From “that very small beginning” just 40 years ago in July 1980, children found their place at CANA. This exceptional grace, received by the entire team, is still alive today in the hearts of those who put themselves at their service. Denis & Claudine POINAS share with us this memory which remains very present in their mind. And Christiane BRUN sings for us the chorus of the summer 1980 hit!

CANA with kids

Despite 40 years gone by, the memories of that first CANA week of service to children come back like those family stories coming back to life in a family reunion.

CANA with kids is really CANA. Very quickly in the preparation of the first week for the adults, which was to be held at the Maison des Pothières near Anse, it became obvious to us that the couples had to come with their children, big and small, in order to free the parents as much as possible from worrying about their children.

In 1980, as the Chemin Neuf Community began to settle in the Maison Forte de Montagnieu in Isère (now the Centre Siloé), about thirty children over the age of 6 came to join the small team we formed – Denise, Christiane, Pierre and Sylvie, Claudine and Denis and others… – in a large house, certainly beautiful, but somewhat rustic at the time. The youngest were installed as best as possible in the huge rooms of the time and, as a souvenir still alive in us, the few teenage boys settled in a single 4/5-place Canadian tent, planted on the terrace in front of the house.

A special grace

We chose the Book of Genesis as a thread for the week, with among others the story of the creation, hoping to present a show to the parents for the party at the end of the week. The house was then transformed into an incredible building site, like a house of artists preparing a total art festival combining music, singing, decoration and theatre. Was there more talent than usual? I’m not sure. Without a doubt, a special grace was given. The Holy Spirit overwhelmed us and joyfully impelled us to live a communal experience of creation, adults and children alike.

We had also gotten into the idea of making a huge cake for the party, without measuring very precisely that we would have to transport it over the 80 km that separate Montagnieu from the Maison des Pothières in Anse. At that time, the community had an old “Tube Citroën” van that was much less dashing than its young driver. The curves of the return trip almost got the better of our huge “Hollywood” cake, held during the whole trip by one of us in the middle of the luggage and various decorations!

Bands of children over 40 years

Like hundreds of times since then, we arrived at the Maison des Pothières in a joyful procession to meet the parents with the song “La bande des enfants de l’été” that Christiane, then a young community member, had taught the children.

The celebration was extraordinary, leaving parents astonished that in such a short time the children and young people were able to prepare such a high-quality show. A CANA miracle? Without a doubt. In any case, the Holy Spirit undoubtedly touched the hearts of children and gave birth to the children’s programme at CANA, paving the way for many other gangs of children in the hundreds of CANA weeks that followed over the past 40 years around the world.

Denis & Claudine POINAS