by Dr. Cassie Majetic
Sisters of the Holy Cross and some of their lay ministry partners joined others from the Holy Cross family around the world during the annual International Session in Holy Cross Spirituality from May 27 to June 3 in France. This year, the Marianites of Holy Cross sponsored and facilitated the pilgrimage trip that included four days in Le Mans and four days exploring Chartres and Paris.
In Le Mans, we had the privilege to visit, learn and pray at several lovely sites associated with Holy Cross founder Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, Mother Mary of the Seven Dolors, and the Holy Cross heritage.
Mass at the Shrine of Blessed Basil Moreau and a tour of the beautiful church provided a wonderful starting place for our journey. We then visited Holy Cross cemetery and ate lunch at the Solitude of the Savior, where we also toured the archives (taking photos in Moreau’s chair!) and devoted time to personal prayer and reflection.
Opportunities for prayer
Sister Martina Dery beautifully summarized that portion of our trip when she stated that she learned first-hand “the commitment of prayer of Father Moreau. Even in times of so much difficulty he didn’t give up.” Sister Beatrice Wangatia agreed, stating, “Throughout the pilgrimage, I felt encouraged by the life of Father Moreau. It was not an easy life, but he was determined by focusing on God.”
Our visits to Cathedral of St. Julien in Le Mans, Laigné-en-Belin and its sites of personal significance to Moreau, and the chapel of Notre-Dame de L’Habit provided additional opportunities for prayer. Sister Suzanne Brennan stated that she was particularly grateful for these times of individual prayer and reflection, as were Sisters Yvonne Hatt and M. Martha Ann (Norwood). A visit to midday prayer at the Abbey of Saint Pierre de Solesmes and a tour of La Grande Trappe gave us further opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Moreau. A particular highlight for many was seeing the grotto at La Grande Trappe where Moreau prayed and wrote the Constitution.
Visits to churches and shrines
After these prayerful days, we returned to Paris, stopping first at Chartres Cathedral, where we had Mass in the crypt on the Feast of the Visitation and toured the space. The following day consisted of a walking tour (including some short trips on the Paris Metro!) of churches throughout Paris, including Rue de Bac, Saint-Sulpice, and Sacré-Coeur, where we arrived in time to join the beautiful first Friday devotions. Sister Meri Halam spoke for many of us when she reflected, “Visiting beautiful, huge, and well-known churches in France, I was able to hear the sacred sounds of God’s calling to all of us. Moreover, seeing the enormous and awesome churches, cathedrals and shrines, I was able to praise God and it led me to ponder and pray in silence. Seeing all these beauties I am able to see the vastness of God’s love for the whole creation.”
The trip concluded with Mass sung by young men from the Music Academy, an organization that has recently taken over the Marianite residence/school at Précigné, with the promise that their mission will extend to young women as well. The children joined us for dinner at our hotel and then performed a brief concert, which was enjoyed by all.
Experiencing international identity
All the elements of our travel — the sites we visited, our time in prayer together, the delicious meals we shared — provided us with a clear opportunity to experience, in the words of Sister Noylí Margot Ríos Manzo, “our international identity from personal and community experience.” Meeting our brothers from Brazil and Bangladesh, our sisters from so many places including Peru, Vietnam, Canada, Haiti, and Uganda, was best summarized by Sister Beatrice: “The togetherness of the Family of Holy Cross in ministry and spirituality brings us together, brothers and sisters.”
Throughout it all, our leaders, Brother Joel Giallanza, CSC, Sister Renée Daigle, MSC, Sister Ann Lacour, MSC, and Father Greg Haake, CSC, provided us with an educational and spiritual opportunity to connect with one another in the past, present and future of Holy Cross, in two languages.
Many of the participants reflected that this opportunity was a blessed one. And while all shared different reasons for this perspective — times of prayerful reflection, tours of iconic places, knowledge about the history and theoretical framing of Holy Cross — we are all supremely grateful for the gift of this experience.
Cassie Majetic, an associate professor of biology at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, participated in this year’s pilgrimage.