surprise and joy when Mgr François Garnier announced the pontifical approval of the Society of the Evangelical Life of the Heart of Jesus! The sisters and brothers of GEM in Lyon had delegated me to this Assembly. In 1965 I had joined the family as a priest of the Heart of Jesus, faithful to my spiritual father Henri Rivière. There were many of us in the Yonne. There were two groups of diocesan priests. I followed the daily and monthly examinations: “All my life in the service of God and mankind”.
On 26 August 1968, at Cormery, with the Oblates of the Heart of Jesus, I made my first consecration. Then, throughout my life, I tried to be faithful to the monthly meetings and retreats of the Institute. During the time of Father Jean Canivez, to follow the biblical studies, I stayed once a week at 202 avenue du Maine, the seat of the Institute. The spirit of the house impressed me. I received the Rule of Life of the GEM, which Jean had prepared and proposed at that time.
Faithful despite the distance
Fidei Donum in New Caledonia, I was removed from the Institute. There was only one priest of the Heart of Jesus in Tahiti. We met twice. In February 1973, when I returned to metropolitan France during my holidays in Nouméa, I took part in a meeting of the Institute in Auxerre at which François Morlot and two women were present: Marie-Thérèse Paillard (who had worked a lot with Jean Rivain) and Bernadette Poirot. There I discovered that it was no longer only priests but lay people who took part in our meetings. I admit that I was perplexed when I said: “They changed my tune”. Pierre Dory, who took part in the Assembly of St Thomas and Henri Rivière explained the evolution to me.
Back to France
I returned to the Pacific a little disoriented. So, back in metropolitan France, as a priest working in the construction company for Algerian workers and at the same time as parish priest of the ZUP of Sens, I entered the stream of evangelical and missionary groups. However, we had specific meetings for priests at work. Being a Fidei Donum and an active priest corresponded for me to the spirit of Father de Clorivière.
Living in 202
From 1979 to 1989, I lived in 202. Without being a member, I listened to the reflections of the General Secretaries, of Bishops Jean Vilnet and Jacques Delaporte, of the Councils of the Institute and of the international visitors. I worked on the modification of the Cor Unum revision. My ambition was to go back to the sources, especially since I worked daily with François Morlot, who wrote about Father de Clorivière and Daniel Fontaine. I was imbued with the orientations and also with the indecisions linked to the uncertainties of the Roman congregations who were not very fond of François Morlot, whose projects, those of the current SVECJ, did not correspond to their canons. I witnessed this personally.
Enlarging the meeting space
In Yonne, I invited the laity. For the couples, formation and commitments were a problem. We had welcomed “guests” into our group, but there was no commitment. The group welcomed divorced and unmarried people. Finally, the reorganisation into three institutes and a society clarified the situation by allowing each to respond better to his vocation. The priests had to choose between the PCJ and the SVECJ. In the Yonne, the priests opted for the SVECJ except for one. Personally, my JCP vows were transformed into a perpetual commitment in the SVECJ at St Paul Trois Châteaux, on 4 June 2001, a Pentecost Monday, by the hand of Claire Kechich in the presence of Robert Mendiburu.
To the question “Why did I choose to be faithful to the SVECJ? I find the answer in the prayer I said that day:
Lord Jesus, give me the joy of knowing you and our Father, of believing in your Love and of living by your Spirit of Truth and Love to enter day by day, right now, into eternal life.
Since my childhood, I have been marked by spiritualities centred on your Heart. That is why, after my ordination in Sens in 1964, in order to be faithful to his grace, to follow him as closely as possible, I committed myself year after year to the evangelical family founded by Father de Clorivière: the Priests of the Heart of Jesus and then the Gospel and Mission Groups.
Today, definitively, I want to renew my vows in the Society of the Evangelical Life of the Heart of Jesus with the Lyon Group after having followed the Sens Auxerre Group for 35 years.
Choosing to follow Christ
Lord Jesus, whose pierced Heart expressed your love for humanity on the Cross, with your grace I repeat today my firm will to follow you as closely as possible in this love to which you want to make us communion in life and in the Eucharist. Without you I can promise nothing, but I can do everything in you who strengthen me. I want to live according to the Gospel of the Beatitudes:
– in poverty so that you may be my only richness,
– in chastity so that you may be my only love,
– in obedience because the will of the Father is my only plan.
Request for grace
Grant me to remain steadfast in prayer and to carry out with generosity the missions that have been or will be entrusted to me in your Church.
Deliver me from fear. Give me humble and peaceful security. I count on the help of my sisters and brothers in the Gospel and Mission Groups.
With Mary, my mother, you alone are faithful to your Word, to the Covenant, give me to keep my promises until death, until that great Love that awaits us. Keep me in your heart. Amen from
In the Cor Unum family
For 20 years: in Lyon, in Vézelay, in Sens, I have done my best to participate in our local and regional meetings. I have had the grace of being able to admire the life of the members of the Institute on Reunion Island, in Algeria and in Vietnam. I led some retreats in the spirit of the SVECJ following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Épernon, Mont-des-Cats, Jouarre. In Yonne, I tried to pass on the call. The priests of the new generations prefer to meet among themselves. The PCJ Institute would suit them better. One of them was the host for three years. When he left the diocese, he made a point of writing that he had enjoyed our meetings.
Our monthly meetings bring together the ISF and the SVECJ. We are over 80 years old and at the moment the meetings have become impossible: three of us are in old people’s homes and only three of us – including the one who is a member of the ISF – can still travel, but with difficulty… hope,” says God, “is what amazes me.