Posted April 14, 2010 in MH Resteigne, Belgium:
A Presence at the EU

by Jeanne Guillemette.

If we open our eyes, we can sometimes discover signs of God at work in the modern world in the most unexpected places.

Planted in the heart of Brussels, amidst the major institutional buildings of the European Union—the European Parliament, the Commission, and the European Council—is something exciting that people of North America virtually never hear about: a modest building called "The Chapel of the Resurrection."

This chapel, which opened its doors during Christmastime 2001, includes a crypt with the Blessed Sacrament, a larger ecumenical chapel, a reception hall, and a conference room.

A Catholic initiative, this is also an ecumenical place of prayer and meeting which has become in the words of its pastoral director, Sister Dominique, "a sign of the presence of God and a vehicle for peace and reconciliation among the people of the 27 nations of the European Union."

We first heard about this chapel through a friend who works at the parliament and who met staff worker Catherine Lesage of MH Russia while traveling in that country.

In November 2008, three of us (Gérard Lesage, Noëlla de Laforcade, and Paul Moore) took part in a five day program at that chapel, attending various conferences, participating in activities and prayer services, and learning about the European Union.

It was such a rich experience that we asked if Madonna House could do it again. So last week, three others of us—Joanne Dionne, Neil Patterson, and I went. We returned as enthusiastic as the first group.

Upon our arrival, we plunged into the diverse activities of the chapel: daily morning prayers led by volunteers; a Bible study on the book of Exodus; a conference on Blessed Léonide Féodoroff by a priest from the Russian Catholic Church; a thorough explanation of the organization of the EU by a Jesuit seminarian; a memorial service for a German civil servant who had recently died, as well as other events.

We also drank endless cups of coffee or tea while chatting with volunteers and other visitors who came during the week.

Many of the people there, of course, do government work for the European Union, but there were others as well: Jesuit priests, a Lutheran deaconess, several couples, a Spanish group working on a project, and more.

While there, we attended other events as well, such as two parliamentary commission meetings. I was surprised by the politeness of the debates and fascinated by the translators. The EU has 23 official languages, each with its team of translators needed for the simultaneous translations of the different sessions.

One day we met members of a lobbying group for Africa, and the next day, we visited the new premises of the Comece, which was a wonderful surprise.

The Comece, (La Commission des Episcopats de la Communauté Européenne or Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Union), is comprised of delegated bishops from 24 of the 27 countries of the EU, who meet together regularly and are actively involved in parliamentary debates touching on Church issues.

There is also a team of jurists, lawyers, and journalists working within their areas of competence to promote Christian values in the EU.

The, bright, young, optimistic workers we met were a breath of fresh air, a sign of hope for the Church in Europe.


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