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Spiritual Life

Marymount Paris welcomes students of all backgrounds and faiths. Our policy is to welcome each person at whatever stage he or she may be on their faith journey, and encourage them on that way in the company of others making that same lifelong pilgrimage, and so develop their personal relationship with God. This is done within the context of Marymount’s Catholic, and in particular, RSHM, tradition. Marymount is a community where each individual is empowered to understand, live and bear witness to his or her faith, in respectful awareness of other’s beliefs.

Each school day begins with Morning Prayer, broadcast throughout the School. There is a weekly Assembly for all the students on a spiritual theme, and always including a passage of Scripture and prayer. There are several all-school Masses and liturgies, as well as class level celebrations in the Community Chapel. The School offers preparation for those students who wish for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. Our Religious Education curriculum is designed to foster a holistic appreciation of the fruitful interaction among faith, life and culture. The spiritual reflection on peace and social justice issues is complemented by opportunities for meaningful service activities. Our aim at Marymount Paris is to help our students be religiously literate, so that they can be the voice of God in the world of the 21st century.


Students invited the school community to celebrate the Festival of Lights and learn about how different faiths celebrate light during this holiday season; just one of the many ways our school celebrates "Unity through Diversity"!

Since the beginning of time, people have sought many ways to bring light back into our world during the season of winter, when it seems that light and brightness have been banished for ever. During the season of Advent, celebrated by Christians, light is a symbol of Christ, whose birth we are getting ready for, however, people of all cultures, nationalities and faiths celebrate the gift of light. It is no surprise that it is during the long dark days of winter that people enjoy festivals where they rejoice in the gift of light.

This is one of the ways that our many cultures represented here at Marymount International School Paris, can celebrate our diversity. See below for a few photos of the event!

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Our Middle School Student Leadership Team started off their very active year of service with a retreat and project management development training at the RSHM Student Leadership Retreat. This year, the event was held in Rome with our sister schools, Marymount International School, London, Marymount International School Rome, and Istituto Marymount. This conference focuses on leadership and spirituality within the goals of the RSHM mission. Students attended leadership skills workshop, volunteered at the Joel Nafuma Refugee center, as well as visited significant religious and cultural sites in the Eternal City, Rome.

Below is a testimonial from a Marymount Paris student, Isabel, of the experience:

We had a wonderful mix of lectures on subjects such as leading a meeting, communication, and planning service-learning projects. As well as having lectures, we also did many things to be more aware of our RSHM goal, 'That all may have life' and, 'To awaken a consciousness for social justice.'

In between our learning, we had the privilege to visit many of Rome's beautiful historical sites, like the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain. While the whole journey was amazing, I think that most of the members can agree that the most touching and rewarding part was going to the refugee center.

On Tuesday, we further awakened our consciousness for social justice by volunteering at Joel Nafuma refugee center, near Piazza de la Repubblica. Together, we listened to Ramine, a young Afghan man and former refugee, who shared with us his unique experience of leaving Afghanistan to go to Europe at only fifteen years old. He had alternated between Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

Ramine (the young man) had to overcome many obstacles to arrive in Europe. Ramine had to overcome the Dublin Regulation that states that when refugees come from countries such as Afghanistan, they must apply for citizenship at the first country where they land. When Ramine arrived in Norway, he applied for citizenship there, as well as applying for a Schengen visa.Ramine continued his schooling in Norway until he was about twenty years ago. At the time, he had proposed to his then-girlfriend and she said yes. However, he was soon deported, and therefore separated from his fiancée.

Ramine now lives in Rome and has received his Schengen visa. Ramine volunteers his time at refugee centers such as the Joel Nafuma. He also enjoys giving talks at conferences all around Europe, working to better the lives of refugees. While Ramine is separated from his fiancée by distance, he hopes that one day he can go to university to study computer engineering, get a job, and settle with his fiancée.

After our talk with Ramine, we went downstairs to a large open hall. All nine of us were surprised with what the refugee center had to offer. While we had expected it to look run down and sad, it looked the opposite. There were banners all over the walls, plastered with the slogan,'Refugee lives matter!' There were many ping-pong and foosball tables all over the room. There were classrooms for the refugees to learn English, Italian, and other languages, as well as to expand their knowledge.

There was an art therapy room where the men could paint and draw. On the walls, the room of art therapy was split into two halves, titles, 'places' and, 'faces.' As the art therapy teacher told us, the two most common things that were drawn were faces and places, of people and locations that the refugees miss. Next to the art room, there was an interfaith prayer room, where people of all different religions could gather to pray.

After touring the center, we started serving pizza to the refugees. A lot of the men were shy. However, after time progressed, we started talking more to get to know the people at the center.We drew on banners with the refugees, and one refugee started writing the lyrics to an Afghan song about how he missed his home.

Most of them were from Somalia, Afghanistan, and Cote D'Ivoire. One migrant told us that when his boat was arriving, there was a hole in it, and water was spewing out of the bottom, causing the boat to sink. This lucky migrant, along with just a few others, were the only people who survived this tragic accident.

After the experience with all the refugees, we walked Piazza De La Repubblica to distribute the extra pizzas to homeless people on the streets. Our teacher acknowledged that not everyone was as lucky as us, and that we should promote social justice by giving to the homeless whenever we can.

I can say, without a doubt, that the whole trip, but, in particular, the refugee center was a truly memorable experience. At the end of the day, one refugee told the teacher that that was the most beauty he had ever seen in one room.

So, I will close by saying that we should always be extremely thankful for what we have, and never take anything for granted. Those refugees had no home, no families, and nothing stable in their lives, but still found a way to laugh and smile with us.

-Isabel, Grade 7

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The Marymount, Paris community is overjoyed to celebrate with Sr. Ethna Egan, RSHM as she marks her 60th anniversary as a Sister of the RSHM! Sr. Ethna teaches sacramental preparation classes and is much beloved within our community. We are lucky to benefit from the RSHM sisters with us on our campus and are grateful for their dedication to our school mission. Please join us in celebrating such a wonderful milestone for her!

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The Five A's of Service Learning at Marymount Paris

by Robert Kelly, Campus Minister, Marymount International School, Paris

This article is based on a session with student delegates from the four European Marymount Schools, who met in Rome at the beginning of October 2015 for the RSHM Student Leadership Conference. This is summarised in a chart of five "A"s, which sets out progressively how to fulfil service in the spirit of the RSHM.

There is very often a warm spontaneity among students for getting involved in what might be called "causes". However, often that very spontaneity leads them to jump immediately to the question "what can I do?" (and in some cases it is more about "this is what I would like to do"). Some do apply a measure of strategic thinking and tangle with the question of "How?" However, in my experience in several schools, little or no attention is paid to what I believe is the far more fundamental question: "Why?"

Left to ourselves, it might take many years for us to work out a personal vision that becomes the motivating drive for how we live our lives. But, of course, we are never left to ourselves. We are influenced by our culture, by our families, by advertising, all with competing suggestions and proposals.

Fortunately, part of our culture is to belong to the RSHM network, which provides us with a motivating vision, thanks in the first place to Père Gailhac, and then thanks to the chain of Sisters who kept that founding dream alive and made it real in practice.

Our great secret, then, is to have the motto "that all have life, and have it in abundance" or "... "to have it in full" (depending on which translation you take). I think it helps to give added appreciation of this phrase if we remember that it is in found in chapter 10 of the Gospel according to John, where this comes from the lips of Jesus presenting himself as the Good Shepherd. Combining the image and the words adds power to the message for to me.

The other part of our RSHM secret is the way that Père Gailhac modelled using this as the motivation for everything he did. He observed, and discerned where there were real needs. He continuously and consistently asked: "where is life missing, or less than full and abundant?" — and he knew that was where he should direct his efforts.

For example, as a newly ordained priest he asked his bishop to send him to be a hospital chaplain, and in a hospital which had both civilian and military patients. Not, we can easily imagine, the easiest of pastoral task for a young, newly-ordained priest. But that was where he discerned there was need.

Later he became aware that the sudden boom in the wine industry in Béziers was leading to a radical change in life in the town. A downside of the increase in prosperity was an influx of people from the countryside, hoping to profit from it. Girls and young women were among those new arrivals, some of whom had no skills at all with which to earn a living, and ended up in prostitution. Père Gailhac perceived this lack of decent life and began in a very small way to try and remedy it. At first, this was by using money from his own limited allowanceto enable them to stay in a hostel in Montpellier. But he soon realised this was a stop-gap, and not really a remedy, which led him to set up the Good Shepherd Refuge.

Then one day, he was presented with a baby, and was asked to look after it. So began the Good Shepherd Orphanage.

All of these show, I believe, that the RSHM spirit of service begins with being AWARE of the situation, observing and discerning where the real needs are, in the sense of seeing where life is less than full.

In the examples mentioned above, each time that assessment prompted him into ACTION. He did whatever he could to improve the situation, to make life better.

However, if we pursue the example of the Good Shepherd Hospice and Orphanage, this went beyond what he himself could do. They depended on others joining him, to help him in the work, and to do parts of the work that he himself was not able to do. In others words, when he saw that he alone could not answer a need, he did not turn his back on it but rather ADVOCATED, that is, he worked to persuade others of the importance of this service.

One of the intelligent features of his work with the former prostitutes was to have them taught skills, so that they would be able to earn an honest living. This was how the RSHM stumbled into teaching. It was not for teaching as an aim or principle in itself, but rather as a means to ensuring a fuller better life for these young women.

The fact that this teaching was happening led to requests from rich families: could the Sisters not open a school for their daughters? Père Gailhac resisted: driven by the Good Shepherd model, the RSHM should be working for those whose lives were impoverished: as always "so that they may have life".

But the requests kept coming. Within the RSHM, a new discernment took shape. Running the Hostel and Orphanage was expensive. At first, this was financed by the money that Mère Saint-Jean had inherited on the death of her husband. But she pointed out that this was finite, one day it would run out. Opening a paying school would guarantee there would be funds for the RSHM to be able to continue its mission of service.

Here we see a crucially important element in a healthy service strategy. Once the service activity is in motion, to take time to assess it. Was it achieving the essential goal? What might need to be done differently so as to continue answering the perceived need?

We can see lots examples of this strategy in the history of Marymount Paris. We need to remember that Mother Butler had established what was the first ever university level for Catholic women in the United States. She had just lived through WWI, and seen the disaster caused by exaggerated nationalisms. She saw how the War had meant women being invited to take up work that previously would have been left to men, in both factories and farms. She perceived both the threat to life of war, and how women had so much that they could contribute to make life better, not just for themselves, but for society. For her, it was a natural part of this vision to travel to Paris and find a place where young American Catholic women could spend a year studying at the Sorbonne. That was why in 1923, 72 boulevard de la Saussaye was purchased.

Spin forward some years. The financial crash meant that American families could no longer afford to send their daughters to France. At that point, the RSHM could have decided to close the school. Rather, they assessed the situation and measured the current need, and adopted an adapted response: the school was reborn as a French school.

More years passed. Governmental regulations in France changed, and it was no longer possible for a French school to be owned by non-French nationals. Again, the RSHM could have decided to close the school and focus their attention elsewhere. Instead they re-assessed the situation, remembered Mother Butler's original vision, and adapted: the school became an international school (in fact, the first international school in Paris).

I think we can detect a simple underlying plan throughout all of this, which is summarised by the poster.

Everything is driven by a motivating vision, which means that the answer to not just the "what should we do?" but also "why should we do it?" is: so that there may be life where there is none; so that wherever life is less than full and rich, we make it better.

The five "A"s summarise the strategy that will keep what we do and how we do it firmly aligned with the why:

  • –it depends on a genuine AWARENESS of what the situation is, where there is a need
  • –if there is something I can do to answer that need, then I get on and do it. I move into ACTION
  • –if it is something I cannot do myself, then I persuade others who are more able to do it. This is ADVOCACY.
  • –We need to constantly review and ASSESS what we have done (or persuaded others to do). Did it achieve what was intended? Have circumstances changed, which now demand a new response?
  • –In the light of the assessment we ask, what can I do that would get better results? How do I need to adjust my ACTION or my ADVOCACY so that it is more effective

This is not a linear process, but a dynamic spiral. The fourth step of assessing is about staying aware, taking account of the situation now (so intentionally revisiting Step 1). This in turn leads to Step 5 of adapting, which is a renewal of Step 3 (Action) or Step 4 (Advocacy).

In the process there is a perpetual openness to verify the relevance and effectiveness of our service, but always done "... that all may have life ...".

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