“A little light born in the 12th century”…
« It is the Holy Spirit who unites people together. It is he who brings union and peace to religious communities where all goods are in common, the temporal as well as the spiritual. » (p.91, book Jean Leuduger, Selected Pages from the Bouquet de la Mission: a message from yesterday… for today).
This is exactly what happened 20 years ago, on the 2nd of February 2003, between the Congregation of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, founded on 8th of December 1706 in Brittany (France), and the Hospitaller Sisters of the Holy Spirit, present in Poligny in the Jura since 1198.
On that day, the alliance of the two Congregations was celebrated in the Collégiale Church of Poligny, in the presence of some 600 people. The Bishop of Saint-Claude, Bishop Yves Patenôtre, recalled the beginnings of the Poligny Congregation, “a little light born in the 12th century”, which made its way for 8 centuries, in the Order of the Holy Spirit founded by Gui de Montpellier. One day “the little light” met other little lights from Brittany…
Let us recall some of the stages in this journey of encounter:
— Christmas 1994: Monique Millet, then Superior General in Poligny, expressed to Marie-Françoise Le Dreff – whom she had known for more than 10 years – the desire of her congregation to merge with the Daughters of the Holy Spirit. This desire was offficialised in April 1995 with Sr Anne-Marie Couloigner, with a view to a « more sustained mutual aid at the level of our very similar charisms ».
— 6 December 1998: A contract of aggregation was signed by Monique Millet for the Sisters of Poligny and by Yvette Le Grand, Superior General, and Jeanne Le Roux, Provincial, in the name of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit : a stage of rapprochement at the level of the very concrete realities of the administration of goods, but above all of the deepening in common of the charism.
« What so ever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me. I was hungry and you gave me food, … » (Matthew 25).
Over the years, these exchanges were intensified between the Sisters of the two Congregations.
— 10 July 2002: the project of fusion between the two Congregations was approved by Rome. Three Daughters of the Holy Spirit joined the Poligny community in August 2002.
— 2 February 2003: Bishop Yves Patenôtre presides over the celebration of the merger in Poligny, Françoise Ecuyer and Agnès Stéphan being the Superiors General of the two Congregations. During this Eucharistic celebration, twenty Hospitaller Sisters of the Holy Spirit made profession in the Congregation of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, received the Rule of Life and the insignia of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, thus taking their place in the long line of daughters of Marie Balavenne and Renée Burel.
— The year 2016 will see the House of Poligny change its face: being the Mother House since 1854, now it will become « Bishop’s House and Diocesan House » on 15th of May, the day of Pentecost, during a celebration in the chapel of the house. Bishop Jordy and the staff of the bishop’s house will henceforth live in proximity with the five sisters of the community who have remained on the premises, while others will gradually join the Saint-François retirement home in Lons Le Saunier.
— Then comes August 29th, 2021. On that day, in the Collégiale Church of Poligny, the sisters said a final Goodbye to the town of Poligny which had seen the work initiated by Gui de Montpellier unfold. « Thus end the pages of 800 years of history handed over to the Lord in trust and thanksgiving ».
On this day, 2nd February 2023, it is with gratitude that we too, the Spiritual Family of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, together with the Sisters and Associates who have lived this adventure closely, will give thanks, where we are, for these 20 years of our common history.
Yes, the Holy Spirit really does blow where he wants!
Photos: from archives of Poligny Sisters and Daughters of the Holy Spirit.
02 – Insignia of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit of Poligny. Drawing by Sr Raphaël Barchet, Poligny.
03 – Invitation to the celebration of the merger, Poligny, 2 February 2003.
04 – Around 1998, meeting of the Council of the Hospitallers of the Holy Spirit of Poligny with Daughters of the Holy Spirit.
05 – 6 December 1998: Celebration in Poligny: signing of the Aggregation Contract by Jeanne Le Roux, Yvette le Grand and Monique Millet.
06 – Painting-symbol of the Poligny/DHS Aggregation
07 – 2 February 2003: Agnès Stéphan and Françoise Ecuyer, Superiors General, make official the merger between the two congregations of Sisters and Daughters of the Holy Spirit.
08 – 15 May 2016: the House of the sisters of Poligny becomes a diocesan house.
09 – The new Diocesan House « Le Saint-Esprit »
10 – 29 August 2021: “Goodbye Sisters”. The community of the Holy Spirit leaves Poligny