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Let us give glory to our God…
Attendance, emotion, fervour... at the thanksgiving mass, Saint Jacques Church in Brest, on 11 December 2021, for the community of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit in the Pontanézen district.
It is the mass of the third Sunday of Advent, the so-called "Gaudete" Sunday: the pink chasuble of the celebrant gives a note of joy and celebration to this mass, presided over by the parish priest, assisted by five priests, friends of the community. This note of joy and praise was sung in the opening hymn: "Let us give glory to God, who has done wonders" and the echo remain throughout the celebration.
The Christians of the neighbourhood came in great numbers to give thanks to the Lord for the active presence of the community. The Daughters of the Holy Spirit family was also present: Sisters from Brest and the surrounding neighbours, Associates, Secular Consecrated.
At the beginning of the celebration, sister Elisabeth Boudonnet, Provincial Councillor, recalled the history of the community, founded in 1974, at the creation of the neighbourhood, in the dynamics of the aggiornamento of the Congregation which encouraged the opening of communities in neighbourhoods, in proximity to the people. Nineteen sisters lived there; six have passed away, including Sister Marie-Françoise Le Dreff, last year. The mission entrusted to the community since its foundation: to be a simple presence of proximity, creating links, welcoming, listening and praying.
Sister Renée, one of the pioneers of the community, then spoke of her twenty years of presence in the community, particularly in the service of ACE (Catholic Action for Children), while Armandine, the last Sister living in Pontanézen, gave thanks for her life in the neighbourhood: "There are so many things to say! I will mention only one: inter-religious dialogue...".
In his homily, Father Louis Quéméneur, a long-time friend, spoke of the community as "a symbol, a warm and discreet presence, with a taste of the Gospel, in the manner of Marie Balavenne and her companions, very much in line with the first article of the Rule of Life," which he quoted in full. "A true house of charity! With its closure, a great and beautiful page is turned, a void for the neighbourhood..., to be lived not in nostalgia, but in thanksgiving.” Making the link between the event and the readings of the day (Zephaniah and Saint Paul) -the little one is called to trust and to live the joy of faith and thanksgiving- Louis invites Christians to continue in trust the humble and beautiful work of the sisters...
At the end of the celebration, the parishioners, orchestrated by Annie, expressed their thanks to the sisters with a bouquet - figuratively and literally. It was impressive to hear them refer to Marie Balavenne and the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, realities with which they are obviously familiar!
On behalf of the African community, Charles recalled the help and support received from the sisters for the integration and assimilation of the expatriates. He also mentioned the ‘’Tapaj’’ newspaper, the shared Christmas celebrations and the actions carried out together.
For Catholic Relief Services, Louis recalled the objective pursued with and by the sisters: to act to put an end to the solitudes experienced by the people of the neighbourhood - a new neighbourhood where people do not know each other and come from very diverse backgrounds - by welcoming, listening, sharing, meeting, celebrating...
Martine, formerly a collaborator of the sisters in catechesis and now an Associate of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, says that she has learned from them to bring warmth and listening in relationships, in a spirit of daring and freedom. "My commitment as an Associate of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit has transformed my life," she concludes.
Marie-Françoise expresses how much the Action Groups owes the sisters, who listen to the ACE (Catholic Childhood Action), the JOC (Young Christian Workers), the ACO (Catholic Workers' Action); sisters who are always ready to help, support, encourage and participate.
Mimie, a former pastoral animator, thanked the community; always welcoming and listening to everyone, with its doors always open, a true haven of peace and fraternity, with a special love for the most disadvantaged...
Noël, a deacon, thanks the Lord for this community, "a source of inspiration, a living witness to the Gospel"; while Yves, a priest, salutes the importance of their presence, in closeness and prayer... and recalls the community's participation in the formation of a young African sister.
The last testimony -and not the least- comes from the Mayor of the district: "Exemplary citizens; always present at our side and working with us, especially in difficult situations; living memory, a true monument of the district.”
Elisabeth Boudonnet then thanked all those who had worked for this celebration and then called Sr. Ann Almodovar to the microphone. “It is not as Superior General that I take the microphone," she said, "but as a former Sister of the community. Thank you to each and every one of you for what you have given me, what you have given to each and every sister who has lived in this neighbourhood. I would not be what I am if I had not lived in Ponta.”
Echoing the entrance hymn "Let us give glory to our God, who has done wonders", the celebration ends with Mary's song of thanksgiving: "The Lord has marvelous things for me...".
There was no refreshments out of respect for the barrier distancing. But the conversations went on, at length, in the nave of the church. There was so much joy meeting one another again, so many things to say, so many memories to share, so many thanks to express, so many projects to develop! A page is closing..., but another page is opening... The last word rests on hope!
12th December 2021 - Jeanne le Roux. Published on 14th December 2021