Our life in Beauvais today

1. Novitiate

It is now nearly five years since we began as a community in Beauvais. This town where we live is in Picardy, in France, 80 kilometres to the north of Paris. Our mission is to be a formation community for the novices but also to be involved in the life of the town and of the parish. 
Before telling you about what has to do more specifically with the life of the novitiate, here are a few lines to introduce ourselves. This year, 2012-2013, the community comprises four professed sisters: Nathalie, the novice mistress, Rose Marie, Jacqueline and Ghislaine (French), four first-year novices: Florentine, Marie Brigitte (Malagasy), Cam Nhung and Minh (Vietnamese) and Tuyén, a second-year novice (Vietnamese).
Each year young women arrive; others leave, either to continue their journey as young professed sisters or because they have decided to leave the Congregation. For us, this renewal is always a mystery that we have to accept continually, an adventure to be lived out in trust and joy. 
"The time of formation in the novitiate is fundamental, it concerns our spiritual life and our apostolic religious life. It is the time to become acquainted with the Congregation and its international dimension. So here, we are already experiencing the dimension of internationality." 
"The breath of God impels us to live out life as sisters, a sign of our desire for encounter with the other, for sharing and exchange." "I feel this desire to live in community. Discovering the other as a gift is something that makes one grow, it impels me to surpass myself." 
 Celebration on the evening of the 31 December 2012. 
Left to right and from above down : Minh, Rose Marie, Tuyén, Jacqueline, Brigitte, Nathalie, Cam Nhung, Florentine, Ghislaine.
Our life together, the initial formation setting for the initiation of the novices to the religious life, is also a time of ongoing formation for all of us. As the Rule of Life says: "… it is in the concrete circumstances of our own lives that we too allow Jesus Christ to mould and fashion us…(no. 69) Together we learn how to live the mystery of salvation (70)… our life together becomes a mutual accompaniment, and a continual apprenticeship.(73)" We gradually become LSA. 

2. Inter-novitiate organisation 

Formation takes place mainly: 
  • in the community, at Beauvais, 
  • in the inter-novitiate meetings that take place the first week-end of each month,
  • and in the inter-Assumption meetings, about three times a month.
  • The second-year novices also have apostolic experiences. 
In Beauvais there is: 
  • a revision of the classes after each inter-novitiate meeting, 
  • regular personal accompaniment by Nathalie. This is an important element in formation and in discernment;
  • an introduction to the life and the works of our founders. 
There are other complementary classes: Church history, Bible, singing, French depending on the time available. 
To that can be added, as the days go by, all the arts of daily life: cooking, sewing, embroidery and other skills as requested. 
The second-year novices have apostolic experiences: "Social groceries", Caritas, children’s club, the "Arche" group etc. Two had an apostolic experience in another country: Congo - Kinshasa and Madagascar.
The professed sisters also have commitments: 
Jacqueline collaborates with the "Boutique Solidarité d’Emmaüs" (Emmaus Solidarity Shop). "My commitment leads me to encounter those who come to find a little bit of human warmth, or just warmth, because they have no home: it is a continuous dance of Frenchmen or foreigners who arrive in the town, get their official address there and then disappear, sooner or later. All of them have in their heart the desire to live better; they content themselves with moving ahead laboriously, one day at a time, without any horizon in view. What can we do? Nothing other than welcome them with the respect and love due to the poorest." 
At the catechumenate, in which Rose Marie, Jacqueline and Ghislaine are involved, we meet adults, usually quite young, who have the desire to understand or to grasp "something" or "Somebody" that transcends them. Quite often they express an intuition, a burst of Light that appears like a flash of lightning and dazzles us by its appropriateness and its depth. The Spirit is there. It’s obvious! 
Ghislaine is involved in the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers to work on French with some of them; it is indispensable for these people who arrive. "With these people who do not have a word of French, I share the experience of being completely helpless before another. How to go about things? Together we look for ways to get a message across in both directions: a smile, laughter and even shouts of laughter at the mimes that don’t always have the hoped-for result, transporting what is necessary to furnish a room, and, of course, the inevitable cup of coffee. With regard to progress in learning French – better not to dwell too long on that, but what is really sure is that, together, we all grow, through one another. 

3. Vocation 

"I had the desire to be religious very early, from the time I was a child. I was very fortunate to have my parents’ agreement and the mutual support that I can feel very much every day. 
In spite of the difficulties and the trials, the religious life pleases me very much and I do not regret having left my family, my friends and my country to come to continue my formation in France. I am very pleased to be here to discover the Congregation of the LSA, their charism and to make my choice. I am very happy to hear about our founders. I have a great love for their actions and their words. What pleases me most is the apostolic year with the experience at the Social Groceries and in Madagascar." 
Different stages mark the time of formation: 
After the aspirant stage and two years as a postulant in Madagascar, "I spent four months in Antony to get to know France, to settle in and continue studying French. At the same time, I discovered a way of understanding the charism and of living out the mission. After that, I arrived in the novitiate."
"When I was at the postulate, in Vaulx-en-Velin, I wondered what it was like in the novitiate. The first of October, feast of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, was the date when our group began the first year. We are now at the beginning of March and I have the impression that we have just begun – and yet five months have already gone by." 
From left to right: Brigitte, Minh, Florentine, Cam Nhung


4. Inter-novitiate 

As we said above, on the first weekend of the month there is an inter-novitiate meeting in the Paris suburbs. "The group brings together 52 novices of 27 nationalities (Asia: Vietnam, Korea, China, Hong-Kong; Africa: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, D.R. Congo, Mali, Togo, Madagascar; America: Haiti, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile; Europe: Great Britain, France, New-Caledonia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia). 
With our different nationalities, generations (22 to 51 years) and specific histories, we choose to welcome one another so as to journey together and grow in our faith in Christ, according to the stage each one is at. 
"To prepare each of these encounters, we meet with an LSA community and discuss the subject that we are to study the following weekend. It is a special time for sharing our thoughts, ideas and experiences with these sisters and it enables us to participate better in the meeting with the novices of the other congregations." We also appreciate the fact that in this way we get to know different communities. 
All the basis subjects are studied: religious life, prayer, community life, discernment, obedience, chastity, poverty, mission, commitment and fidelity. They are approached in different ways: lectures, role play by different cultural groups, sharing in a team. Each of these encounters offers us the opportunity to discover ourselves and explore the path of our vocation more deeply. As in our respective communities, we experience the inter-cultural dimension. 
"Besides the time devoted to the lectures, the Office, the Eucharist, the meals and the singing practices, there is a time that we spend in a team from 6 p.m., what is called the ’Saturday evening outing’. This differs very much from team to team: having dinner together, getting to know a community of another Congregation, visiting Paris, staying in to look at a DVD, or a play etc. Three Saturday evenings are reserved for a prayer vigil for all of us together." 

5. Community

"Life in the novitiate is a time of apprenticeship for community life. Indeed, we seek first of all to welcome one another with our distinctive characteristics so that then we may let ourselves be transformed mutually through life together, our daily work, prayer, sharing the Word; the reviews by the professed sisters and the novices with regard to their lectures or their apostolic experiences." 
"In our community the international dimension is a fact, a gift, since we are from three different countries; the inter-cultural aspect is lived, is cultivated and is appreciated. It is a mutual enrichment through the different customs, pace of life, tastes etc., without forgetting the culinary contributions of all, each one adding her personal note, that of her region or her village." 
"For me, I feel I am very fortunate to live among other cultures. I see it as part of formation, I need others. Truly, it is the others who help us to evolve. As God wishes us to be happy, we succeed in living together, listening to one another and sharing with joy. Each one brings what she has and we grow together." 
"Our conversations are enriched by the sharing of local customs: those of the cities as well as those of the villages. To be honest, that can only be done very gradually, in a French that it is very difficult to master. In spite of everything, some get such a liking for it that they want to make a collection of the colourful expressions that they note during the conversations." 
6. Inter Assumption
At the Inter-Assumption, we are with the Augustinians of the Assumption, the Religious and the Oblates of the Assumption. We study the life of Saint Augustine and also the liturgy. These lectures are given by speakers such as Jean-François Petit (AA), Marcel Neusch (AA), Nicolas Potteau (AA), Sébastien Antoni (AA) and, from time to time, those who are responsible for formation. 
"It is an opportunity to get to know what is specific to us as a congregation. We also learn to welcome one another as the Assumption family. It is an opportunity to discover that we belong and to learn to become a member of a family that desires the coming of the Reign of God in us and around us." 

7. Going deeper

Formation is a long, long journey… 
"Above all, we are called by knowing Jesus and following him. The words of St Paul resonate in us: ’Jesus the Lord: you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.’ Col 2:7-8" 

Train – Terminus

It is impossible not to say something about our innumerable journeys to and from Paris. Jokingly, we describe ourselves as a little flock of "swallows" merrily leaving their nest. It is not yet to go to "the patients" but that will not be long in coming, God willing! "I feel in a hurry to be living the mission. My heart is full of desires for continuing the works of our founders and following Christ in a more practical way. I feel I want to tell the whole world of the joy that fills me each day."
Brigitte, Cam Nhung, Florentine, Ghislaine, Jacqueline, Minh, Nathalie, Rose Marie, Tuyén. 
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