Joffrin Carpentier, known as Jules, recounts his 37 years at Emmaus

Joffrin ‘Jules’ Carpentier, one of the first companions to join Emmaus in December 1952. The interview took place in 1989. Jules was invited to talk about the beginning of the Emmaus movement. He spoke about his own journey, what Emmaus meant to him and how it had changed his life.

In this recording, Jules talks about how he and other companions would go out early in the morning, before their workday started, to move vulnerable families into squats—vacant houses and apartments—to protect them from the cold.

Biography of Joffrin ‘Jules’ Carpentier


This companion, one of the first, was a very simple man. He barely knew how to read and write and spoke only elementary French. He was a giant of a man and was dependant on alcohol when he met Abbé Pierre in 1952; it was for him that the Abbé abstained from alcohol for several decades. Jules is a legendary figure within the Emmaus movement. He participated in the first travelling communities in Normandy starting in 1956. At least forty Emmaus communities and committees of friends were created in France thanks to him. Whenever he arrived in a new city, he held meetings that were acclaimed for catalysing local goodwill into action. Jules was a leader of men and one of Abbé Pierre’s most cherished companions. He was laid to rest in the Esteville cemetery. Jules Joffrin CARPENTIER (1918-1949-2002) is written on his gravestone.

‘It's a long story filled with nostalgia and camaraderie that brought me close to Abbé Pierre. In 1952, I was doing manual labour with a friend for a railway company. It was chance that led us to Neuilly-Plaisance. Word was out that they were looking for ragpickers. When I arrived, the Abbé simply said to me, ‘Good timing, I need a man in Pontault-Combault’. We went, my friend and I. In the morning, my friend changed his mind. The work was hard and we owned nothing. But meeting children in rags and their families, who lived in tents, made me decide to stay. It sort of opened my eyes to their plight. The Father was also very present. Without speaking very much, he understood, and we knew he was always nearby. Thirty-seven years later, I'm still up to the task. I take care of an Emmaus community. I'm a bohemian by nature but I got myself under control to fight against poverty. Thanks to Abbé Pierre, I feel like I’ve made something useful and extraordinary out of my life. He had to be someone special to bring together rubbish like us.’ 

Photo: Orléans-Ormes (France) - 1969

Joffrin Carpentier, known as Jules, recounts his 37 years at Emmaus