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From the Streets of Misery to the Monastery

Via Jean-Philippe Chauveau with permission

Benjamin Coste - published on 04/16/16 - updated on 06/07/17

A French priest is welcoming prostitutes in search of a better to life to live at "Magdalena House"

He refuses to use the words “prostitute” or “transvestite.” Throughout the 17 years that he has been working with girls “in prostitution” in the Bois de Boulogne, Father Jean-Philippe Chauveau has been campaigning to change the way the world looks upon them.

To achieve this, the priest, who belongs to the Community of St. John, preaches the word of the Gospel whenever the opportunity arises. Recently on the Catholic television channel, KTO during the show “In the Eyes of Oliver,” or in his book He That Has Never Sinned or, for the last several years, by taking his “friends” from the Bois de Boulogne on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

“For 10 years I carried in my heart the desire to find a place where they could come to rest,” said Father Jean-Philippe, age 66. He has at last found the place in Ecuelles, a small town in the Seine-et-Marne, southeast of Fontainebleau. “The bishop of Meaux, Jean-Yves Nahmias, agreed to provide us with this monastery once used by Benedictines,” says Father Chauveau.

Renovation work is underway so that the first guests will be welcomed starting in June. Father Chauveau wants “Magdalena House” to be a place for “often very lonely” people to live. “They have friends to party with, but no real friends to rely on.”

The priest described “the long time it takes to make friends” with these people who have had a chaotic life often marked by domestic violence and all forms of abuse. “When they cross the threshold of Magdalena House, I want them to feel accepted as they are; I want them to discover that despite their way of life, they are lovable,” insists Father Jean- Philip, who had a difficult childhood himself.

The priest in the characteristic gray habit and all the volunteers who work with him hope that Magdalena House will give the girls an opportunity to bounce back, to make a change of life. The nuns’ former candle factory will soon be brought back into activity. “Some of the girls have told me they would like to learn to knit. All of them want to get out of their misery! ”

For the most part, the girls from the Bois are believers. All the guests of Magdalena House will be asked to attend the prayer times that punctuate the life of the place. Father Jean-Philippe insists on it: “They are not forced to pray, but they must be present at the services. Their full reconstruction comes through God. ”

Translated from the French by Liliane Stevenson.

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