I want to divide my writing about Annecy into three parts. The first is my experience of the town and the sisters; the second is my learnings about the history of the Annecy Congregation; the third will describe what I have learned about St. Frances DeSalles and the intersection of the Visitation Sisters with the Annecy sisters. I will post the first part now and the other parts when I have a little more time to tell the story.
After the Global Coordinating Group meeting, the Sisters at Annecy welcomed me to their Generalate and Motherhouse. It is a beautiful place right on Lake Annecy.
I stayed in an apartment at the top of the hill. I now have an experience of what it means to throw open the shutters. In many homes in France the windows have shutters on them and a window but no screens. So in the morning you open the window and then the shutters to let the light in. This was a new experience for me that I had only heard of in fairy tales I read as a child.
Meals in Europe are very different also. It seems like the heartier meals are breakfast and lunch with a very light supper. My experience of the food served is that it is mostly healthy with an emphasis on vegetables and starches with small portions of meat. All the salad dressings and sauces are home-made, very little processed food is served. I had several apples which they described as natural, I think maybe that means they are organic but I am not sure. Anyhow, they tasted like spiced apples and they were so good. Wine is served at lunch but it doesn’t seem to affect me. I was worried would make me sleepy for the afternoon.
I had my main meal with the Generalate staff where English is the primary language. Three of them are from various parts of Great Britain and although I could understand most of what they said, it is interesting how many phrases and words are distinctly different. One sister was from Switzerland and two were from India. It was fascinating to be part of their discussions related to their missions in Africa. I learned how the most pragmatic approach to issues in Africa is to do it small and to do it locally. The complexities of negotiating the political system, importing items and sustaining big projects are monumental. If you can buy what you need locally to make something happen in the country you are serving, the likelihood of successfully getting going are much higher.
The sisters seem to navigate the cultural differences of being from 3 heritages among themselves quite well but they have been living together for 4 years and are more used to international living.
It seems that Annecy was a poor town when the first sisters came to work there. However, due to tourism for skiing and visiting the lake in the summer, it is now quite an economic engine for the area.
I had a delightful time walking around the lake and the town. I hope you enjoy my pictures. Future installments for Annecy will probably have to wait until I get to Le Puy.