Interview of Sr. Claire-Michelle by Sr. Nicole Robion
It was Easter Sunday. Claire-Michelle recounts what she experienced that afternoon.
In November 2019, a friend of the “Live and Love” movement, from Palaiseau, told me: “A Syrian family has arrived in Verrières, housed by the town hall. Can you contact them? »
I thought to myself that she really had a high idea of what I could do! Did she naively think that I was able to take care of them?
The accommodation of the host family was a 15-minute walk from Maison St Charles where I live. I went to see them on December 14, 2019. They were sleeping on mattresses. I found the husband, wife and a little girl of school age and a young child walking on all fours. We spoke in English. He was a journalist in Syria. I invited them to visit us in St Charles. He came in January 2020 and I introduced him to the house, the Mutual Aid Committee, the different activities, the community of sisters, etc.
I put them in touch with a couple who regularly came to mass in our chapel. This man had given us a talk on street evangelization in Massy. At first I had a negative idea about this theme, but in the end I was touched by his spirit of humility. I brought him into contact with the people of the street on a spiritual level. I confided in this couple, giving them the address of the family and little by little they put the family in touch with a doctor, a dentist, other families in Verrières.
COVID arrived in 2020 and we gave each other news by email or phone. On September 8, 2021, at my request, the director of St Charles welcomed Youssef for a testimony on their journey. He then spoke in French in front of very moved residents. It was very poignant: the departure from Syria in mortal danger, going into hiding, his pregnant wife who gave birth to the 2nd child in Istanbul, Turkey…and then a whole support network. In addition to what the town hall was doing, the Villebon-Palaiseau mutual aid committee, of which my friend is a member, helped them with learning French and with the complexity of the procedures in the prefecture.
Gradually, Youssef and his wife managed to integrate. He is currently doing a paid internship in a company. She is training as a recreation leader.
There came a time when Youssef’s desire was affirmed, that of receiving baptism. He then began a catechumenate accompaniment which will last two years. It was on this Easter Vigil 2022 that Youssef was baptized in the Notre Dame de l’Assomption church in Verrières.
This Easter Sunday, when Claire-Michelle was talking to me, she had just come back from the baptism feast meal. Youssef had sent her an email: “I invite you to my baptism on april 16 and then lunch at 5 pm at the parish hall”.
Today, I found myself with about twenty people, including the couple from Palaiseau involved in helping refugees, the familiar couple from our chapel, representatives of the evangelization team, a student from Paris who is with Youssef on the days he is studying (2nd year of master’s degree in communication), and representatives of the catechumenate. We sang, danced. The 2 children will be baptized at Pentecost. The wife remains a Muslim.
At the invitation of the familiar couple of the chapel, Claire-Michelle presented herself on arrival. It was then that he hastened to add: “Sr Claire-Michelle, you have been a Link!”