“This Saturday, April 15, as every month, we meet for a one-day pilgrimage – a walk of 12 to 15 kilometers through our diocese. We meet those who want to participate in the morning, in the church of the village of departure (Hières-sur-Amby this month), and begin with three quarters of an hour of meditation and sharing on the Gospel for the next day. Then we set off. We are lucky to be in an area that benefits from a very wide variety of landscapes: Dombes, Bresse, part of the Jura… After a picnic stop, we walk for an hour in silence. It is a silence nourished by a word from Laudato si’, or another spiritual word that puts us in touch with Creation, like those of Brother Éloi Leclerc (1921-2016). For some, it is very difficult to stay an hour in silence!
Since these marches have existed, I have insisted that they be under the aegis of the diocesan pilgrimage service, so that they are open to as many people as possible. Between 20 and 25 people participate each time – some faithful, others who come to discover. The walk allows a mix between people from all walks of life, all social categories are represented. This is an opportunity to share on very deep topics.
I have always been very close to nature. My life of faith was not straight, and I distanced myself from the Church for almost twenty years. I went for walks with my wife and, in nature, I had like “flashes”, telling me that God was there, but I didn’t understand what that meant. In great professional difficulty because of a manipulative director, I fell into depression. I went to therapy and in that moment I met God. He joined me in my sensitivity to Creation. Then I listened to a sermon in a Foyer de Charité, and there I said to myself: I am a Christian. This is how the path began. Aware that my faith was childish, I trained with the Jesuits for seven years, then I was called to the diaconate.
I have been deacon for the diocese of Belley-Ars for twenty years now. I was first responsible for the catechumenate. Then, when Mgr Pascal Roland arrived in the diocese, he told me that he had walked for several days in his previous diocese. I told him that, in the Ain, passed the Chemin d’Assise, linking Vézelay to Assisi. I then gathered a small group to walk on this path, in the spirit of Saint Francis: prayer, joy, fraternity, for several years, before launching these walks with the Gospel which take place every month.
The publication of the encyclical Laudato si’ came as a shock to me. It allowed me to unify the two aspects of my life, faith and love for Creation. For six years, I have been a diocesan delegate for integral ecology. I had asked my bishop for a sabbatical year after the end of my mission in the catechumenate. During this year, I had been asked to accompany a pilgrimage to La Salette, a mountain country. There, I received the intuition to make ecology known in our diocese. It is not obvious, because few people see the link between ecology and faith. For many, the word ecology has political connotations. I begin by decontaminating the word, explaining that it is a relationship with nature. »