Frédérique et Philippe Henry

married, ccn, Chambéry

8 juin 2024

Leaving Lyon

Heading south!

When you think of the Community in Marseille, what springs to mind is the ND du Roucas Centre and the Mazargues parish. However, before these two places were entrusted to us, a whole history was lived, a whole rooting that undoubtedly allowed these stages...

It is these small beginnings to which we wish to bear witness. We belong to the « generation of old community members » Philippe joined the Community in February 1976, following the very first  Cycle A, Frédérique in the summer of 1978. Our adventure as a couple began during the first Cycle C (1978-80). We « discovered » each other in the autumn, got engaged in the spring and married at the beginning of the summer! At the end of these two years, with a birth expected in the winter, we were ready to anchor our family in a new « land ».

During this second year, Mgr Etchegaray, then Archbishop of Marseille, asked the Community to set up a foundation in his diocese. It wasn’t Africa yet, but the gateway to Africa!

This request was relayed by Father Jean Lahondès, Episcopal Vicar for Workers’ Mission sectors. It was the pastoral sector of St Marcel, located in the eastern part of the city, and its leader, Father Jacques Boucher, who had the audacity to commit themselves to working together with our little emerging charismatic community!

For this adventure, the four of us are setting off with Denise Vincent, who is on the road to consecrated celibacy, and Emmanuel Daublain, who is in the midst of discerning his call to the priesthood.

Bernadette and Patrice Druel and their children are waiting for us in Aubagne, along with Nicole Fischer (now Nicole Fabre), a young pastor in the Reformed Church of France, in charge of the Menpenti temple in the 6th arrondissement, and Anne Savajol, a few months later.

It was our very first experience of a foundation outside the Lyon region, and we had this feeling of being far from the heart of the community, and of being sent to a « foreign land ». How could we remain a single community? Everything had to be invented!

Micocouliers Fraternity , 1990

October 1980: we moved into a small presbytery adjoining one of the churches (La Pommeraie). We have been wonderfully welcomed, particularly by several couples with a strong desire for fraternal ties. The imminent birth of our eldest has undoubtedly helped, and has earned us a great deal of thoughtfulness and very tangible solidarity.

The diocese is offering us two part-time pastoral posts to serve the sector. What an adventure for us to be immersed in a Church sensibility very different from our own! Denise has more reference points, with her years in the YCW.

We immediately set out the basic principles of our joint appeal:

-a prayer group in the small oratory of the presbytery, meeting the thirst of several parishioners and relatives.

-the work for Christian unity, made easier by Nicole’s presence. As Bishop Etchegaray humorously remarked to us: « Your only minister is a Protestant! » We soon became involved in the Weeks of Prayer for Unity, and were invited to take part in meetings of the Interdenominational Ecumenical Committee.

-From the 2nd year onwards, we offer a course for couples, based on the four-weekend Cana session, with, among other fruits, the beginning of a journey towards the community of several couples.

As our family grew, the presbytery became too small! The diocese offered us a former parish school in the 5th arrondissement, which is more centrally located. This much more spacious location allowed us to welcome two new families with their children. A small fraternity of consecrated single people was formed in the presbytery.

The fruits of this stage? The significant development of the prayer group, the integration into diocesan life strengthened by the ordination of Jacques Dubray as a permanent deacon and Serge Clémente as a deacon with a view to the priesthood, as well as offering training courses (Emmaus), Cana weekends and Ignatian retreats.

In the course of 1986, the question of a place for the sessions and retreats, which until then had been organised in guest houses, arose more and more. A providential proposal came from the Visitandine Sisters, who wished to leave their monastery of St Jérôme in the 13 th arrondissement and were looking for a community to ensure a presence before the sale.

Summer 1986: departure from the St Pierre district. Three families, including an evangelical Baptist couple, and two singles moved into this dilapidated monastery, but with a large park full of olive trees and above all offering the possibility of hosting groups, as well as our community meetings and weekends, and some memorable celebrations! The appointment of Serge Clémente as vicar to the parish of St Jérôme (later succeeded by Louis Marc Thomy in 1993) further anchored us in this new district, located in the north-east of Marseille.

The community’s determination to offer Ignatian sessions and retreats despite the precariousness of the site no doubt encouraged the Jesuits to entrust it with the ND du Roucas centre to continue the vocation of the house after their departure (transfer during the summer of 1987).

After three years at the monastery, Providence, through a substantial donation, enabled the purchase of several flats in a small condominium in the neighbourhood, Les Micocouliers. This made it possible to continue to put down roots in the area, and several families and single people moved in close to the church. This mixed community life, a fraternity of life and neighbourhood within 800m of each other, is like a testimony and bears fruit: an ecumenical prayer group, involvement in parish life, celebrations for God…

At the time, the community had two lungs: Le Roucas, a reception center in a very residential area, and the parish of St Jérôme in the 13th arrondissement (at the start of the northern neighbourhoods) in a very mixed context with housing estates.

In 1998, when Mgr Panafieu entrusted the Mazargues parish to the community and the brothers and sisters gradually left the area (except for us!), the seeds were still sown, at least in ecumenical relations. Since then, the five churches in the area (Armenian Apostolic, Evangelical, Syriac Orthodox, Evangelical Reformed and Catholic) have maintained close links and meet several times a year.

Blessed be the Lord who sees further than we do! ■ F. & P. H..

Cet article fait partie du numéro 078 de la revue FOI

CHEMIN NEUF CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY

september-october-november 2023

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