carries most Joëlle, responsible and dean, at 64, of the fraternity of Paris of the Little Sisters of the Gospel. The proclamation of the Word is at the heart of the charism of the congregation, together with prayer and the sharing of the life of the poorest. It is this dimension that most distinguishes the Little Sisters of the Gospel from the Little Sisters of Jesus, which are older and also inspired by Charles de Foucauld. In Paris, Joëlle, Vanna, Claudia and Élisa live this charisma in an HLM tower at 17and district, between salaried work, prayer, pastoral and associative commitments.
When she was young, after her training as a social worker, the spirituality of poor people was a question that inhabited Joëlle. She helped to find work, housing, to have a stable life. But it was insufficient. “All that I have, and it doesn’t give meaning to my lifeshe said to herself. We want to meet the concrete needs of the poorest, but we don’t give them the possibility of knowing God. » So once she has become a nun, Joëlle watches over her commitments to “to accompany the little ones in their spiritual thirst”.
In Mulhouse, where she lived for twenty years, Joëlle organized with her sisters a pilgrimage on August 15 for the inhabitants of her city. Six kilometers to Notre-Dame-du-Chêne, in Heimsbrunn. They were comfortable “because it was not necessary to enter a church”, and “that they felt that Mary understood them”. Today, Joëlle takes the train twice a month to Calais, and shares the daily life of the exiles at the Maria Skobtsova house for a few days. She ensures that Orthodox Eritreans can celebrate their worship for major holidays in a Catholic church in the city. Three years ago, during Holy Week, about twenty exiles came to pray and fast in church every day. “I am so happy”, repeated to Joëlle an exile, deacon, who had been able to celebrate.
In other fraternities, the proclamation of the Word passes through catechesis or Gospel sharing. Sister Élisa, who currently lives with the sisters in Paris, has lived for years in Salapoumbé, in the south-east of Cameroon, with the Pygmies. She learned their language and goes to the villages to give catechesis in Baka to those who are Christians. Previously, like Charles de Foucauld, the sisters had translated the word of God. The proclamation of the Gospel is always lived in a delicate balance. The sisters respond to an expectation, they do not impose. And the meeting always precedes the announcement.
Vanna waited two years before accepting the parish priest’s request to coordinate the chaplaincy. His priority was to work, to “to listen to the world”. And then, it was necessary to take the time to get to know the parishioners, the team, not to arrive to take on the role of nun: “What friendship can you create if, from the start, you are in a position? » She transformed the chaplaincy into a youth centre. Sometimes in everyday life, conversations drift into spirituality. At the ice cream parlor where they work, Vanna and Claudia rub shoulders with students and musicians. Marine, their colleague, composes and sings on the guitar. She doesn’t really believe in God, rather “the universe”to ” fate “. When Marine found out that Claudia was a nun, she was very curious and asked her a lot of questions. Together, cleaning a counter, they talked about life, death, God.