Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Time in Chambery

Words will not adequately convey my emotions of the time I spent in Chambery.  As most people who know me will tell you, I am not an overly sentimental or sappy person.  However, the number of times I had tears in my eyes during this part of my trip surprised and shocked me.

Following my discussion with Sr. Marie Pierre about the difference between global and international, I had a dream.  I was awake for several hours after that dream where I was filled with the sense of how much I belong as a sister of St. Joseph, and gratitude and love for the global community of Joseph.

I toured Chambery in the rain, visited the Hall of Memories and had a tour of the places in the French Alps from which many sisters who went to the United States came.

The Hall of Memories has been developed to be a lasting historical place for the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.  As an aging province of the Chambery sisters, many are now retired from “active” ministry.  This place chronicles their founding, expansion, missionary efforts and continuation of the work world-wide.  (See pictures of the hall and one with Sr. Benedicte.)

I had the opportunity to visit a piece of the history with Sr. Marie Pierre when I went to the grave of Mother St. John Marcoux, the founder and first superior general of the Chambery sisters.  After many years of service and visionary leadership, Mother St. John went to a rural parish where she worked among the people.  I have attached a picture of her grave and the church where she was a member of the parish.

For my final day in Chambery, Srs. Benedicte and Jona took me through the many towns from which our sisters left to travel world-wide.

First we went to Moutiers.  I visited the church and the second house of the sisters in Moutiers.  There are many interesting things about the church, which I will write to you about on my way home.  What was most significant to me was to stand in the chapel where our sisters took their vows and from which they were sent to our missions.  By now, I feel very at home speaking of “our sisters.”  In a new way, I emotionally embrace our global family and feel very strongly about our history. The town has purchased our second home and it is now used for community events.  In the chapel is an exhibit that shows how the town looked in 1970.  (See picture of the church with the tour guide, Sr. Benedicte, me, Sr. Jona and the parish priest, the house with the statute of St. Joseph in the alcove and chapel).

The Sisters in Chambery are in the midst of a major change where they are moving from the building that has been their motherhouse for 55 years and from their mission at Aime.  On our trip into the mountains we stopped at Aime and had a wonderful mid-day meal with the Sisters.  They have a wonderful view of the mountains .

From there we headed up to Bourg St. Maurice.  The beauty on the way up is incredible.  When we got to the town I knew that a group of parishioners were going to meet with us for afternoon prayer.  The sisters no longer reside there but their history in the parish is a long one.  It is from this town that Mother St. John Facemaz came. 39 sisters from Moutiers, following Mother St. John Facemaz left Savoy in 1854 to strengthen the American Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.   I brought along a picture of Mother St. John and three of her family who she convinced to join her in the United States to show to the parish community (thank you Carondelet archives.)  Much to my surprise, we were met by the family decedents of Mother St. John who still reside in Bourg St. Maurice.  Srs. Jona, Bernadette and I sang a song as part of the prayer service and then we had a little gathering at the priest’s house.   The picture has the parish priest, me, the wife and her husband who is the decendent of Mother St. John. 

The ride back was beautiful (see pictures).  What a full day and a rich history.  I cannot adequately convey what this pilgrimage through this historic area meant to me.

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