Meeting of sisters living in a ‘Foyer-logement’
On the invitation of Marie Annick, a meeting between sisters living in a foyer-logement (sheltered accommodation) took place on the 6th of May 2015. It was a sisterly and fruitful meeting, the result, without any doubt, of each one’s desire.
How does each one, in her own setting, live out the LSA charism and mission?
It was easy to detect unanimity when we talked of proximity, of being with, citizenship etc.
The fact of listening, being present, often without words.
Over time, our attitudes or our way of acting in daily life give meaning to our mission.
It is continuity of life with a different way of being present. Some of the residents here say that they need to know that we are attached to a bigger structure.
"I am there with the others, among the others: I accept what they give me;
listen to everything… hear everybody…’ one of us said.
The weight of the life that we receive nourishes our prayer: thanksgiving, supplication, intercession.
Growing old together, caring for our inadequacies, creating a kind of complicity with the other residents. This is done through friendship, the smile given and received…
We are attentive to promote autonomy, to respect the initiatives that are still possible for the persons with whom we live. We wish to
’Reflect back to the other what is beautiful in his or her life,
a happiness that expresses life.’
At the foyer in Roanne the employees offer and animate several activities whereas, in Montrouge, the activities are organised rather by residents who wish to do this in a way that fits in with their abilities.
The way of praying varies for each one, but all of us are at one in saying that we value it personally and together if possible. Sometimes we have the occasion to share our prayer with one or other resident of the foyer. The place of prayer in our life is recognised and it can happen that somebody says to us: "It’s the time of Mass for you now."
Alongside the mission that we carry out within the foyer, which is an inter-cultural, inter-society, multilingual and inter-religious mission, we note the importance of the commitments we have outside. (What was possible ten years ago is not always possible now!) One of us gives some time at the social grocery, another with ACAT (Association of Christians for the Abolition of Torture), or at the local social centre, at the SEM (Evangelical Service of the Sick). There is also the chaplaincy for the Gens du Voyage (travelling people), the CCFD (Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development), or again, the CFDT (a trade union, branch for retired persons). … These commitments open us to the outer world "so as not to be confined only to the limits of the establishment’. They provide very many opportunities for discussions, encounters, a mutual attitude of open-mindedness.
A foyer-logement is the reflection of our society today, in its religious seeking as well as in the sufferings of the contemporary world. We encounter and we respect a real religiosity of the people with, for example, the importance of candles for St Rita, of a palm branch in the flat, or for the dead.
We also encounter old prejudices that tarnish this stage of life: power conflicts, ignorance, judgements, individualism etc. We can see a decrease in the collective dimension, and the CVS (the Committees for Social Life) that bring together delegates of the residents and the management of the Foyer have difficulty in operating.
"People are passive … ".
Some of the norms for collective living hinder conviviality:
"It’s no longer possible for us to share a cake, because that is not authorised any more."
The difficulties in France at the moment with regard to work are having an effect on the staff. Many persons have assistance contracts, or temporary contracts; the constraints concerning timetables or activities are badly defined, rota arrangements change frequently. It is insecurity for the staff and this causes insecurity for the residents.
Death is part of life in a foyer-logement. It is no longer a taboo! We recall the words of Father Pernet:
"Be strongly attached, detach oneself humbly". Etienne Pernet
It is awaited, it is even desired, there is the desire for a "fine death", without suffering, sudden, as it was for Mme X..!
Sometimes, after a death, the families take the time to return to see the friends of their relative. It is like a desire to talk again about the human experience with the person, the friendship, the gratitude.
We question ourselves about the sign of Hope that we might give, to the sick person, to the family in mourning. The witness of the brother/sister can be peace, radiance, joy, and pardon is the work of God.
We are at the centre of the paschal movement because of our personal path, our own journey, and because of the persons whose life we share, with its sufferings, its ignorance about religion and its seeking, and we are convinced that this life is loved by the Father.
One among the others, with a concern to establish a link between life today and the past, our mission is to choose life and struggle against the powers of death, to offer the weight of this life and return it to the Father.