Lasallian Pilgrimage: Day 6

Day Six
Friday, September 27

Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

This is, in effect, the final day of our pilgrimage; tomorrow, Saturday, is a free day which concludes with a reflection exercise and dinner. Today, we boarded the coach for our excursion to Rouen, the city where our Founder’s earthly life ended 300 years ago. There was some concern about the situation in Rouen, since there was a big explosion at a chemical plant there, and schools had been called off for the remainder of the week. We decided to go and if the air quality were poor, we would cut our visit short. 

After a lovely drive through the French countryside, we arrived at “Pensionnat Jean-Baptiste De La Salle”, a school that predates the canonization of the Founder, hence the lack of “Saint” in the name of the school. Originally a boarding school, it is now a pre-K, elementary, and secondary school with a very impressive chapel. Because there was no school in session, we didn’t get to see the school in action, but the principal, Christophe, and his son Louis, were there to greet us. Our main interest was the chapel, since it was there that the relics of the Founder were placed for a while, and where there remains a significant relic above the main altar. Due to a World War II bomb, the original windows had been shattered, but they have been replaced with beautiful contemporary stained glass. If any of us are concerned about the lack of Brothers and how the charism will be carried on by our lay partners, we need look no further than to Christophe. The passion and zeal with which he shared the story of St. John Baptist de La Salle and the amazing stories around the destruction of the original tomb during the French Revolution and subsequent movement of the Founder’s remains, along with his determination to ensure that every student in the school knows the story, was so very inspiring to all of us. The courtyard of the school also had a very impressive timeline of the last 300 years in the form of a long banner. 

We went from there to lunch and then to the beautiful Cathedral of Rouen, done in late Gothic flamboyant style. Many of us are familiar with Monet’s series of paintings of the facade. We then walked through the distinctive medieval town center, with Norman-style architecture, very different from Reims and Paris, to St. Maclou, site of one of the four original schools operated by the Brothers in Rouen. We could not enter the building which housed the school, but the illustrations on the wall clearly showed the history of the Brothers there. From there we walked to the church of St. Joan of Arc, a modern structure on the site of St. Joan’s execution for heresy in 1431. St. Joan, burned at the stake at age 19, is now a heroine of France and the Church for her courage and faith. Her image is everywhere in Rouen. 

Our final stop in Rouen was Place Saint Clément, where a monument to De La Salle was erected in the 1800s as a testimony to his contributions to education. It is located on the corner of the former property of St. Yon. We then walked down the adjoining sidewalk to the facade of St. Yon Chapel, the only remnant of the original buildings.

Due to the strong chemical smell in the air, we dropped our plans to have some free time and dinner in Rouen, and rather returned to Reims. The next day, our free Saturday, we gathered for a final dinner, which began with a very fruitful reflection and sharing. 

We were such a diverse but wonderful group of Lasallians from all over the District who shared many miles and prayers and stories and more than a few laughs together. What a very blessed and grace-filled seven days. 

Vive Jesus dan nos coeurs. A jamais!

Christophe, the principal 
The sanctuary of the chapel with the Founder’s relic above the tabernacle
Walking to Saint Maclou
The Cathedral facade
The cross that marks the site of St. Joan’s execution
In front of the former St. Yon’s chapel
Our wonderful group
A very special thanks to Debbie and Pablo, who were invaluable supports and guides. Also, a huge MERCI to Bro. Michael French, who led us masterfully through our entire pilgrimage. And, finally, thanks to Samantha in our office, who did so much to ensure the success of our time together.
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Lasallian Pilgrimage: Day 5

Day 5
Wednesday, September 26

Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

We left for Paris at 8:30am after packing up the coach. As we arrived in Paris, Brother Stephen bade us all farewell, since he was headed to the airport to get back to Iowa for a special episcopal ordination. Our number, however, remained the same, because later in the day, Elaine, Roger’s wife, joined us from England where she had a prior engagement. We checked into our hotel in Place Vendome, which borders on the Tuileries Garden. This is also Paris Fashion Week, so the lobby was filled with both models and lots of the latest fashions for women. Very interesting, and as you can imagine, a bit “out there”.

Today was our day to trace the Founder’s footsteps in Paris, which are considerably fewer than in Reims, mainly because of how much the city of Paris has grown and changed in 300 years. We began at 12 Rue Princesse, site of the first Lasallian school in Paris, founded in 1688. It is now a private building, so Bro. Michael stood outside the door and talked about how the actual classroom was on an upper floor of what is now an apartment building. But, ah, Providence was with us: suddenly the door opened and someone came out, so we asked if we could enter. It helped so much to visualize the locale and situation of that first school once we stood inside the courtyard. 

Our next stop was the Church of St. Sulpice, where the Founder spent 18 months as a seminary student; if you’ll recall, the death of both his parents within a few months of each other meant that he had to return to Reims. His time at St. Sulpice had a lasting effect on him. After some gentle persuasion on the part of Bro. Michael, we were able to get the key from ther sacristan for the Assumption Chapel where De La Salle celebrated mass with his Brothers many times. The chapel is pretty much the same as it was in the Founder’s time, so being there was very special for us; we spent some time reflecting and praying.

We then went to the Church of the Carmelites on the campus of Institut Catholique. It is there that Brother Solomon, canonized in 2016, was martyred. Bro. Christian from France joined us to help explain the significance of the site and to detail how the actual martyrdom took place. Without going into the whole gruesome story of what happened in 1792, to be in the courtyard and see the actual steps where St. Solomon met his bloody death was very moving. We also visited the crypt where both the names and the remains of all the clerics and religious martyred that day are located.

Our final stop was at at Rue de Sevres where Brother Claude greeted us at the French District headquarters. Bro Claude’s help has been indispensable in arranging a lot of the logistics for this trip, and he arranged that we arrive at the Provincial Office right at the time the District Council was talking a break, so several Brothers in our group got reacquainted with several Brothers from the District of France whom they had met in the past. Our group also helped the District by purchasing a lot of “swag” while we were there, including “300” apparel and other memorabilia. It was a very pleasant way to end our afternoon in Paris.

We ended the day with a wonderful dinner cruise that night on the Seine, being dazzled by all the sights along the river. 

In the courtyard of 12 Rue Princesse 
At the doorway
Bro. Dominic buying some merchandise.
In the Assumption Chapel: Holy Ground
Rosie & Nick with our guides Pablo & Debbie on the dinner cruise
Bros Christian and Michael on the fateful steps; the Latin reads: “Here they fell”
A side altar in St. Sulpice
The French Visitor & Bro. Claude addressing our group
Bro. Solomon listed with the other martyrs of October 2, 1792
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Lasallian Pilgrimage: Day 4

Day 4
Wednesday, September 25

Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

At this halfway point in our pilgrimage, it seems appropriate to pause and take stock of what we have experienced thus far. With that in mind, we spent the bulk of the day at a Benedictine monastery a little ways outside of Reims, called St. Thierry. On our way to the monastery we stopped by Lycèe Saint-Jean-Baptiste-De La Salle, a sort of high school-community college with a focus on technical skills. One of their specialities, for instance, is television production. Until recent times, they were the only Catholic school in France with a full video production capability. We were given a tour of their facilities and as we left, we posed with students for a photo. It’s always good to see and interact with students as a living reminder of our Lasallian mission.

By late morning we arrived at the monastery and the sisters greeted us with typical Benedictine hospitality. Before heading to noon mass with the community, Bro. Michael, our retreat coordinator, oriented us to the retreat. We were all presented with a retreat guide and invited into silence for the rest of our time together. The abbey grounds are lovely and historic, and afforded all of us a lot of natural space to meditate and pray. At 4:30 we reconvened to share what touched us during our several hours of silence, and at 5:30 we joined the sisters for prayer in the chapel. We left after dinner and headed back to our hotel for our final night in Reims. Tomorrow, it’s off to Paris for the next phase of our Lasallian Pilgrimage.

Steve and Debbie at the Lycèe
With the students
Founder’s window in the school chapel
Our group with the Founder’s statue at the entrance to the Lycèe
Retreat orientation
Quiet time
Entering the Monastery of St. Thierry
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Lasallian Pilgrimage: Day 3

Day Three
Tuesday, September 24
Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

Today was “road trip” day; we travelled to two rather obscure villages, but places that loom large in the Lasallian world: Brouillet and Liesse. Brouillet is about 40 minutes from Reims and is the village where De La Salle’s maternal grandparents lived. We spent time in the local chapel where our Founder would worship with his grandparents, the Moets. We reflected on those persons who influenced our own prayer life and spirituality and ended with prayer. We then walked down the hill to the home (now uninhabited) where De La Salle would have spent many happy days.

From there we drove to Liesse. Before Lourdes gained prominence as a pilgrimage site, Liesse- Notre-Dame was a key French pilgrimage site. The madonna there is “Our Lady of Joy”. The day after Trinity Sunday of 1686, when De La Salle and the Brothers took their first vows, they made the pilgrimage to Liesse, walking through the night and again pronounced vows at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Joy. To commemorate that, about 12 of us walked the final two kilometers to the church. We are blessed to have Fr. Ray Fecteau on the pilgrimage, so he celebrated mass in the church for us at noon. After the homily the Brothers on the pilgrimage renewed their vows before the altar, followed by several pilgrims who testified to their own LasalIian commitment. We ended mass by praying the Hail Mary first in Latin and then English, followed by several other languages led by individual pilgrims, including Arabic and Mandarin.

We then had a relaxing indoor picnic (due to rain) and then a return to Reims. We later met for dinner at a nearby restaurant called “La Vigneraie”, which included a special birthday celebration for Patrice, one of our pilgrims.

Br. Michael French leading our reflection in the Brouillet chapel

Celebrating Patrice’s birthday

Picnic!

Our group in front of the Moët home

The Brothers renewing their vows

A commemorative window inside Notre Dame de Liesse

Pilgrims walking to Liesse

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Lasallian Pilgrimage: Day 2

Day Two
Monday, September 23
Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

This morning we began our pilgrimage with a trip to Reims Cathedral. Its “claim to fame” is that it is where almost all of the kings of France were crowned. Why Reims? Because it is in Reims where Clovis, king of the Franks, was baptized by St. Remi (Remigius) in the fifth century. The reason the cathedral is so special for us Lasallians is that there is where young John Baptist de La Salle served as a canon and offered his first mass as a priest. Although nearly destroyed in World War I, it has been restored to all of its Gothic splendor, and now includes windows by Marc Chagall. We stopped to pray at the side chapel where the Founder said his first mass and had some time of prayer together in this sacred Lasallian place.

Our next stop was at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Child Jesus, a group founded by Fr.  Nicolas Roland, La Salle’s spiritual director. It is at that doorway where a key encounter took place in 1679 between Adrienne Nyel and our Founder. That began his conversion to a very different life than he or his family had planned.

We then visited the Basilica of St Remi, a lovely fusion of the Romanesque and Gothic styles, which contains the tomb of St. Remi, and where La Salle spent many nights in prayer.

After lunch, we visited the Mumm Champagne Headquarters. Reims is, of course, the center of the champagne industry in France, so we took a tour of the caves while learning about the meticulous process of making champagne. And naturally, we had to sample a bit of the bubbly!

We ended our day with a late dinner out, and during the dessert portion of our meal, we asked pilgrims to share what has resonated with them these first two days. It was a wonderful—-and at times very emotional—-sharing. Through it all, we are all getting to know one another better and realizing yet again what a blessing being “together and by association” is for all of us.

Roger lights a vigil candle in the De La Salle chapel

Happy Samplers!

Happy to be present in Reims to celebrate this jubilee year

Cathy and Sister Anne at the famous “encounter” doorway

The interior of St. Remi

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Lasallian Pilgrimage: Day 1

Sunday, September 22, 2019
Day One
Br. Larry Schatz, FSC

We just got back from a delicious opening dinner a few blocks from our hotel. Somehow we all made it to Reims, and we are just getting to know one another as a group. The prize for having come the furthest goes to Carl from Hong Kong (the LEAD District). Everyone else either came from the Midwest District or is with us because of their connection to it. There are 23 of us, plus our tour guide Pablo and tour coordinator Debbie.

The whole idea of the tercentenary pilgrimage is to trace the footsteps of the Founder chronologically, so with that in mind, we began today with a visit to the Founder’s first home, now known as Hotel de la Salle. (By the way, hotel in French does not mean the same as hotel in English, so, no, you can’t stay there). The Brothers who reside there were kind enough to offer us a guided tour of the house. We broke into two groups and were given a very thorough and creative tour through the Founder’s boyhood home and his life. It was a great intro to our week together. We followed that with dinner.

This may sound like a rather skimpy first day, but keep in mind that at least half of the group arrived this morning, so jet lag was a key factor. That, plus the bus from Paris carrying most of us arrived in Reims about 3:00pm, so people needed time to settle in a bit.

Tomorrow will be a busy day, so here’s hoping everyone gets a good night’s sleep. Dormez bien!

Pilgrims waiting for the others at the Paris airport

Visiting Hotel De La Salle

Opening Dinner at Brasserie Excelsior

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Heading Home

So, the 2018 Intercapitular Meeting is now history. I’m writing this in the Newark Airport where I am with Brothers Bede and Michael as we await our connecting flight to O’Hare. Our last two days were filled with lots of sharing of both ideas and programs. We spent Friday morning on a creative and enjoyable activity called “Marketplace.” It involved each District identifying both Beyond the Border and Tercentenary (2019) activities and ideas and writing them on the windows of the main hallway to the Chapel. (no worries; we used white board markers!) Then, we all walked around and exchanged questions and ideas and suggestions. We were all reminded of the vast array of Lasallian opportunities we have on all five continents.

Saturday was our final day, and we began by sharing ideas on both themes and processes for the 46th General Chapter. A preparatory commission will be set up next year to begin the planning, so all that we shared will help, along with electronic surveys we completed while in session. Bob, our Superior General, delivered his closing remarks; one comment that stuck with me is when he said:  “Brothers, our communities and educational centers offer a welcoming, non-judgmental space where young people can explore questions about the spiritual life.  They are spaces where we can invite young men to become Brothers and women and men to live the fullness of their vocations!”

He also pointed out that while we were meeting for these past two weeks, a new Lasallian school opened in Rumbek in South Sudan. Ever onward! We ended at noon with a closing prayer service in the main Chapel, followed by a very festive meal.

Since Saturday also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, Pat Duffy hosted a party in the Den Saturday evening, and we all enjoyed the food, drink, singing, and camaraderie. It was a wonderful way to wrap up a rather rigorous but also very inspiring two weeks. We are, as the IC theme proclaims: “On the Way.”

Marketplace

St Patrick’s Day

Bros Michael, Bob, and Shazad.

General Councilor Ricky Laguda

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Intercapitular 2018: Day 9

We’re beginning to wind down after a pretty rigorous week of presentations, reflection, and meetings, framed by prayer and daily mass. We end Saturday noon, and most of us are heading out Sunday.

A couple highlights from the last few days include an opportunity to meet the 20 university students here for the semester. The six Lasallian universities in RELAN have been planning a “Rome semester” for quite some time. It has finally come to fruition, thanks to lots of people, but especially Dr. Dominic Colonna from Lewis University. I caught up with him for dinner Tuesday night to find out how the program is going. All three of our District universities have participants here. We agreed to have the students stop in to one of our sessions on Thursday to be introduced and explain a bit about this “pioneer” experience.  I think it was good for all of us capitulants to actually see, as Brother Aidan said, the “real faces of Lasallian education”. As part of their semester program, they are headed to Assisi for the weekend. We all hope this will be the first of many such semesters here at the Generalate, and involving many more of our universities around the world.

Thursday evening, our District went out for dinner and invited Brother Florent, Visitor of Canada Francophone, to join us, since he is the sole rep of his District. It was a very pleasant evening at a local restaurant.

Brother Rodolfo, Postulator General, reminded me that next Tuesday, March 20, is when the nine Vatican theologians gather to decide the cause of Brother Jim Miller’s beatification. We should know by the end of that day. Let’s keep our hands folded and our fingers crossed; Blessed Brother James Miller has a very nice ring to it.

Ciao for now.

The Lasallian university students being introduced to the capitulants; Dr. Colonna is on the dais, far right.

The group photo which included capitulants, plus Generalate staff.

Dinner out

A display on Bro. James Miller: oremus!

RELAN!

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A Special Intercapitular Message from Brother Michael Kadow, Auxiliary Visitor

We are in the midpoint of our time here in Rome for the Intercapitular Assembly.  As it is my first time attending such a meeting, it has been an enriching and educational experience.  I am struck by the amount of progress made since our last General Chapter in 2014.  I am also impressed by the agreement worldwide on what needs to be done as we move forward.  I look forward to future meetings where all the voices of the Lasallian Family are present.

On a personal note, I have eaten way too much but as they say…when in Rome…

Blessings to all!  Be assured that all of our service and prayers are making a positive impact on our world!

Brother Michael Kadow

Brothers at the IC who studied in the Midwest District: Bros. Christy, Nestor, Pierre, Pius, and Carlos.

Bro. Bede and I had lunch with Sr. Roxane Schares, the newly elected General Superior of the SSNDs. Bede worked with her in Kenya and I worked with her in Mankato her way back before I joined the Brothers. The SSND Generalate is just a little further up the Via Aurelia.

On Wednesday we had a very good presentation by the Office of Solidarity and Development: a very impressive group!

On Thursday, Bro Alex led a discussion on the Office of Communications, another very impressive group.

 

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IC2018: Day 3

It’s rather amazing how quickly one falls into a routine. By now, the schedule is pretty well set: we begin with morning prayer in the new Trinity Chapel at 8:30am and end with mass at 6:30pm, followed by a social and dinner at 7:30. It’s a long day, but we do take several breaks, including the traditional siesta after the 1:00pm lunch.

Each day is a good mix of presentations and small group sessions. And each small group is different, so there is a lot of variety. Kudos to the planning team. This morning, for instance, we were on the theme of Lasallian Formation and Vocation, and we spent time dreaming and scheming about what could be. Lots of creative ideas emerge and are collated.

It’s a joy and pleasure to be reunited with familiar faces and to meet new Brothers as well. Meals, breaks, and socials provide ample time to chat and get both acquainted and reacquainted. And we are always mindful of the task at hand: to set a course for the next few years and the 46th General Chapter. Please keep us in prayer as we do so.

Bro. Aidan Kilty, General Councilor and Facilitator of Tuesday’s session; the question is key to why we are all here.

Your Midwest Visitor Team in the Aula Magna

Evening Mass in the Trinity Chapel

Bro. Alexander, Communications Director, spruced up the meeting spaces with lots of photos; this one got my attention, because our District magazine is in it!

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