During my intermediate year, I had the opportunity to do a pastoral experience in the French capital Paris. My experience was in a parish in proximity of the Notre Dame Cathedral in a parish dedicated to Saint Germain des Prés. This is a parish full of activity seeing the participation of many families, adults, youths, children and elderly people in everyday parish life. In this parish I had the opportunity to meet with people coming from different sectors: fashion, management, entrepreneurship, students, professionals and workers. One might get the impression that the number of active Catholics in Paris is very low in numbers, however, in this parish I could observed the contrary. The parish of Saint Germain des Prés sees an average of 5000 youths per week and every Sunday, the community welcomes at least 2 newly baptised children. During my stay I had the opportunity to be present for and to prepare for various meetings with youths, adolescents and children. I also had the opportunity to meet with the homeless whom the parish helps in finding an apartment and a job. One of the most enriching experiences was the accompaniment of a group of young adults who were preparing themselves through a three year plan towards baptism. These were youths, who besides having everything they could wish for in terms of material things, they still felt an inner void and longing and this longing for God has lead them to start this journey, leading them to the preparation to become part of the Christian family through baptism.
In Paris, the Catholics are in contrast with the rest of society. In the midst of a culture of individualism, where many pass each other by without a single interaction, the Catholics create an atmosphere which is the opposite. They take care of their neighbours, whether they are believers or not, they take care of the elderly and the everyday people with whom they meet in everyday life. This can also be seen before and after the Sunday mass, where they create a familiar atmosphere and invite you to come in and participate like a proper family in the liturgy.
Besides my experience in the parish I also had the opportunity to follow a Theology course in one of the Universities in Paris, where I had the opportunity to meet with various students as well as with some seminarians from Paris coming from different backgrounds.