February 21 – LAHILLIERE
The Province of North Western France was set up in 1950, when the Western Province was divided into two. Under the impulse of its dynamic Provincial Br. Guillaume (Pierre Perrocheau), it set up a juniorate and a novitiate. The latter was housed in the country house of La Hilliere at Thouare, on a hillside commanding a view over the Loire valley. The novitiate closed in 1975 for lack of candidates.
The previous year work had begun lower down the hill to build an interProvincial rest home and nursing home. The three French Provincials of the time wrote: “It is becoming increasingly urgent to re-house the sick Brothers because they are not adequately housed in the nursing home at Saint-Laurent… At a time when the State is making praiseworthy efforts to improve markedly social and healthcare conditions, it is our duty to do our utmost for our elderly and sick Brothers.”
The decision to leave the Mother House at Saint-Laurent, to abandon the venerable Supiot House of the origins and all its environment, to tear oneself away from a place filled with historic and spiritual associations, was hard to take. La Hilliere was selected among other places because of the advantages it offered: it was near the large town of Nantes which provided healthcare services; it was a quiet place in a lovely open setting. The rest home, as well as the nursing home, consists of 25 single bedrooms on either side of a long corridor; the two corridors join in front of the chapel. The homes have been full most of the time since 21 February 1976, when the elderly and sick Brothers- moved from -Saint-Laurent – to-la–Hilliere. -The staff consists· of Brothers, women religious (Daughters of Wisdom), a chaplain (a Montfort Father) and laywomen. Their earnings vary: the Brothers are voluntary workers, the Sisters’ expenses are covered, and the laywomen receive wages.
Right from the start, two customs were set in place, One consists in filling in for the nursing staff- apart from the nurses – during the school holidays: some Brothers do voluntary work for the sick for one or two weeks or even longer. The other custom is that groups of visiting Brothers, e.g. pilgrims from Asia or Africa, visit the sick Brothers, pray with them and spend some time in this eminently spiritual environment a visit which moves them and teaches them how to live a holy life from day to day.
The successive Superiors of the house were: Br. Francis Gombert (1976-1979), Br. Pierre Guillet (1979-1992), Br. Andre Terrien (1992-1999), Br. Jean Foucher.
What was once a novitiate and is now called Higher Hilliere, now houses two communities. The members of one community look after the sick as care assistants.. Together with some laywomen, the other community runs a retreat house which accommodates people during spiritual retreats (priests, women religious, lay people, children) and courses of all sorts.