Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Visit with Old Friends in Their New House

The Sisters' home last year
One of the side benefits for me as I attended the 200th Jubilee Celebration of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery in France was that I got to visit with the sisters who welcomed me so warmly last year.  Speaking hardly any French, I enjoyed their company at meals and in the evenings and was toured around important sites to their community history during the day.  For me, it has created an enduring bond.

Bois Joli
As part of the 200th year celebration, we toured the Bellecombette campus, which contains their skilled nursing facility, assisted living and the new “Bois Joli.”  Of historic interest, on the campus is their Hall of Memories (see 10/23/2012 blog) and the grave of Mary Felicite Veyrat, the superior who sent the first five sisters from Chambery to West Hartford, at the persistent requests of Jane Sedgewick.

Antiques from old convent
2nd floor garden out bedrrom window
Needlepoint done by one of the sisters
The antiques warm the hallways

The Sisters of the French Province of chambery, facing diminishing numbers, have carefully planned for their decrease.  Both the skilled nursing and the “Bois Joli” were developed jointly with the mayor, to meet anticipated needs in the community when the buildings are no longer needed by the sisters.  Bois Joli, which means Beautiful Woods, is an airy, spacious, modern facility which will easily convert to a retirement apartments or spaces for college students in the future.  It has 26 efficiency apartments.  There is lots of light, big windows and fabulous views of meadows and mountains.

Sr. Marie Pierre

Sr. Marie Pierre Rusch, who toured me through so much of Chambery and the surrounding area, now toured a group of us from the 200th celebration through the new house.  She described how the building architect’s wife who is also an architect assisted them in planning the decorations for the facility.  She toured their old house and helped them pick out antiques and paintings that could be artistically placed throughout the new building.

Sr. Marie Pierre surrounded by Indian sisters

Sr. Marie Pierre showed us her room.  It was quite touching when the Indian sisters all gathered around her to have their picture taken with their former superior general for whom they obviously had great affection.

Sr. Agnes and me

Sr. Agnes in her huge bedroom
Sr. Agnes's porch
More office space
Sleeping area
When I last visited, I had an extremely limited French vocabulary.  Only a small number of sisters spoke any English.  One who did was Sr. Agnes Moussiere.  She toured me around the house, told me about the process of moving, and  showed me her room.  She said it was the biggest space she has ever had while living in community.  She has a computer area and a work space right in her bedroom.  She showed me her video collection and described how she weekly picks out videos that she thinks will be of interest for the sisters and residents of the nursing facility.

I got a chance to catch up with Sr. Alix who was basking in her fame after being one of the sisters who appeared in the 200th celebration play, Le Voyage en Valise.  I got the opportunity to greet several of the others.  Although my French is still very limited, I was able to share a few more interchanges than the previous year.
Sr. Rita tells Sr. Alix how much she enjoyed her performance

Dining Room

On a very personal note, it makes me very happy to know that the watercolor that the US Federation gave to celebrate this important event, will be placed at Bois Joli because it was these sisters who gave me such an appreciation for their history and a manifestation of the way they live it out today.

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