Brother John is American and was born in Philadelphia. Brother Emile is Canadian (with a Chicago-born grandmother!). Both brothers have been part of the Taizé Community for over 35 years.
Why was Chicago chosen to be the venue for the next Pilgrimage of Trust in May 2012?
Br. Emile: Relations with Chicago go way back to the mid 1960’s when a group of Taizé brothers and a few Franciscan friars lived together on the South Side of the city. This old friendship has been reactivated in the last decade or so by frequent visits to Taizé from groups from two Chicago universities: DePaul and Loyola. In both university chapels prayer with Taizé songs takes place weekly. When I was in Chicago in March, in addition to the beauty of these two prayers and the number of young people actively participating in them, I was also struck by the many prayer groups from different denominations who use our songs to pray. DePaul’s enthusiasm to host the gathering and the feeling that seems very widespread that it’s the right time to hold another Taizé gathering in the U.S. persuaded us that everyone would receive a warm welcome in Chicago.
What are your expectations for this gathering?
Br. John: We hope to bring together young adults from many different backgrounds and Christian denominations—and perhaps some who don’t usually go to church but are searching for something more in their life—for an experience of communion with God in prayer and community with one another. There is a great diversity in North America, but often the different groups just live side by side; they don’t really know one another. We hope that this gathering will be a time to discover that we all can learn a lot from one another, that we can help each other to deepen our faith in Christ and make the world a more human place. In addition, by staying with host individuals and families in the Chicago area, participants and hosts will discover the importance of hospitality in transforming a large anonymous city into a place where people feel at home.
Who is invited to come to Chicago?
Br. John: Anyone between the ages of 18 and 35 who wants to take part. We hope young people will come from throughout the United States and Canada, and perhaps from other countries, too. People who are not in that age range can take part in the times of prayer, but we cannot offer accommodations to minors, and can only welcome adults if they accompany a group of young people.
Will there be accommodation for those coming from outside?
Br. Emile: As Brother John has indicated, there will be accommodation for those between 18 and 35. We will be asking families and individuals from nearby churches to host the young people coming from outside. Most of the meals will be served at DePaul’s (except for breakfast and Sunday lunch). It’s too soon to say anything precise about costs, but we expect them to be very low as we plan to do things in the same spirit of simplicity that is found in the weekly meetings at Taizé.
What will the program consist of?
Br. John: At the heart of it there will be times of meditative prayer all together, using the songs of Taizé. These prayers will be held Friday evening, morning, noon and evening on Saturday, Sunday evening and Monday morning. During the days, there will be Bible studies and workshops on social, spiritual and artistic topics. On Sunday morning, participants will take part in the worship of local parishes and congregations.
How many brothers will travel from Taizé to Chicago?
Br. Emile: Our plan is to arrive in Chicago in February to coordinate preparations for the gathering. There should be three of us. We look to being more present in the U.S. in the coming months. We will be available to visit parishes, churches, groups of young people in the Chicago area and to a certain extent elsewhere. During these months in Chicago, we hope to have a daily prayer open to everyone. Our prior, Brother Alois, will come for the gathering in May.
Have preparations already started?
Br. Emile: Word is spreading, as we noticed during a brief visit to Chicago in September and from email messages. Cardinal George has welcomed us warmly and other churches, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which has its national office in Chicago, are already involved in getting the word out. We are in the process of contacting other denominations who have already expressed interest.
Two volunteers from Taizé (the volunteers are young adults who are spending a year at Taizé to help with the weekly meetings) will be travelling to various parts of the US for three weeks, beginning early next year. They will be available to speak about the upcoming Chicago gathering, their own experience at Taizé, lead a prayer, show the preparation DVD that is coming out in November. Those interesting in welcoming them or who would like to invite us at a later date can write to: chicago2012 taize.fr
There are Taizé brothers in Africa, Asia and South America. Will brothers come to live permanently in the US?
Br. John: Small communities of Taizé brothers have always lived outside of Taizé, France, for longer or shorter periods of time. Brothers were in Chicago and Atlanta in the 1960’s and for many years in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. But the United States is a big country, almost a continent. In the coming years, we would like to spend time in different regions of the country. One idea would be to go and live in a place for a few months and, at the end, holding a meeting like the one that will take place in Chicago. Preparing a meeting offers a good opportunity to get to know people and to make contacts with the different Churches in the area. The most important thing is not the meeting itself, but the preparation and the follow-up, helping people to create links with many others to support one another in our attempt to follow Christ. So perhaps the stay in Chicago can become the beginning of a pilgrimage across North America!