A community on route – Saint-Benedict’s Church celebrates 50 years

The Daughters of Jesus were invited to join in the rejoicing on the 8th of May on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of St. Benedict’s Church in Rennes, France. The Sisters who have been part of this history were happy to join the parishioners in giving thanks to God.

May the 8th, 2022, was a day of celebration in the neighbourhood of Le Blosne in Rennes – the parish of St. Elizabeth of Hungary was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the consecration of St. Benedict’s Church. In the midst of the clergy and laity present to mark the occasion, there was a group of eight Daughters of Jesus who had a second reason to recall the past. They were representing the 59 Daughters of Jesus who have been part of this Christian community since 1970. The history and evolution of the celebratory community,clothed in its wide diversity”, also recalls the history of the faithful presence of three communities of Sisters. All could give thanks for “this rich history of living fraternity built up over the years”.

Jubilee, shout for joy!

The day’s programme began with a festive Mass presided over by Mgr D’Ornellas, the Archbishop of Rennes. He knows us well and speaks of his pastoral visits to the parish as “visits of a brother among his brothers“. As he entered along with the parish priest, Father Vast-Amour Adjobi, and nine other priests who have been pastors to the community over the years, we saw smiles and joy at seeing the faces of friends with whom we have shared a common history.

The church was beautifully decorated for this special day with flowers and almost fifty flags from the countries we come from. From the outside, it is a low and sober church, overshadowed by tower blocks of low-cost housing. The parish priest describes it as“a presence of the poor among the poor”. But hidden on the inside is another aspect of the neighbourhood, its capacity to be open and welcoming. With its circular shape, the church is designed to gather its family from Le Blosne around the altar. On the day of the 50th anniversary, sobriety gave way to exuberance and applause. The musicians led us in praise and soon established an atmosphere of real joy.

Testimonies of vitality and hope

Everyone found their place in the celebration, from the smallest children to the elderly. As the celebration ran its course, it remained simple and spontaneous, but it was obvious that everything had been meticulously prepared. There is no shortage of talent on Le Blosne and this was evident in :

  • – the presence at the beginning of the Mass of representatives of the Muslim community, who had come to show their support and as a sign of a “fraternal relationship based on mutual respect“.
  • – the “Blosne Mass” composed for the occasion by Father Ndaroumba, and Father Adjobi’s song, “Taking care, one more step in Love” which spoke to us of faith in action.
  • the offertory procession (including a broom!), where we thanked the Lord for all the volunteers who “by their service contribute to fraternal communion”.
  • – the fiftieth-anniversary prayer, which we recited together, and which blessed the Lord for “yesterday, today and for the future that is opening up with a fervent and missionary generation for tomorrow“.
  • – the flame of the fiftieth anniversary passed at the end of the Mass from an 89-year-old parishioner to a 23-year-old who herself experienced the ”Awakening to the faith” as a child and who today accompanies this parish activity.
  • – the beautiful 60-page illustrated book*, designed and laid out by a parishioner who is a graphic artist. This book, full of testimonies and memories, traces the history of the parish and its insertion in the neighbourhood.

The contribution of the Daughters of Jesus

It was moving to recognise the contribution of our Sisters in all this. We really must give a place of honour to the establishment in 1970 of the Saint-Armel nursery and primary school, and of a community of Sisters on the 10th floor of one of the tower blocks in the neighbourhood.

At the time, the project aroused reservations and misunderstandings, but the Congregation was determined to :

  • – to invest in this school, which is open to all social categories, religions, and nationalities.
  • – to put down roots in a new sector, as close as possible to a working-class population with an immigrant background.

The school is no longer ours, but it continues to flourish. The spirit of welcome and respect for difference that the first Sisters instilled continues to animate it.

This desire to be “open and welcoming to the neighbourhood, to the world, to the universal” can also be found in other testimonies of the Sisters’ commitment to various activities – pastoral work, catechesis, the arts and the life of the multiple associations in what has always been affectionately called the “ZUP Sud” (the southern Urban Priority Zone). They all spoke of our choice “to move forward together with patience and humility on a path of dialogue, truth and humanity … for the proclamation of the Kingdom”.

The Sisters present at the celebration

behind : Srs Simone Roselier, Elisabeth Blanc, Rhona Burns, Madeleine Menier, Lisette Mazo

in front : Srs Yvonne Hindré, Annick Faou, Odile Le Faucheux

 

The party continued

Of course, the party continued after the Mass. An aperitif at the church entrance gave us the opportunity to greet each other and to catch up on news. We then followed the path round to the Saint-Armel school behind the church for a shared meal, followed by an afternoon of festivities.

The meal was a modern version of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes: 60 people registered for the event and 150 turned up! In any case, everyone was served by attentive volunteers, and everyone had something to eat.

The young people treated us to Karaoke and Father Adjobi revealed his talent for Breton dance.

Turning toward the future

Today the Blosne district is not the same as it was 50 years ago, nor is the parish. The current large building projects around the church are a sign of the continuous evolution of the area. The population has also changed with successive waves of immigration. But the people who live in the area need the proclamation of the Good News as much as they did 50 years ago. The terrain has changed but the Christian community, including the Sisters still present there, has the same mission of evangelisation. The Archbishop strongly encouraged Roseanne, the young woman who received the flame, to continue her journey with a view to passing it on, in 25 years’ time, to someone younger than her. With all the signs of vitality that we saw on 8 May, the Archbishop has good reason to hope.

What clearly emerges from the celebration

of the 50th anniversary of Saint Benedict’s

is a future full of hope.”

*To obtain a copy the 50th anniversary book (price 10 Euros): contact@sainte-elisabeth-rennes.fr

Sr Rhona Burns fj,

For all the Sisters

who have served on le Blosne

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