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LHermitage: an icon and a challenge



Inauguration of the new Hermitage

24/09/2010: France - Photo gallery

On 22 September 2010 the renovated house of the Hermitage was inaugurated, with the participation of Brothers, authorities, friends and supporters of the Marist work, workers and companies, welcomed by a mixed international community of Brothers and Laity.Those who arrived in time were able to enjoy a quiet morning with the architect Joan Puig-Pey accompanying them around the new buildings and pointing out many details of the work carried out and complementing his technical explanations with reflections on the person and charism of Champagnat and some delightful anecdotes.At the end of the morning, a Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated for the completion of the work. Many people took part through symbols and sharing in the prayers of the faithful. Brother Jean-Pierre Destombes, Superior of the community, outlined in his homily the significance of the celebration.The central act of the afternoon began with a welcome from Brother Jean-Pierre. He referred to the beautiful architectural setting they were gathered in, the courtyard of St Joseph, giving access to the different parts of the complex, full of light and symbols.Brother Maurice Berquet, Provincial of the Province of the Hermitage, thanked all the persons involved in the work of renovation. Among the present, he made particular mention of Brothers Seán Sammon and Luis García Sobrado, Superior General and Vicar when the project was launched, “received by the provincials with enthusiasm but also with questions”. Brother Maurice could affirm that “no one among the members of the Provincial council of the time could have suspected the breadth of support we received”.Thanks then followed to the international community which welcomes pilgrims to the Hermitage, “sign of a fraternity without frontiers”. Without them, “the walls would be nothing”. To the architect Joan Puig-Pey and his team he showed his admiration and gratitude for having known how “to emphasize the historical aspect of the building while at the same time adapting it to the needs of the modern world”. He was grateful to the volunteers who had collaborated in the running of the house and the Association of the Friends of N.D de l’Hermitage who supported the management of the surrounds. Gratitude was also extended to the provincials of Europe, the brothers and persons coming from different countries who “made manifest the family and international character of this house”. He concluded by addressing the Bishop of Saint-Etienne, Dominique Lebrun, whom he thanked for his part in the blessing of the new Hermitage, the sanctuary where reposed the remains of a saint of the diocese, drawing in pilgrimage “Brothers and laity from all corners of the world”. His concluding words were: “I am very happy to welcome all to the renovated house of Marcellin Champagnat”.M. Rochebloine, a representative of the former students of the Brothers manifested his satisfaction at being able to take part and remarked that he “remained profoundly marked by the teaching of the ‘blue brothers’, as they were known in the region”.M. Philippe Kizirian, Mayor of Saint Chamond, emphasised the importance the Hermitage occupied “in the cultural and spiritual diffusion in our city”. He congratulated the architect who “has fulfilled the expectations of the Marist community in translating its wishes through the colour, distribution and arrangement of the spaces favourable to spiritual reflection, and those dedicated to communal living and encounter, open to all who wanted to reflect personally or in a group”. He was also grateful that he had known how to “preserve the river Gier, symbol of our city”. He extended his thanks to the whole Institute because “persons all around the world know Saint-Chamond thanks to you”. And he finished by wishing that “this beautiful facility be a place of spirituality, community, concord, at the same time as a polyvalent and practical place for carrying out cultural exchanges of international importance”.Those gathered were then able to take part in a guided tour of the different parts of the house, during which the historical aspect of the places where events had occurred was highlighted.The tour over, Bishop Lebrun blessed the house. It was the moment when he observed that this international house was the sanctuary of the only canonically recognised saint in his diocese. For this reason, the house was seen in the diocese as a centre for the renewal of hearts. All the congregation walked in procession around the outside of the house to the chapel where repose the remains of Saint Marcellin Champagnat. Here was read out the message of Brother Emili Turú, Superior General.In his message for the inauguration, he emphasised that “just like the construction of the Hermitage by Father Champagnat, the renovated Hermitage we have before our eyes is an act of faith in the future… full of hope”. And he said that for the Institute, the renovated Hermitage was an icon of a Church-communion, with a Marial face, an icon of Marist apostolic spirituality and an icon of the work of renewal going on in the Institute. He concluded with the hope that “the renovated Hermitage may continue being faithful to the spirit of universalism, daring and creativity that animated Father Champagnat”.In the courtyard of St Joseph is a painting, with Arab inscription, made by the Muslim painters involved in the works of the house, manifesting the gratitude and admiration of these workers for the treatment they experienced during their period of activity. The text of an Arab proverb reads: « We cannot veil the rays of the sun nor blow out the light of truth ».Other plaques record the names of all involved in the construction, in alphabetical order, without giving special attention to the architects, engineers, or supervisors of the work. A beautiful sign of the community of work accompanied by the Marist charism which shows the Marial face of the community of brothers.Thus closes a chapter of preparation for the future. The work achieved is not a museum, although it has references to the past, but a work of the present, which brings life, open to the future with great faith and a firm hope to confront the challenges of new times. The Hermitage moves towards the future with the security that Mary continues to do everything for us.

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