This summer five members of Pax Christi British Section went to volunteer in the Pax Christi Peace Pavillion in Lourdes. Open all year, this summer was an especially busy time as people from around the world came for the Jubilee of the first apparition of Mary to Bernadette 150 years ago.
This project is just one of several that the Pax Christi family ran this summer and it is a unique and exciting way to experience the international nature of Pax Christi.
We invited two of the volunteers, Sr Ellen McGrath and Anthea Fairey to share something of their experience with us. They give a great flavour of what has been happening in Lourdes this summer and of the scope and breadth of peacemaking by encounter and dialogue.
Anthea said: "I had a really good time in Lourdes. Good time isn't really the right phrase but I don't know how else to phrase it. Helen and I worked with Francoise from Lille and I think we made a good team, well balanced. Helen's French was good, Francoise was of course a native speaker and my French was/is minimal but my goodness me it did improve!!...
"On the Monday we were told that there would be 15, 12-15 year old visiting form the Limoge diocese for 1 hour. Helen and I frantically planned an hours worth of activities, they stayed for two and a half hours!! Mr Martin came at the same time so he talked to them and they did a quiz produced by PC France, which they found interesting. We got them to make a wall of tiles where they each wrote what peace meant to them. We also got each of them to write a personal prayer for peace.
"I put them on the altar in the PC chapel whilst we said prayers the next day and then brought them back to the house mounted then on card and we
have left them there.
Sr Ellen said: " On 15 August, the Teast of the Assumption. The Cardinal of Paris came to Lourdes to concelebrate the Mass as it was the National French Pilgrimage. There were thousands in the large park at the other side of the grotto. We attended this open air Mass. Two sisters from Central Africa drop in for information about something else but I invited them to sit down and write something about Peace. This is what they wrote:
No to violence. No to war. No to genocide. No to racism.
No to bomb attacks.
Yes to fraternity. Yes to sharing. Yes to humility
I SAY YES TO PEACE. Jo Kirby age 15
Peace is something universal. The slogan "Peace and Love" is not a slogan for fun but it means the love we have for others.
Iwada age 12
"We put them on the wall. They are wonderful.
"On our last evening we attended a conference entitled "Peace in the great lakes of Africa", Burundi, Congo, Rwanda. A priest called Father Gaston from Goma spoke as a member of Pax Christi who suffered in Rwanda. The room was packed and the Bishop of Lourdes attended with a wonderful French priest who lives in the City Saint Pierre with the homeless and poor people. Read more at: www.paxchristi.org.uk/press.HTML