In charge of the parish of Sarcelles (Val-d’Oise) since 2019, the Saint-Martin community has opened a patronage there which is experiencing growing growth and brings together Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews. A breath of fresh air, or even who knows a model for the future?
Are you one of those for whom patterns evoke the 1950s, the local school, ink-stained blouses and sepia photos? You have it all wrong ! Because since the start of the new millennium, they have been reborn from their ashes : there are around 150 today in France compared to 40 25 years ago. The Saint-Martin Community is no stranger to this renewal. She founded around fifteen in the parishes where she is based.
Vicar of the parish of Sarcelles since 2019, Don Alexis Germon had experienced the benefits of this educational model in Soissons during his diaconate, lending a hand to the Joan of Arc patronage team. So once he was a priest, he undertook to repeat the experience in this northern suburb of Paris, where he had been studying for four years: “I was a scout for a long time,” he explains, “and I am convinced that The learning of life, of play, of the gift of self embodied by the facilitators is a school of fulfillment and human and spiritual growth. »
A proposal that hits the mark
The initiative was very quickly crowned with success: launched in September 2020, with 20 children present on Wednesdays and around sixty participants in the six annual camps, the Lumière des Nations sponsorship now welcomes 40 each week and 180 during school holidays . The first reception area in Sarcelles-Village was no longer sufficient, a second was opened in 2022 in what we call “the grand ensemble”, a modern town bristling with towers dating from the end of the 1950s. Then a third space was created last April, this time for middle school students: “Proposals for primary school students are legion,” notes Don Alexis, “but are becoming rarer for secondary school. We therefore launched a special college sponsorship , which also includes around forty young people. »
Light of Nations
On the program for Wednesdays: workshops in the morning (crafts, cooking and sport) and big games in the afternoon. Same model during one-week camps with the added bonus of a cultural or recreational outing: Parc Astérix or Parc Saint-Paul (Beauvais), Cité de la science, Futuroscope de Poitiers, Boulogne-sur-Mer aquarium, Pairi Daiza Zoo (Belgium)… The Sarcellois have seen the country! “They rarely leave their neighborhood,” regrets Don Alexis. It is important that they open up to the outside world, discover their heritage, regions, emblematic places. We have scheduled outings to the France Miniature park, to Mont-Saint-Michel, to Chambord… » The priest in cassock and Roman collar lacks neither ideas nor ambitions: hasn’t he recently trained his middle school students to a meeting with the governor of Les Invalides, followed by a visit to the Army Museum?
A family and friendly place
At the start, it was the children of the families attending the parish who provided the bulk of the staff: Assyro-Chaldeans of Turkish or Iraqi origin (Eastern Rite Christians who are very numerous in Sarcelles, editor’s note) and Roman Catholics. Then word of mouth worked in full force: Protestant children, Jews, Muslims… “The principle of patronage is to be open to all,” insists Don Alexis. Our inspiration is Christian, but we aspire to be a place of fraternity where young people are happy to meet. The older ones are sometimes subject to pressure from rival gangs, they need to experience the Gospel in action: peace, forgiveness. » The fruits of this pacifying climate are palpable: just a few days ago, a 21-year-old, Jordan, more familiar with the asphalt of his neighborhood than with the university benches, began a process of reconciliation with his family who ‘had been kicked out.
Light of Nations
As in all patronage, the older ones pitch in and take care of the smaller ones: the team made up of the priests and the seminarian of the Community, a director, two civic services, the sisters of the Congregation of the Little Flower of Bethany andof volunteers encourages them to take responsibility and to flourish by giving of themselves. In partnership with the Esprit de patronage center , Lumière des Nations offered 40 BAFA training courses to high school students and students. Around sixty people, from all walks of life, volunteer to run the colonies.
A school of self-giving
“Showing them that we have confidence in them and their possibilities is fundamental,” continues Don Alexis. They can then deploy themselves by putting themselves at the service of others. “. Baptiste, a 19-year-old restaurant employee, from Sarcellois since his early childhood, agrees: “Frankly, it’s a superb experience to be a host at Lumière des Nations. Last summer, at the middle school camp, I was responsible for the young people, with three other leaders. There was a very turbulent group that was not easy to manage. But at the end of the stay, they thanked me for being who I was, for giving them attention. It really touched me. » To the point that he wonders if he will not choose a career related to education in the future. “I discovered a lot of things about myself,” he continues. That I could be extremely patient with children, that I was perseverant, that I knew how to create a good atmosphere. I was the first to be surprised: I like to listen to children. »