8 juin 2024

14-18 Fraternity

Growing up in freedom

The presence of couples and families in the Chemin Neuf Community very quickly led it to accompany teenagers, particularly during its highlights. The "Samuel fraternities", then "the Jo's", brought these young people together for a wide range of sporting, musical and charitable activities. In 1985, the question arose of opening up these community groups to the many other young people who came forward. And so "Frat 14-18" was born! Anxious not to limit themselves to a pedagogy of highlights, those in charge proposed a program built around three axes: prayer, sharing and service, to which were added the intuitions of celebration and reconciliation. For many young people, the "Frat 14-18" was like a "source place" and, as adults, they still remember it!

How can you not remember?


These three years of « Frat 14-18 », from its foundation in Montagnieu to Sablonceaux, via Roucas Blanc, Tigery, Les Pothières… it was a human and spiritual experience that marked me for life.

How could I not remember the words of our leader, Denise: « Some things are serious, but they don’t have to be serious », Hasso’s magic accent, which spoke to our ailments, Norbert’s guitar, which brought our songs to life, Myriam and Philippe’s accounts of their emotional lives, and Véronique’s loving presence?

How can we forget all those encounters that gave rise to indestructible friendships and sometimes even love; those evenings of reconciliation that taught us about forgiveness; those celebrations for God where magnificent community prayers followed wild rocks; the tears of departure; the outpourings of joy on arrival.

Thank you to the « 14-18s » for helping us to grow in spirituality, in responsibility, in humanity: in love!

Founding years


I was seized by Christ in the summer of 1986, in the forest of Brocéliande. I was 14 years old. My parents were working at a Cana session. I was taking part in a travelling camp for teenagers. The following summer, I joined the first 14-18 summer camp.

Those years in the 14-18 fraternity were foundational and have profoundly and fundamentally shaped the adult I have become. The Lord has been my unfailing companion ever since, guiding me at every moment, at every crossroads or choice in my life. Looking back over my 51 years of life, I can see his hand, his imprint, his thoughtfulness and his protection.

With 14-18, prayer became a way of breathing, sharing in depth and in truth became a matter of course, and commitment and self-giving became a way of life. The multitude and diversity of the teachings and talks heard during those years opened up the teenager that I was to a wider and more expansive reality. Immersing myself in fraternal and community life, through the annual proposals, planted a small seed in my heart that took years to germinate, but which had its origins in my commitment to the 14-18 fraternity.

Currently involved in the Chemin Neuf community and living as a couple and family in a life fraternity, I can truly say that my first ‘yes’ to the Lord was given during those teenage years with the 14-18.

A team of fraternal leaders

Philippe et Myriam

At the start of the 1986 academic year, we had just returned from the Congo and were settled in Epinay-sous-Sénart, near Tigery, on a mission in a working-class parish. The community invited us to take part in the foundation of the 14-18 mission during a weekend in Montagnieu and to become responsible for the North of France. It was a surprise for us. We had some experience of working with children as Cub Scout leaders, but not at all with teenagers.

For us, the foundation of the 14-18 mission is first and foremost the building of a fraternal team, and we work on developing the weekends and sessions in a joyful atmosphere. We are touched by Denise’s trust, which allows us to give the best of ourselves, while respecting our own family rhythm.

As for the encounters with the young people, we are also touched by their trust, the exchanges, the looks, the songs, the testimonies, the prayer, the friendships and, for some, the gift of their lives.

We are gradually putting in place the charter for 14-18 year olds. Smoking was only allowed outside. At the time there were no mobile phones, but cigarettes were still allowed inside buildings in civil society. Bedtime! We have memories of nights spent watching for the crunch of the wooden floor in Tigery to bring the night-walkers home! To support young people in their faith between two weekends or sessions, we had the pleasure of creating the « 5 minutes for God », a short daily prayer guide for young people.

Tremendous enthusiasm


I remember the meetings we had to « think through » the 14-18 fraternity before it started up, trying to listen to what the Spirit was advising us to do and working on it until very late… An article in Tychique, at the time, explaining the project to parents. The tremendous enthusiasm of dozens of young people who were eagerly awaiting the start of 14-18. Denise’s inventiveness in proposing in the morning picnics on the beach at midday (at Le Roucas). And the joyful pilgrimage down to the beach. A.M.E. who came to film the session. Pastor Henri Hartnagel, who was delighted to come and speak to so many young people and help them discover the tenderness of the Father in the Gospel of the Prodigal Son… And I give thanks to the Lord for all those who have travelled the road since… And are approaching fifty! Hallelujah!

The days were beautiful


In July 1990, I arrived at Sablonceaux Abbey to work with Denise and Véronique on the 14-18 mission. I was discovering everything. From the very first days, Bishop David urged us: « Don‘t be afraid to be demanding with young people, they like to take on challenges ».

As a result, we have raised the stone walls, cleaned and dug out the cellar that is now the Abbey oratory. The days were beautiful, fraternal, prayerful and exhausting.

The following year, we organized some great courses on rue Ma- dame. I remember going down a ladder into what used to be a theatre, with Denise, for an evening at the beginning of the year. And themed evenings, with the universal brother, Charles de Foucauld for example… Without forgetting the tour of the fraternities across France. So much so that one morning Denise didn’t know where she was when she woke up…

A wonderful friendship has developed between us, as youth workers, and with the young people too. Long live mission 14-18! Thank you, dear Holy Spirit, for entrusting it to us.

Believing with others and celebrating


My discovery of 14-18 dates back to … my 14th birthday (!), … 34 years ago! What remains of it today?

First of all, my first experience of a meeting with a praying community, of celebrations, of encounters, my first experience of a personal encounter with the Lord. We sang, we danced, we laughed, we could talk about the meaning of life – in short, in my complicated daily life, I became alive with others… So no, I didn’t become a community member at Chemin Neuf, but my faith journey began there, when the Lord had already gone ahead of me… and that led me to follow my path, particularly with informal lay communities of Ignatian spirituality. Over the last year, this has led me to accept the service of spiritual accompaniment, while at the same time living my job as a bus driver as a real mission of free presence among our contemporaries.

I feel deep gratitude when I remember those fundamental encounters when believing with others and celebrating took on meaning and life, in adolescence, a period of life that is not the easiest to go through!

Cet article fait partie du numéro 078 de la revue FOI


september-october-november 2023

Vie de l'église   Vie de la Communauté  

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