Sister Nicole Robion in the community of Sceaux, France, shares her apostolate with migrant women.
In 2012, the CORREF (Religious Conference of France) was looking for volunteers for the “Champs de Booz” Association, created in 2003 to support and accompany single women, seeking asylum. It really touched my heart because I was looking for an activity on my final return to France and half of the women contacting the Champs de Booz come from sub-Saharan Africa. No greater happiness than staying in close contact with Africa!
In 2017, the chapter specified that one of the apostolic orientations is the accompaniment of migrants. This made me feel joy and confirmation of the call perceived on my arrival in France.
Bearer of Hope, the Lord gives this to me and the women tell me this with their faces all lit up when I greet them in their language: Dioula or Fulani! The only word I know in Lingala is “M’boté”, but the big smile that comes is so comforting for them and for me!
“Get up and walk!” This is the Word of God that nourishes me so that they regain self-confidence, that they dare to express their dream and that they can begin a successful integration.
There is also the joy of teaming up with a dozen other volunteers. Four sisters and eight lay people, all driven by the same passion. It is the joy of discovering that the Gospel values are lived by these volunteers even though so few call themself Catholic. One asked that we withdraw her baptismal certificate, another is Jewish, several others are agnostic, but all want to give more life to these women!
One day, the Christians of a neighboring parish invited all these women, and it was truly an emotional day.
Here are some testimonies.
“It’s the best day of my life in France. I was the person delegated to carry the cross! On this feast day, I asked to block all the obstacles encountered.” A Christian, this woman from sub-Saharan Africa who struggled for many years before obtaining her refugee status, had been chosen to carry the cross at the head of the entrance procession to the Mass of Christ the King. She keeps on saying: “Champs de Booz, you are my family.”
A Muslim woman shared her feelings with us: “It was the first time I entered a church. It really touched me. We were in a sort of communion of hearts and minds. We pray to the same God; he is the only one. I asked to be able to find my children and that there be peace everywhere in the world.”
A Ukrainian woman told us: “I love the prayer in the church. In my country, there is war. I asked the Lord to protect my family.”
A Syrian Muslim commented: “Beautiful day! This is the first time I entered a church; I am happy. I listen to the hymns; I love the music.”
The meal was an important moment of sharing at all levels. How they appreciated the women’s cooking that had been prepared the day before in the kitchen of the presbytery. There were traditional dishes from Senegal, Syria, Guinea, Tibet and Ukraine.
Another delicacy was the traditional drink that several women had prepared at home. It was good, their bissap!
I liked the sharing with my two neighbors at table, commenting on how they live with their roommate, another woman from the Champs de Booz.
A Senegalese woman who lives with a Syrian: “It’s a richness. We learn from others, different in their way of living, being, eating. We have everything to receive. It’s a bonus for me.”
A Guinean who lives with a Tibetan woman: “I am with people from other cultures, but learning how to live is the same. That’s life. I have never been alone in the apartment.”
Thanks to each of you women, so confident in life, and in God!
Nicole Robion, Community of Sceaux