July 7 – THE CEMETERY OF THE MOTHER HOUSE
THE CEMETERY OF THE MOTHER HOUSE
Six Brothers who died on 7 July have been buried in the cemetery of the Mother House at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre and a seventh at La Hilliere which replaced it. The first Brothers who died at Saint-Laurent were buried in the cemetery of the Daughters of Wisdom: there were twenty from 1827 to 1842. Then the Brothers had their own cemetery; it was on the right side of the present 2nd porch of St Gabriel grounds and was blessed on 17 September 1843. As it had become too cramped and a place was needed to build a novitiate, search was made for another plot. After several plans it was agreed to use the lower part of the garden at the foot of the Salette hillock. In 1868 the remains of 69 Brothers of the former cemetery were deposited in an ossuary.
This second cemetery of the Brothers at Saint-Laurent, enlarged in 1895, is still there. Around it, the gardens have become playgrounds. Everything has been transformed but the sacred area of the tombs remains intact, as visible remembrance to those who built up the Institute. 721 Brothers have been interred there including 6 Superiors General and 20 Assistants and, among others, 8 chaplains, 12 workers, 2 novices and 3 juniors. There are no more burials there since 1978.
The cemetery of La Hilliere took up the relay. It is situated in a superb location overlooking the Loire valley with its marvellous panorama. Its first three tombs have been those of Rev. Br. Gabriel-Marie (t 30-01-1979), Br. Paul Bouloux (t 19-02-1979) former General Bursar, and Rev. Br. Anastase (t 12-04-1979). As on 31 December 1999, 169 Brothers have been buried there in 143 tombs (one Brother in each) plus 13 tombs (two Brothers in each). The tall statue of Christ in glory erected at the centre has inspired a Brother, who had the habit of maintaining and beautifying the tombs, to make this meditation:
“Have you fixed your gaze on the eyes of Jesus in the cemetery of La Hilliere? Have you allowed his look to penetrate you, your heart, your soul? Do you hear, like the disciples, this voice resonate in your ears, this voice of Jesus?
Do not be afraid, I am the Resurrected, I am the Son of the Father, you are his child. Do not be afraid, you are worried, I am Peace. ·
Do not be afraid, you are rancour, I am tenderness ( … ).
Do not be afraid, if your strength diminishes, if your memory is wavering, turn your gaze on me.
Do not be afraid, I am with you, I am near to you, I am there with Mary my mother, with Mary your mother.
Do not be afraid of that day when I shall tell you: Come. Our mother Mary is to welcome you. ”
Outside of Saint-Laurent, there were areas reserved for Brothers in the public cemeteries in France in the 19th century, and they played the role of community cemeteries: at Lorgues (28 tombs), at Clermont-Ferrand (17 tombs), and at Mane (13 tombs). At the end of the 20th century, the cemetery of the old age home at La Peyrouse counted 36 tombs.