124 years of presence…

In the Church of Le Légué – a port town near Saint-Brieuc- on 3 June 2023, the feast of the Holy Trinity, we are invited to a Mass of thanksgiving. Today’s event: the parishioners say goodbye to the Sisters of the community of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit.  With them, the Congregation born in this neighbourhood gives thanks for its 124 years of presence, a “beautiful heritage” for our spiritual family, which invites us to say “thank you” to the Triune God, “a tender and merciful God, full of love and truth…. 1st Reading from today’s liturgy (Ex. 34)

The celebration, presided over by the parish priest, Roland Le Gal, accompanied by François-Xavier Akakpo, cooperating priest, and 3 deacons, gave the congregation -parishioners, nuns and members of the Congregation’s spiritual family- the opportunity to share in this event.  Roland, in his welcome and homily, gave us the essentials: he described the first community of Le Légué as “a ‘house of charity‘, the premise of every DHS community”.

In the history of this community, Sister Angèle Blanchard, Provincial Councillor, emphasised the way in which this community has lived its history, listening to the needs of people, changing to adapt to them, always with a concern for serving the least of these. This is how we have seen the house transformed into: a boarding house for elderly women, a surgical clinic during the war, a medical clinic with specific care for tuberculosis sufferers, a rest home for the Sisters, a home for Catholic Relief Services, the “Amarrés du Légué”, etc., while maintaining home care and a presence at the Saint-Esprit school from 1900 to 2006… All this weight of life was the subject of universal prayer, with each thanksgiving opening onto situations of today: “In wartime, the Le Légué community took in refugees. Today it is still open to young isolated migrants, helping to teach them the French language to help them integrate into our society. Bless you Lord for this openness of mind and heart to the distress of exiles. Blessed are you Lord…. We pray to you, Lord, for all those who go into exile because of war or extreme poverty, for all the unaccompanied minors who cross deserts and oceans in the hope of a better life. Lord, protect all these uprooted young people and support the generous work of the many volunteers involved in solidarity with migrants, we pray to you Lord…”.

It was also an important moment for the Sisters when, during the offertory procession, 3 symbolic objects were placed around the altar: 1) a globe, 2) a boat, a copy of the Grand Léjon *, given to the community by the mayor in 2006 on the occasion of the tercentenary of the Congregation, and 3) our Rule of Life. When the deacon invited the faithful to give each other the peace of Christ, Roland came up to each of them to share this peace with them… At the end of the celebration, the deacons presented each of them with flowers as a token of the parish’s gratitude. Before the final blessing, Sister Elisabeth Boudonnet, Provincial Councillor, confirmed each one’s new place of mission.

The sisters of the community wanted this celebration to be a moment of hope.  This hope was well presented by Roland at the end of his homily: the departure of the sisters becomes “an invitation for our Christian community of Notre Dame de la Mer, and particularly for the parishioners of the Légué district, to hear the new calls of the Spirit and the expectations of our contemporaries, so that the mission of announcing Jesus Christ may be pursued in a different way with faith, hope and charity”. During the discussions, a number of parishioners expressed their awareness of this concern.

And to close this time spent in thanksgiving, as if in a natural transition, in this same church, from the table of the Eucharist to that of conviviality, gathered for an aperitif in front of a table where parishioners had carefully arranged trays of an astonishing variety of toasts!

But Le Légué, through our founders, Marie Balavenne and Renée Burel, will remain, for all the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, the Secular Consecrated, and the Associates, whatever their nationality, a place of “spring” from which to draw inspiration. “a place to draw water to quench thirst and a place to learn about the history of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit”.

Sister Jeanne LANDURÉ, DHS. Published on 7 June 2023

* The Grand Léjon is a boat rebuilt in the style of the working luggers that sailed in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc…..