An audacious adventure

Article by Sr. Magdalena Franciscus,
Province of Europe-BFMN.

In Europe, particularly in France, secularization has advanced rapidly in recent years, and the issue of sexual abuse uncovered in the CIASE report has highlighted the Catholic Church's lack of credibility and further increased people's distrust in it. Despite this, in this bleak context, the Province of Europe-BFMN has agreed to open a French-speaking novitiate at the request of leaders of French-speaking countries in Africa and the Middle East. Yes, it is audacious, but as zealous daughters of our founders, it seems, to me, we have what it takes to be audacious!

So how did we get to this point? In recent years, there has been an international novitiate in Rome, but the major challenge has been having to learn English to spend novitiate there. It also meant that not all novices were able to express themselves clearly. On the other hand, in French-speaking countries with vocations, the sisters face various difficulties: a shortage of formators, inadequate infrastructure, and too few entrants to merit opening a novitiate. When we had a novitiate in Angers a few years ago, some young African sisters did their novitiate in France and joined the Chevilly-Larue international novitiate. This was successful, and the echoes have been very positive. This is from where the idea came for a French-speaking novitiate in France.

The leaders of French-speaking units expressed their desire to the Congregational Leadership Team who asked them to form a commission to work together on the formation plan and to submit this to the formation directors. The request was then made to the Province of Europe-BFMN in December 2021, which accepted this audacious challenge – having weighed up the challenges, particularly cultural ones.

For many years, the international novitiate has been located in premises belonging to the Spiritans in Chevilly-Larue and in the founding convent of Our Lady of Charity which is also in Chevilly-Larue. Most of the convent has been sold, but the French-speaking novitiate will be based in the two remaining lodges.

Sr. Magdalena Franciscus who is responsible for implementing the French-speaking novitiate.

I am responsible for implementing the project and am working with all the French-speaking leaders, including those from Europe-BFMN and Canada - who follow developments from afar. We have drafted a partnership agreement to clarify roles, responsibilities, and decision-making.

A formator from Africa will arrive in May to immerse herself in French society and experience community life. Another sister from Mexico – who has lived in France for several years – will begin her formator training at the international novitiate, and a French sister will provide a welcoming presence in the community. If all goes to plan, seven novices will arrive in July to immerse themselves in France, in our foundations, enjoy some vacation time, and then have an inter-cultural experience. Finally, they will arrive at Chevilly-Larue for the novitiate's opening in September.

This is a wild gamble firmly rooted in the belief that the Spirit has guided us this far for something. We are confident, like Abraham, who advanced forward and hoped against all hope, that this project will see the light of day and bear fruit for the future of the Congregation and the Church of tomorrow in this changing world of today!