Dominique and Marie-Christine Ferry

married, ccn, Tigery

Testimony

God calls

"Throughout our lives, Christ calls us [...] he always calls us from grace to grace. [...] Abraham was called to leave his home, Peter his nets, Matthew his job, Elisha his farm, Nathanael his retreat; we are all called again and again, from one thing to another, ever onward..." (John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons).

It all began for us with the Sisters of Bethlehem at the Abbey of Bocquen: during a weekend spent with them, the sisters suggested that we commit ourselves more fully to our relationship with God by consecrating our lives to Christ through the hands of Mary. On 16 July 1983, through this prayer of consecration, we experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and received the Word: « Do whatever he tells you ». (Jn 2:5). It was they who sent us to Cana and from there to the Community.

During the summer, when we were both praying separately with the call of the first four disciples, we were each convinced that it was Jesus himself who was saying to us: « Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed him ». (Mt 4:19). He was inviting us to leave our professional lives and our home to proclaim the Kingdom. As this was happening during a time with the Community, it seemed to us that it was there that the Lord was calling us to work in his Vineyard. The Community confirmed this call, and we prepared to go to les Pothières the following year, to leave our professional life and gradually become responsible for formation (Cycle A and C).

During a 30-day retreat at Tigery, Dominique was in the accompaniment service and Marie-Christine at Les Pothières. Suddenly, out of the blue, the question of the permanent diaconate arose for Dominique; during a « quies », back at les Pothières, Marie-Christine told him that she had been thinking about the diaconate for him. As this question did not leave him,Dominique spoke about it to the Community leader, Father Fabre; He told him that the Archbishop of Lyon had just asked the Community to put forward candidates for the permanent diaconate and that his name was on the list of those to whom the Community Council wanted to put the question.

During the Pentecost weekend of 1987, when the Community was gathered in Tigery, Father Laurent, following an image received in the prayer group, made an appeal to all those who felt called to evangelise through Art to come forward and hand over their talents to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to guide them along this path. Thus, the Creation fraternity was born, for which Marie-Christine would become responsible. Shortly afterwards, Mgr David, Bishop of La Rochelle, proposed that the Community move to the Abbey of Sablonceaux in order to

participate, among other things, in the pastoral care of tourism. This led to all kinds of artistic and evangelising initiatives during the summers: creation of the play Jonas, « Georges ou le fils aîné », classical concerts, guided tours of the abbey, sound and light shows, the pottery workshop, shows in Montmartre and Rome for the World Youth Days in 1997 and 2000…

With Mgr. Decourtray, Lyon 1994

In February 1989, at a time when our lifetime commitment and Dominique’s ordination to the diaconate were due to take place at Easter, Cardinal Decourtray, then President of the French Episcopal Conference, asked Father Laurent Fabre if he would agree to lend Dominique to the diocese for three years to take charge of communications:

a new call to service in the Church, a widening of the space of our tent.

In 2002, after 10 years at the service of the Community in France, we shared with Father Laurent our feeling that it might be a good idea for us to consider another mission. He made us several proposals, including that of going to England to help found the new Community there. Our first reaction was not enthusiastic, but as we were going on retreat at the time, we asked the question before the Lord. Dominique discovered in prayer that his objections to the England proposal came from the spirit of the world and Marie-Christine was « visited » by the Lord in the night and woke up in the morning comforted and joyful with the word « England ». In September, we joined the Community in Langport, a small town of less than 2000 people in Sommerset.

After four years, the Community Council is calling on us to leave the countryside and set up the Community in an urban environment with a mission that would bring us into contact with young people. After scouting the main university towns in England, we wrote to ten Anglican and Catholic bishops to introduce the Community and ask them if they had a mission for us. Five of them wanted to meet us, and it was the archbishop of Southwark (in the south of London) who offered us a three-year contract as student chaplains in two universities in South London, with a small house to set up the Community in. It’s an exciting time of mission, but we have the impression that a lot of the grain falls on the path, the rock or the brambles, and very little on the good soil. What we lack is a student hostel from which to develop our pastoral work.

After these three years, we have the opportunity to change dioceses to join the diocese of Westminster (in the north of London), which has just had a change of archbishop, and to take responsibility for a hostel for 70 students entrusted to us by some sisters, as well as another chaplaincy for students from universities very close to the hostel. What a dream!

At a conference held in Montagnieu, Pierre-Yves Denis told us that he had met a very interesting man, Justin Welby, Dean of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, who has led reconciliation missions in Africa. We got in touch with him to see if he could come and share with the students at the hostel. During our meeting, he suggested that we explore the possibility of establishing an ecumenical spiritual centre in Liverpool. However, he was soon appointed Bishop of Durham and proposed that we explore the possibility of the Community taking responsibility for an Anglican parish, but before this could happen, he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

After two and a half years, a heated argument arose with the community of sisters in our home, who suddenly decided to terminate our five-year contract early and gave us six months to move out. At the same time, the sisters who owned the house in Langport told us that they were putting the house up for sale and that we would have to leave. Suddenly, we were soon without a roof over our heads in England!

During a community weekend, we prayed to the Lord to show us the way, and He invited us to trust Him, because the Community is made up of brothers and sisters and not of homes. The whole community left reassured, redoubling its efforts to find where the Lord was going to « find us a nest to shelter his brood » (Ps 83:4).

The Lord responded very quickly, since within six months we had a new house in Storington, another in Sclerder, a parish in London (Christ the King), and an invitation to move to Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was like a second foundation for the Community in England and, after eleven years, it seemed to us that other leaders were needed to ensure this new stage. This was confirmed by the reading of Deut 31, where Moses sees the promised land, but it is Joshua who takes the people there.

Fraternity in Oosterhout

We returned to France for four years at the Levallois parish, during which time Marie-Christine was able to accompany her sick and dependent parents as they returned to the Father. At the same time, the parish mission was bubbling over: Alpha, Cana welcome, Bible groups, Siloë Pro, Emmaüs, diaconal ministry… and it was bearing fruit, but it seemed to us that, internally, it was not unifying us enough. We mentioned this to Father François Michon, the new head of the Community, who suggested that we go to the Netherlands to help Sister Ruth, the head of the Community, to accompany the journey of couples wondering about community life. Dominique immediately felt the call, but Marie-Christine was waiting for a word of confirmation, because she felt old and weak. That came on the day of the Annunciation, when the angel said to Mary: « Elizabeth has also conceived a child in her old age […] for nothing is impossible for God » and « How will this be done?

[…]The Holy Spirit will come upon you and take you under his shadow » (Lk 1:35-36). In September 2017, when Marie-Christine’s father died, we left for Oosterhout Abbey. rA new country, new brothers and sisters, lots of contact with the Protestants, friends in the Lord and the growing community. After a year, Belgium and the Netherlands were called to walk together.

Visiting Paris for Christmas 2022, the children insisted that Marie-Christine see a doctor. On 30 December, we were told that Marie-Christine had to undergo open-heart surgery without delay: there was no going back to the Netherlands, we had to leave everything suddenly in the hands of the Lord and the brothers and sisters. Another word about Providence, heard in a podcast by a brother from the Emmanuel Community, accompanies us in this passage: « If things don‘t turn out as we planned, it’s because God has a better plan! »

  • D. & M-C. F.

Cet article fait partie du numéro 78 de la revue FOI

LE CHEMIN NEUF FÊTE SES 50 ANS

septembre-octobre-novembre 2023

Vie de la Communauté  

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