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Swapping faith with France

Seton School in Manassas has become the fifth school in Virginia to partner with Inspired Gateways, a French Catholic organization that connects French and American teens and families through homestays to build friendships and share the Catholic faith. Four French teens will attend Seton from March to April while living with Seton families this spring.

In the past two years, dozens of Catholic families in Virginia have hosted French Catholic youths for three to four weeks through the program. Some have hosted during the school year with the French teen attending high school along with their own; others have hosted for a few weeks during the summer months. Both programs provide a unique opportunity to build lifelong faith-based friendships and share culture and values.

Jim and Ellen Kelly, parishioners of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, hosted a French teenager last summer — a providential connection since Jim and their eldest son, Joseph, had plans to travel to France that June to participate in the Chartres pilgrimage. Through Inspired Gateways, they were connected to a Catholic family in France that picked them up from the airport, hosted them overnight, and joined them and fed them along the way of the pilgrimage. In July, the French family’s son Hyacinthe attended the Christendom College summer program in Front Royal and then joined the Kelly family for two weeks. “Our experience with Hyacinthe was an absolute 10,” Ellen said. “He was such a delightful young man and a considerate guest. He joined in all our activities with enthusiasm and basically filled our home with fun. All of the kids enjoyed him, and his faith was a great example to them. Our boys formed friendships and I know that if they get back to Europe, they will definitely try to see him. Our younger son can’t wait to go on the Chartes pilgrimage and reconnect.”

Seton alumna Mary Brand has been a representative for Inspired Gateways for the past year. Brand says that she finds the mission of building a “civilization of love” through connecting French and American families very inspiring. She is proud of her alma mater for partnering with the program.

“I see this unique opportunity of bolstering the faith of teens through sharing values and culture as a part of the New Evangelization, with wonderful benefits for both the host families and their guests,” said Brand, who has hosted several teens through the program, including a boy who attended St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Fredericksburg. “I am so happy that these French students will have the opportunity to be part of the faith-filled Seton community which made such an impact on my life.”

Inspired Gateways currently has school partnerships in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Virginia. 

The program was founded in 2015 by Thierry Sanson, a French Catholic businessman who, after traveling throughout the U.S., recognized the plight of Catholic families fighting similar cultural battles in the U.S. and France. In response, Sanson sought to build a bridge of communication, encouragement and friendship between these members of the Body of Christ. “We seek to prepare the next generation by building a Catholic network of future leaders, and by building the Civilization of Love so dear to Pope St. John Paul II. It’s a very exciting challenge” said Sanson.

For American Catholic families and high schools, Inspired Gateways has provided the opportunity to share their unique Catholic culture and make a connection.

“I’m excited to share my culture and faith with a fellow teenage girl from France,” said Seton student Addie-Quinn Kammerdeiner. “I cannot wait to have her experience both my school and my country, in which I take so much pride. And I’m looking forward to making a new friend that I can keep in touch with (and maybe visit) for years to come.”

Find out more

Go to www.inspiredgateways.us.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020