Parish Pilgrimage to Paris
13-17 February 1997
Courtyard at the New St. Lazare
On Saturday, February 15, Rosemary Meehan, Jean Bateman, Joy and Jack Lee, Father John Rybolt, CM, Father McLaughlin, Father McElroy, Jeanne Flowers, Loretta McLaughlin, and Winnie Voit pose in the Courtyard of the New St. Lazare.

Mass at the New St. Lazare
On Saturday, February 15, Father McLaughlin, with concelebrants Father John Rybolt, C.M. and Father Charles McElroy, presides at Mass in the New St. Lazare Chapel, beneath the reliquary containing the remains of St. Vincent de Paul.

Image of St. Vincent
Image of St. Vincent de Paul on the wall of a building near the present-day St. Lazare Hospital in the area of Paris where St. Vincent lived and worked. The image is not visible when viewed straight on, but becomes evident when viewed from an angle.

Parish Church of St. Vincent de Paul
The Parish Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris.

Mass at Notre Dame
Fathers McLaughlin and McElroy concelebrate the 10 A.M. Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral on Sunday, February 16.

Our Pastor, Father McLaughlin, traveled to Scandinavia with his family in August, 1996, and was "inspired." The first public sharing of his inspiration appeared in the minutes of the September 3, 1996, Parish Pastoral Council meeting:

At St. Eugenia Church, which he visited in Stockholm, the pastor was impressed with twelve stones from different countries that had either nourished the Church in Sweden or whose people the parish now served. A booklet described where each stone had originated and its significance for that parish, and emphasized that the stones were symbols of the "living stones" — the parishioners — built on the foundation of the Apostles.

Father McLaughlin suggested that we collect such stones for our parish. His "inspiration" is to lead a parish pilgrimage for a weekend to Paris, to collect the first stone from a Church in which St. Vincent de Paul worked. In the off season — around February or March — a Thursday evening through Sunday evening trip costs around $650 including air fare, hotel and breakfast. That would allow time for a parish Mass at St. Vincent de Paul's church and one at Notre Dame Cathedral. There was some interest in Father's idea.

By the October Parish Pastoral Council meeting, the pilgrimage was being given serious consideration. During November we received proposals from travel agents, and contacted Father John Rybolt, CM, an American Vincentian stationed at the New Saint Lazare Motherhouse on the rue de Sèvres in Paris. The first formal announcement of pilgrimage details appeared in the Parish Newsletter of December 8, 1996.

The pilgrimage began at 4:45 P.M. on Thursday, February 13, 1997, when 24 pilgrims boarded a bus in the parish parking lot to be transported to Philadelphia International Airport in time for a 7:25 P.M. flight bound for Paris. Father McLaughlin led the pilgrimage, and he was accompanied by a priest friend, Father Charles McElroy, the pastor of At St. Mary Church in Schwenksville, PA.

Upon their 8:50 Friday morning (St. Valentine's Day) arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the group was delayed a little by a baggage handlers strike. Once the pilgrims and their luggage were in the bus, a guide gave the group an orientation tour of Paris with stops at the Place du Trocadéro across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower (in a light rain) and at the Notre Dame Cathedral. When they arrived at the Hôtel Moderne St-Germain on rue des Ecoles, the group learned that the rooms reserved for them were affected by a power outage within the hotel, and they were to be lodged instead at the Hotel California Saint-Germain, a block and a half away. The rest of the day was free; the pilgrims settled in, explored a little of the city, and experienced French cuisine in various area restaurants.

Following breakfast in the quaint "catacombs" of the Hotel California, the group traveled by Metro to 95, rue de Sèvres, the Vincentian Motherhouse. Father John Rybolt, C.M. welcomed them gave them a tour of the complex. The statue of St. Vincent in the main courtyard has his hands extended downward, empty and beckoning; Father Rybolt likes that statue better than images showing Vincent with children, who were only one part of his ministry: his arms were open to all, and whatever he received passed through his hands to help other people. In the Vincentian archives, among other relics, we saw St. Vincent's cassock, his confessional, and documents that he wrote. And before our Mass we visited the reliquary containing St. Vincent's mortal remains, reached by a stairway behind the altar; the well-preserved skeleton is covered with wax on the face and hands, and the body is clothed in priestly vestments.

Father McLaughlin, Father McElroy and Father Rybolt concelebrated Mass at the altar below the reliquary. Tom Bateman had supplied the group with hymn sheets, and Father McBride's paten was used for the Mass. Lois Drabot was the lector. Parishioners' intentions, submitted in writing before the pilgrims left Richboro, were on the altar, and all parishioners and their intentions were on the minds of all the pilgrims. It was a very special moment for all who participated.

After Mass, Father Rybolt led a walking tour of the area, including a visit to the Church of St. Sulpice. In 1642, Father Jean Jacques Olier became pastor of St. Sulpice. St. Vincent de Paul was Father Olier's spiritual director, and they shared a common concern for the formation of priests. Father Olier subsequently founded a community of priests called the Sulpicians, whose primary mission is seminary work. After the walking tour, the group returned to the Motherhouse for a full luncheon.

No group activities were planned for Saturday afternoon. However, at the suggestion of Father Rybolt, about half of the pilgrims traveled together to the "right bank," to the area of present day Paris where St. Vincent once had his headquarters. In 1632, he accepted the 90-acre St. Lazare Priory north of Paris because the monks of St. Genevieve could not maintain it. During the French Revolution the government confiscated this property; after the Revolution, in compensation, the Vincentians received the house on the other side of the Seine where we celebrated our pilgrimage Mass in the morning. Now, a hospital in the area carries the name St. Lazare. Near the hospital, on the side of a building, is a fascinating multi-story representation of St. Vincent, done with vertical strips. Also in the area is the Parish Church of St. Vincent de Paul, begun in 1824,

We visited the Church and spoke with Father Eric, who was four years ordained and one of five priests in the parish. In addition to their parish duties, they minister at St. Lazare Hospital and four Catholic schools. We presented Father Eric with a card from Josephine Braunlich and our Early Childhood Learning Program, bringing greetings from St. Vincent's in Richboro to St. Vincent's in Paris. Father told us that they have a similar program, and that he would see to it that they received the card.

Outside that Church Jack Lee found the stone which we brought back as a reminder of our union with the "living stones" of the Church in Paris. (Jeanne Flowers and Jean Bateman carried the stone around for the rest of the day and Dulce Mooney brought it back in her suitcase.) The stone continues to be on display in the rear of the Church.

On Sunday morning all the pilgrims participated in the 10 A.M. Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. Although Father McLaughlin had not been able to make arrangements in advance, he and Father McElroy were able to concelebrate. The Mass was in French with the Kyrie in Greek, the Sanctus, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei in Latin, and two parts of the Eucharistic Prayer in English (our priests' parts). The first stones of Notre Dame were laid in 1163, and they have seen much history since then — and many of the people that made that history. But our pilgrims were also conscious of the living stones: a cathedral full of worshipers from many different countries, united by the Holy Spirit in a liturgy both majestic and simple, giving praise to God and asking God's blessings on his people. Every one of the pilgrims experienced a special moment at this Mass.

In smaller groups the pilgrims visited other "sights" in Paris, sharing their experiences when all got together. They relied heavily on Lois Drabot's French on several occasions — she was complemented by the French on her pronunciation — but the others found the people helpful and willing to communicate despite their not knowing French. Dulce Mooney organized the "farewell dinner cruise" on the Seine Sunday night, and at the dinner our group shared the chocolates sent by Deanna Schikal, not only among themselves, but with the Chinese table, the French tables and the Polish tables.

On Monday, February 17, at 9:30 A.M. Paris time, the pilgrims left the Hotel California to begin their journey home. They arrived in Richboro at 4:45 P.M. (Richboro Time), grateful to all who prayed for the pilgrimage's success.

Pilgrims' Reflections while Flying Home
Joy and Jack Lee

Our pilgrimage was inspiring and educational. The quest for the rock was an adventure. In addition to our mission, the pilgrims had a wonderful and memorable weekend enjoying the sights of Paris. The French people were very cordial and tolerant of our language inadequacies. Attending Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame was inspirational.

Joe Majoros

I was so thrilled to have been able to partake in the celebration of the Eucharist at Notre Dame with Father and our fellow pilgrims.

Jeanne Flowers

Seeing the face of St. Vincent on the side of a four story building; finding (and carrying) the rock; Mass at St. Vincent's tomb; communicating in French (and being understood); the camaraderie between us and visitors from South America and China whom we met on a dinner cruise on the Seine — they learned how to do the Mummers strut and give a "high 5"! Brotherhood at its best!

Mary Kurz

We combined two beautiful religious experiences with the most wonderful camaraderie — words cannot convey my emotions. Our pastor and Father McElroy on the altar at Notre Dame was so moving. St. Vincent's was an eye-opener: our patron was a real mover and shaker. Thank the Lord!

Ron & Liz Longabucco

Paris in February

A little rain, a little sun,
Good food, lots of fun

Manuscripts and relics,
Churches and stones,
Parishioners joined
beneath Vincent's bones.

A parish grows closer,
joined in prayers.
The pilgrims grow tired
climbing the stairs.

New friends made;
spirits refreshed.
Thanks, Father;
the parish is blessed.

Phil & Barbara McKeaney

Paris was enjoyed by all, but to experience pride and love as Fathers McLaughlin and McElroy walked onto the altar at Notre Dame was one of the lasting experiences of this pilgrimage.

Ed Murphy

The trip was truly inspirational from the religious aspect of what we witnessed, and unbelievably delightful in sharing the many experiences with the fellow pilgrims — memorable beyond words.

Maureen Tobin

As an "honorary" member of St. Vincent's, I want you all to know how much I truly enjoyed my trip to Paris. Your people are so warm and friendly — you are truly blessed.

Related Links
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The Archdiocese of Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Basilica of Sacré Coeur, Montmartre

The City of Paris