At the Saint

For six months, Claire has tasted a new life. Arrived from Marseille with Benoît, her husband, an engineer, she savored this existence which she now leads on the heights of Grenoble, at the spiritual center Saint-Hugues, in Biviers (Isère). The hustle and bustle of the Phocaean city is over, make way for silence and greenery. She left behind a job in the social sector to live a new experience. Here she is a volunteer resident, serving the house which welcomes retreatants in all seasons.

With three other families, a bachelor, a nun of the Sacred Heart and the Jesuit Daniel Desouches, she ensures a permanent presence which facilitates the functioning of the center. Hospitality is at the heart of its mission. It is also based on the mobilization of employees and volunteers (400).

“We are at the service: we receive someone who comes for the first time, we accompany him to his room, we take his suitcase up if necessary, and sometimes we go to pick up people at the bus stop or at the station…” details Claire. She takes this responsibility to heart, especially during weekdays and weekends. Amar y Serve (“To love and serve”), when volunteers come to the center to provide cleaning, table service and dishwashing, contributing to the well-being of retreatants. She then sees to it that they lack nothing to carry out their service.

Blessing the meal is an opportunity to thank all those who watch over the place.


“Welcome everyone with kindness”

One weekend per quarter, with her husband, Claire also takes charge of the life of the center in direct contact with her guests. An animator who arrives with his team and needs a room, equipment? Claire and Benoît are solicited. “When the retreatants arrive, we offer them a presentation of the house, which is run by the Christian Life Community (CVX, made up of lay people living in Ignatian spirituality, editor’s note). We make sure everything is going well for the kitchen team; if necessary, we troubleshoot. » Meals: a key point for the success of a session in silence. And on that side, Biviers is particularly renowned, thanks to its cuisine, sometimes embellished with vegetables and aromatic herbs from the vegetable garden!

“Helping help guides me, I take pleasure in it, more than if I were doing something for myself”, Clare says. A former scout, she develops an ability to deal with the unexpected. Always ready to respond to a request, which sometimes lies in a detail: “a door that doesn’t close properly, a meal served at 7 p.m., a schedule deemed a little early. The idea is to welcome all remarks with kindness, because each person can have particular needs and little quirks. I believe that God then comes to join her in her humanity. »

Registered with the Green Church label

Like every volunteer resident family housed on site, Claire and Benoît had to choose “a service from the heart” more specific, which corresponds to their skills or interests. In permaculture training with a view to a professional retraining in market gardening, Claire therefore opted for the maintenance of the park, with the aromatic garden and the vegetable patch created two years ago. “When I work, people challenge me. » And it does not hesitate to involve those who wish, but also volunteers and employees, in workshops. Thus joining the desire of the Jesuit spiritual center, registered with the Green Church label, to promote proximity to nature.

“I led two days of training on ‘making a vegetable garden'”, she points out. And obviously, this activity is good for retreatants: “People express a lot of mental fatigue; they want to be in service, to put their hands in the ground. » Nothing like taking a pruner and a shovel to disconnect and connect with Creation. At the end of the afternoon, Claire interrupts our interview to lead a young woman to her room. “arrival a bit “speedy” after work”. “I participate in the life of the house as needed, and we integrate into the planning of activities”, she continues.

Special attention to weaknesses

On this Monday in June, after a weekend when it was sold out, Saint-Hugues regained its calm. For a short while. At 6:30 p.m., new participants arrive one after the other: a group is registered for the three-day course on the theme of presence, led by the theologian and hospital chaplain Marie-Laure Choplin; another must follow a retreat of 10 days of spiritual exercises.

“I am coming here for the first time. When I saw the proposal for the internship, I said to myself: “Let’s go””, says Anne-Sylvie, also a hospital chaplain in Switzerland. This healthcare professional hopes “(to) recharge your batteries and be able to devote yourself to interiority without having to worry about preparing meals”. To reach Biviers, she drove through the Chartreuse massif. “I enjoy drawing a line, literally and figuratively, between the professional and the spiritual. »

Florence, who had arrived a few minutes earlier, aspires to “take the height by landing here, to let the Lord do it”. “People who come here have a great desire to meet God, to live a spiritual break”, Claire confirms. “Our teams are listening”, she explains, very touched by the way in which people who are psychologically fragile or have very chaotic journeys are surrounded by employees and volunteers during the day, then by volunteer residents in the evening. Here, welcoming fragility is a constant concern.

In its peaceful and beautiful setting, the center welcomes seekers of meaning, in search of silence and spiritual experiences.


A family spirit, just like at home

“It’s a house that moves and lives. I knew when I came that I would have to be ready to let myself be “disturbed” by the unexpected. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it tingles a bit. Sometimes we would have liked to be quieter, – she admits. But we receive, oh how much! with words and smiles! » To recharge herself, she participates in morning prayers at 8:45 a.m., and has even taken on a spiritual guide – “which I had not succeeded in doing until then”.

The house of Biviers invites you to live in simplicity, in a family spirit, like at home, which appealed to Claire: “You can ask for a favor, chat at the 10:45 a.m. café. Take the time to chat with someone you’ll never see again or with a volunteer who’s been coming for 20 years. There is a very rich abundance. All of this gives Biviers a soul. It’s nothing and a lot at the same time. » This had marked them, Benoît and her, when they had come to Saint-Hugues, the first time: “We felt how much the house welcomes in humanity and simplicity, whatever the course of the people, as for Benoît, who is not Catholic”, remembers Claire, who knew the center’s Ignatian spirituality well.

“When we saw the call for applications for resident volunteers, we thought it was for us. We were welcomed and felt expected. » Now it’s their turn to offer the hosts this grace. In a humanly and spiritually inhabited place.

At the Saint-Hugues spiritual center, Claire Louazel welcomes retreatants