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Our Lady of the Homeless and of All People

On 18 September, during the European Heritage Days, in Noisy-le-Grand, Ile de France region, we experienced the inauguration of the newly restored chapel, "Our Lady of the Homeless and of All People", a reminder of Father Wrezinski's meeting of 1957 with families living in extreme poverty, an encounter that gave rise to the creation of the ATD quart monde (Fourth World) Movement, which is now present in over 30 countries.

On the ribbon which, officially cut, by the mayor of Noisy-le-Grand to reopen the chapel today which has been classified as a "European Heritage of the 20th century", is written this word of Father Wrezinski: "Wherever human beings are condemned to live in misery, human rights are violated. It is a sacred duty to unite to ensure that they are respected".

In 1969, when the camp was replaced by the Emmaus housing estate, the chapel was moved stone by stone to the current site of today's celebration in the presence of the Regional President of the heritage department, the architect, the national delegate of ATD Fourth World, the Mayor of Noisy-Le-Grand and the chapel's sacristan, a former camp inhabitant.

The religious building thus remains the only vestige of the homeless camp and continues, over the years, to be a gathering place for the families living next door. The architecture of this chapel is reminiscent of the basic shelters set up by Abbé Pierre, founder of the Emmaus Movement, during the very cold and deadly winter of 1954, shelters in the shape of a half metal canister. Now that the renovation of this 'everybody's chapel' is complete, the chief architect of historic monuments has declared: "it is a church, it is a cathedral, it is a castle, it is all of these things at the same time; it embodies the values that we are all looking for today: humanism, the simplicity of the materials, the commitment of those who have achieved such great architecture with little means": he thus paid tribute to the roofers, carpenters, masons and master glassmakers.... including Jean Bazaine, a French painter who designed the stained-glass windows in accordance with Joseph Wrezinski's idea that art is a basic need even for the poorest people.

Present at the inauguration, the General Delegate of ATD quart monde (Fourth World), Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, spoke as follows: "What Father Joseph taught us was to meet those who live in poverty, in the depth of their despair, but also to reach them in the depth of their humanity. There was never any joy in the camp other than the moments lived in this chapel; and if there was joy, it was because in this chapel there were women, men, children and young people despised by everyone who could express their inner life and thus be at the height of what they were in depth, at the height of all human beings. It was these moments of truth, sharing, suffering and hope that engaged people from all walks of life and all spiritual backgrounds at their side. The fight against poverty is not primarily a matter of religion, it is the responsibility of all human beings.
Families in poverty are no more loved today than they were in 1957... but this evening, thanks to all of you, what the poor have built, to say loud and clear that, they are human beings, has been preserved, recognized and restored. And this commits us together to do everything we can to learn to recognize what the poorest are, the creators among us, the extra humanity, beauty, intelligence, lucidity and courage that they bring to our world, which is in vital need of them.“

Text taken from an audio recording, transmitted to Marie-Madeleine Guihard, DHS, who was present at this event, and who was part of the Chapel Committee and wished to pass on this fact which so honours those who usually suffer from poverty and exclusion!

DHS Community of Noisy-Le-Grand. Published on 30 September 2021


Filles du Saint-Esprit 15 bd. Sebastopol 35101 Rennes Cedex 2 France

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