“The Mystery of Kermaria”

They say that good things are worth waiting for. The afternoon’s festivities at the Mother House in Kermaria on the 11th of September were a good example. Under a radiant sky, hundreds of Sisters, Associates, and friends of the Congregation gathered for a time of conviviality and discovery of a short theatrical presentation and two exhibitions. 

The show must go on

The project to produce a theatrical presentation was born in 2020 when work began on a son et lumière based on the life of Mother Marie de Saint Charles, who is held in high esteem as one of the “co-founders” of the Congregation. The Covid-19 pandemic put an end to the preparations, but the participants did not give up. As Sr Anne Thirion, the Provincial of France, told us in her introduction to the piece presented on the 11th of September:

«You did not give up, on the contrary, you knew how to raise up our spirits on several occasions and stimulate us so that nothing would be lost of what, day after day, was being built in secret in all the corners of the Motherhouse.”

Relaunched a few months ago, the plan to have 24 tableaux was no longer feasible due to lack of time for rehearsals and preparation of the sets. It was decided therefore, to perform a condensed version, a sort of trailer for what will be performed in 2023.

The discovery of an exceptional woman

This appetizer is a little gem! In just 30 minutes, the piece allowed us to encounter a “strong, determined woman“:

“a solid, determined, daring and persevering woman, animated by a spirit of faith and overflowing with charity, (who) allowed the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus to unfold, not only in space and time but also and above all in its spiritual dimension. She leaves a precious heritage to each one of us”.

Three key moments in the life of Mother Marie de Saint Charles were presented :

her arrival at Bignan to enter the novitiate

her first years as Superior General

the arrival of the statue of Saint Joseph

at the new Motherhouse, Kermaria

The actors and actresses took the audience with them to Brittany in the 19th century and enabled us to feel the intensity of the beginnings of the Congregation. We found ourselves sympathizing with this woman who:

– sought a community where she could serve among the poorest.

– asked God to give her the wisdom and strength of His Spirit when she was elected Superior General after only five years as a Sister.

– gave herself totally so that the Congregation could flourish and work for the glory of God.

It was both amusing and moving to see the sisters/actresses stay ‘in role’ all afternoon. It really felt as if we were at the Mother House in 1860!

Sharing the adventure

At the end of the show, the director asked the crowd to applaud all those who had agreed to embark on this adventure together.

Thank you to the many people – Sisters and Associates, but also lay people, friends of the Congregation, and children from Locminé and Bignan – who did not spare themselves or calculate the time needed to rehearse and perfect their roles.

– Congratulations to others for the script, the music, the beautiful scenery, and the costumes which took us back to the 19th century with such veracity.

– Applause for those who worked behind the scenes to ensure that the show attracted a large audience and that everything ran smoothly and comfortably.

The show was the result of a collaboration of many talents and skills, but we can afford to quote this little exchange of mutual praise:

Philippe: “Coordinator-in-chief, she can be described as the director of this show – Sr Marie-Andrée Servel, the Archivist of the Congregation.”

Marie-Andrée: “Thank you for all the ovations you have given to each and every one. It is my turn now, to introduce Philippe Le Pays du Teilleul, the director. He shone with his skills, his kindness, his sense of precision, and his creativity.”

A time for conviviality and discovery

But the afternoon was not limited to the theatre. In addition to the show, we were offered two refreshment areas and two beautiful exhibitions.

With such warm weather, the spectators enjoyed the drinks and cakes offered at the refreshment stands. A great opportunity for the Sisters and friends to meet and catch up with the news! At the second stand In front of the old farm, we had the pleasure of listening to the children of the bilingual school of Locminé, Notre Dame de Plasker, sing in Breton, under the baton of their teacher dressed in costume. Congratulations to the youngest who only had a few weeks in which to learn the songs.

Two very successful exhibitions

In the chapel, one could admire a collection of liturgical vestments belonging to the Congregation, with explanations of the different colours of the liturgical year, as well as the embroidery stitches used to make them.

How can one not feel a little nostalgic when admiring the beauty of these vestments and the hours of painstaking work spent in creating these works of art? Against a background of music in Breton, sung this time by an adult choir, the calm of the chapel allowed us a moment of recollection and prayer in the middle of a lively afternoon.

In the archives, the exhibition on the history of the farm of Kermaria plunged us into another atmosphere. The exhibition was well located, as the archive service now occupies the old cow shed!

The exhibition is in fact a ‘large’ version of the booklet, A Short History of the Farm in Kermaria, published in April 2022. It was evident from the crowd, and the conversations that were in full swing, that the history of this iconic place remains alive in the memories of many of those present.

For those who know the meadows, gardens, and woods that make up the charm of Kermaria today, it is hard to imagine what it was like when the 33 novices and professed sisters arrived on the “Grande lande” in 1860. They had to start clearing and planting immediately in order to provide for the material needs of the community.

The exhibition shows us how the farm developed to the point where Kermaria resembled a small self-sufficient village, with up to 300 people to feed, and where the sisters and employees, formed a family. The sisters received their ‘obedience’ to work on the farm, and one of the great pleasures of the exhibition is the evocation of some of these beloved sisters. Albéric, Faustine, Séraphine, Anatolien, Hélène, Aline from the garden – stories are still told of these hard-working women, working in the fields, with the cows, the pigsty, the henhouse, and the beehives.

When the farm ceased its activities in 1986, the buildings were converted for other projects, which continue to challenge and engage us.Dès la cessation des activités de la ferme en 1986, les bâtiments ont été aménagés pour accueillir d’autres projets, qui ne cessent de nous interpeller et nous engager.

 “The “integral ecology” to which Pope Francis calls us will inspire our projects so that

in the future “La Ferme de Kermaria” will know a new day.

Following in the steps of our predecessors

We can give thanks for this beautiful day and for all the work that went into making it such a success. We look forward to the 2023 son et lumière, but for now, ‘Thank you’ for revealing some of the mystery of Kermaria.

“a place of the Communion of Saints, (where) our lives intertwine and nourish each other: our deceased sisters and we the living, engaged in the same adventure. It is up to us to take up the challenges of the 21st century, following in the tradition of our predecessors.

“Petite Histoire de la Ferme à Kermaria ” (April 2022)

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