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Three Young Adult Pilgrims Walk From Paris to Jerusalem ‘to Deepen Our Faith’…

They stopped for a month in Medjugorje (Bosnia and Herzegovina), where their family joined them for Christmas. 

“It was a difficult time. Again, we didn’t know what to do. But after a period of discernment, we realized that Christ was calling us back on the road again,” Madeleine said.

Madeleine and Marie-Liesse crossed Montenegro and arrived in Albania, where they encountered Antona.

“I had just finished my studies and wanted to offer something to God,” Antona told CNA. “I wasn’t sure what, but I thought that the best thing I had at that time was time itself. So, I decided to offer God a year of my life by embarking on a journey. It was a challenge; I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy walking and being alone.”

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Louis Antona, 24, during a moment of his journey. “I had just finished my studies and wanted to offer something to God,” he told CNA. “I thought that the best thing I had at that time was time itself. So, I decided to offer God a year of my life by embarking on a journey." Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona
Louis Antona, 24, during a moment of his journey. “I had just finished my studies and wanted to offer something to God,” he told CNA. “I thought that the best thing I had at that time was time itself. So, I decided to offer God a year of my life by embarking on a journey.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona

Antona decided to leave, despite the war. “I believe the hardest part of a pilgrimage like this is deciding to start. I knew that if I gave up because of the war, I would never do it again. Anyway, I thought that by the time I arrived, the war would already be over.”

Madeleine and Marie-Liesse are filled with wonder at the manifestation of providence in every detail of their pilgrimage, in the beautiful weather and in the rain, in every small encounter — those who hosted them after seeing them at the bus stop, those who taught them how to make bread, the gentleman who opened his door just before a downpour. “If we had arrived a minute later, we wouldn’t have met him,” they said.

The encounter with Antona wasn’t coincidental either. The two sisters had prayed to God to give them a travel companion.

“We planned to not go through Turkey because we were two women alone, but we would have liked to go that way. So we asked God to meet one pilgrim, and we met him,” the sisters explained. 

The three crossed Macedonia and Greece, arriving in Turkey on Palm Sunday. In this predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated Easter, warmly welcomed by the small French-speaking community there.

The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse together with Louis Antona received a blessing from a priest during a Mass in Turkey. They arrived in Turkey on Palm Sunday 2024. In this predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated Easter, warmly welcomed by the small French-speaking community there. Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona
The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse together with Louis Antona received a blessing from a priest during a Mass in Turkey. They arrived in Turkey on Palm Sunday 2024. In this predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated Easter, warmly welcomed by the small French-speaking community there. Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona

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“Every day of this pilgrimage was a miracle,” Antona said. “Every day we have met people who smiled or were nice to us. I have to say that in Turkey we found the most welcoming people.”

“It is not uncommon for the Turks to spontaneously lend us a hand,” Madeleine and Marie-Liesse wrote on their blog. “In Turkey, we encountered an infinite respect for passing strangers and for Christianity, even though Christians here are forced to protect themselves from regular attacks.”

The arrival of Madeleine and Marie-Liesse in Albania. In the photo, Marie-Liesse is in front of a statue of Mother Teresa, who was originally from this country. "Every evening, we knocked on people’s doors asking for shelter, a bed, and food. The Lord always provided," they told CNA. Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse
The arrival of Madeleine and Marie-Liesse in Albania. In the photo, Marie-Liesse is in front of a statue of Mother Teresa, who was originally from this country. “Every evening, we knocked on people’s doors asking for shelter, a bed, and food. The Lord always provided,” they told CNA. Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse

Upon leaving Turkey, the paths of the three pilgrims split again. The sisters’ route went through Cyprus but they could not find a way from there to Jerusalem by sea due to suspension of transportation because of the war. Providentially, they met someone in Cyprus who offered to pay for airfare, and the sisters arrived in Tel Aviv on May 6. Three days later, on the feast of the Ascension, they were in Jerusalem.

“Many times, we thought we couldn’t reach Jerusalem,” Madeleine said. “We learned that the journey is even more important than reaching the goal. Being here is a great gift, just to be here.”

“We unpacked our bags once and for all, knelt before this Holy Land, and prayed. What peace, what a moment of grace! As we admired the sunrise and the golden light that brought color to the roofs of the old city, we could reread the wonders of God and meditate on the Gospels. His infinite love overwhelmed us,” the two sisters wrote on their blog.

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