During these days I’ve been telling myself that it is easier to go somewhere than to leave a place, especially one where you’ve remained for 11 years. 11 years is an important part of one’s life. Sometime ago someone reminded me that when I came here I was the youngest member of the community; I wasn’t wearing glasses, I hardly had a white hair. Now I’m wearing glasses and the snow has whitened my hair.
When I came here, I didn’t have any idea of what was awaiting me. I knew that there was the parish with its 44 churches and that my mission was more precisely to bring to birth a centre of spirituality concerning St Peter-Julian Eymard.
I’ve lived these years intensely, I became deeply committed with all my energies. I’ve given much. I believed in the project regarding Father Eymard. At the level of the parish I always tried to make my contribution. At the beginning I dedicated myself to the chaplaincy, and afterwards the pastoral health especially became an important dimension.
But, I’ve received much, I’ve learnt much. I’ve seen what Jesus says in the Gospel being realised: “Give, and it will be given you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap,” (Lk 6:38) I’m leaving with the folds of my garment abundantly filled with everything that you have brought me in humanity, friendship and spiritual life.
During these days I hear people say to me, “You’ve done a lot, Father.” Yes, it’s true. But I must say in all sincerity that I’ve been able to do what I did because God has always put along my path persons at the right moment, and these persons whom I met agreed to accompany me, to help me with their skills.
To name names is always risky, but I can’t avoid this risk. As regards reorganising Eymard House, I found great collaboration from André Escallon and Jean Vigna. When the Expo was being planned and realised, I met Jean-Pierre and Anne-Marie Sappey. In setting up the association “The Friends of Father Eymard in Matheysine” there was the presence of Marcel Delay and Brigitte Cassard. When the time came to renew the Eymard Chapel there was the contribution of Alain Cassard and many other persons of good will. And the list could be extended to name all those who’ve collaborated in one way or another as regards everything to make Father Eymard known - I’m thinking particularly of the Expo and the Eymard House.
What I was able to do pertains to you. The path lies open for you to continue and open up to new developments. St Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollo watered, but it is God who gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who ensures the growth. ( … ) We are God’s fellow workers; and you are a field that God cultivates, a building that God is building” (1 Cor 3:6-9).
I’m leaving with the wealth brought by many persons, who today are close to God. Their memory will accompany me. Here again, I take the risk of naming them: Marcel Delay, Monique Royer, Huguette Savin, Bernard de la Fayolle, Louise Tadiello, Lino Donati, Gesèle Michon, Jacqueline Del Cros, Florent Prieur, Théodora, André and Geneviève Hostache.
There are also other persons whom I’ll take with me. They will be present in my prayer. I’m thinking especially of the sick, particularly of Ginette Moulin, Gina Verdin, Odette Procura, Jacques Hacquard, Marcel Zayer… and the friends of Sézia (Anne-Marie De Noni).
I’ve shared my path with Fathers Jean-Claude, Dominique, Armand, Vergel, Alain, Julian and Martin. Today I address a message of encouragement to the confreres who’ve agreed to commit themselves to the parish and the centre of spirituality, taking up the challenge of working here in Father Eymard’s country, working with the people who live in this region. The difficulties will not be lacking, but you’ll have also joys and surprises in abundance.
Someone wrote: “To refuse to love for fear of suffering is like refusing to live in fear of dying” (Jim Morrison). Don’t be afraid, and give everything that you can give. The hundredfold that Jesus promised in the Gospel to those who leave all for him is realised. Clearly today I’ve the impression of “losing” this hundredfold in setting out on another mission, and this “loss” isn’t without suffering. But we must move ahead, it is our life as religious.
Where I’m going I’ll not be in a parish, but in a house of spirituality in Tuscany, a region of Italy. We have a large religious foundation (comprising more than 50 single rooms), where we welcome priests, religious, parish groups, lay persons, couples and families, for spiritual retreats, days of renewal and formation. This will be another type of life, but I’ll put to good use the benefits of what I experienced here.
During these days I’ve received many expressions of gratitude from you. I thank each and every one, I thank all those who silently and discreetly have helped me and offered their service. You’ve trusted me. Thank you.
By Fr Manuel Barbiero, sss