Mother Françoise de la Vierge: a great contemplative nun leaves Nazareth
NAZARETH – Mother Françoise de la Vierge, Clarisse Sister in Nazareth during 37 years, Abbess during 16 years, left the country on the 12th February, and joined back the Monastery in Nancy. The local Christian Community is deeply indebted for her.
A simple but intensive curriculum
Françoise Chauris, born in Paris in 1941 to a Breton family, studied nursing, and worked during ten years as head nurse in Nantes, spending two years of volunteer work at Burkina Faso. In September 1978, during a pilgrimage, she is seduced by the Holy Land, more precisely by Nazareth, hears the call of the Lord and knocks the door of the Monastery of the Clarisse Sisters. “Mother, she said to the Abbess, I feel the call of the Lord, but I feel within me a strong resistance. I am unable to decide”. Mother Abbess answered: “What do you expect, my daughter, the apparition of Archangel Gabriel? Spend a moment of worshipping and reflection at the Grotto of the Annunciation, take a decision and – if you want – you will find the door of the Monastery well open for you”
Francoise left everything behind and joined the seminary of the Clarisse Sisters of Nazareth in November 1978. Professed in 1981, appointed already advisor in 1985, vicar in 1991, she was elected abbess on 30 June 1999. Since then and until 18 January 2015, either through regular election or through extension from Rome, she carried during almost 16 years the same heavy responsibility of an Abbess.
When Sr Francoise de la Vierge was elected Abbess in 1999 she inherited a healthy but weak monastery considering the small number of the nuns. Mother Francoise strives to call for back up across the whole world. In March 2001 Nazareth received 4 African Sisters from Abidjan who for some years supported substantially the monastery through serious adaptation and spreading of the language.
A constant source of worry: the future of the monastery and seeking of vocations
The ageing of the community went on; in 2013 the community sent forth new appeals to different monasteries, helped by an efficient working team: the Patriarch, the Patriarchal Vicar, the Superior, the federal superior, the federal delegate for the Middle East, the Franciscan friar in charge pro monialibus. The research found enthusiastic welcome in Mexico where the Monastery of Zacatecas was available to send a group of eight nuns to start anew the Clarisse community of Nazareth. A strenuous but fruitful work; the sisters arrived on 11 January and the refunctioning was accomplished on 18 January in the presence of the Patriarch.
On 12 February , leaving the Abbess and the new community free to start the new establishment, she “banished herself” – using St Paul’s terminology – discreetly but joyfully, and went forth together with the Superior and the federal delegate to the Monastery in Nancy where she intended to carry on the life of a poor Clarisse. However, she said “I shall live in Nancy in an unshakable loving, spiritual and church attachment to Nazareth”. Mother Francoise felt the need to go away, not only to give the chance for better chances of success to the new team, but also for serious longstanding health reasons.
Some encouraging flashes
Passing through the Vicariate of Nazareth prior to her departure, she accepted that we publish this short talk with Mgr Marcuzzo about certain matters which shed light on her contemplative life and her experience in Nazareth.
- What is the spiritual idea which accompanied you during your whole contemplative experience?
“Two biblical feelings have prevailed over my whole life and have inspired all my decisions: the first is St John’s verse, “stay in my love” which is also the Biblical motto of my profession which I repeat all the time.,The second which is also the basis of my attachment to Nazareth is Mary’s Fiat which I prefer translating into “Yes of Mary’. Since my adolescence I am captivated by the spirituality of Yes of Mary, symbolized by the famous “statue of Yes of Mary’ and which expresses itself in total availability, joy, relinquish to the will of God like Mary of Nazareth”
- What is the most beautiful aspect of the Clarisse Monastery of Nazareth?
“It is to be printed with the spirituality of Nazareth: the poverty or the kenosis of the Incarnation, the unity of the Holy Family, the strong faith of Mary. It is the identity card of this Monastery. That’s why I have always insisted for example on the unity of the monastery among internal and external nuns. I also saw a beautiful coincidence between the distinctive marks of Nazareth and those of St Francis and St Claire”
- Is there any future for the Monastery of Nazareth?
- “Yes, with the grace of God, I am optimistic. Because Nazareth always attracts so strongly, because the historical roots are good and deep, because the pastors of the Church and the population want it and love it. That depends on us as well. If we can be faithful to our mission, if we give testimony of joy and love, if we can manage to adapt to the manners of missionaries, according to the spirit of Incarnation, if we remain attached to Church, especially to the local one, I am glad to see that the new Mexican nuns are conscious of the necessity to fulfill these conditions”
Text : our correspondent in Nazareth Photos : S.A.K.