The casual visitor to 36 Trion Street in Lyon is often surprised by the variety of faces. And likewiseit is also saidby the ease in the relationsthe relaxed atmospherethe familiar nicknamesthe jokesthe sharing of tasksbeginning with that of the kitchen.… The Oblates at the scholasticate in Lyon live this reality without paying it too much attention. And sofrom one year to the nextTrion remains a place that allows people of many countries and many cultures to meet and inter-relate.
Winericehot peppers and curry
“It's truewrites Fr. Michel COURVOISIERthe Superiorall of us do not appreciate the same cheeses (RoquefortMunsteror “Vache qui rit”). Doubtlessrice must be more frequent on the menu than at other French tables. There are as many tastes in wines as there are for the different sorts of hot peppers or curry. We often run the risk of forgetting that French is not the mother tongue of all. When a fax arrivesit is sometimes necessary to guess if the writing is Lao or Tamil (the addressee is obviously not the same). And what about understanding who is being called to the telephone.…” The Inter-provincial Scholasticate at Lyon-Trion – for that is its name in the Oblate Personnel – is very multiethnic and international and of course inter-provincial.
Continuing a tradition
The French scholasticate was reborn after several “lean years” at Chavril in 1988and moved to Trion street in Lyon the following year. It was an inter-provincial undertaking of four Provinces: France-MidiFrance-NorthFrance-East and Belgium-South. Laterthe three Provinces of France united and Belgium-South continued to share the responsibility.
This was nothing new for France because the scholasticates of the former French Provinces at LumièresLa Brosse and Solignac had also welcomed scholastics from elsewhere: from South Africa and PolandLaos and ThailandCameroonChad and even Holland. Oblates who can remember know that Liège (Belgium) was an international scholasticateand even Montolivet in the Founder’s day. In 1849the young scholastic Louis Soullierthe future superior generalwriting to his familyspoke about “forty brothers collected by the hand of God from almost all the countries of Europe and gathered in an Ark of the Covenant to navigate with harmony and charity towards the same purpose.”
A mirror of society and of the mission
Already towards the end of the 70syoung Asians with a more or less direct link to Laoswhere French Oblates had been missionariesasked to join the Oblates of France. A few at firstthen more numerous. A look in the personnel book of the French Province at the names of those under 55 years old gives an idea…. Trion has welcomed young Oblates from eleven countries: BurkinaCongo-Brazzaville and Senegal in Africa; VietnamLaos and Sri Lanka in Asia; Haiti in the Americas; PortugalBelgiumNorway and France in Europe.… And the door remains opened.
They represent the diversity of the population in France at the beginning of this millenniumas a look at the faces one sees in StrasbourgLilleMarseillesParis will reveal. “Fortunatelysays Fr. Courvoisierthis diversity is found within the Church of France and among the Oblates.” He insists that “the Oblates in France are not ready to welcome non-French young people who would make the request from their country of origin.” There are such requestsbut all the young men from the countries mentioned above have lived for some time in France before entering. Some were refugeesstudents or migrant workers. It is while residing in France that they came in contact with the Oblates.
One Asian was sent by the Oblates in Scandinavia. The Haitian scholastics did their regency in French Guiananow a joint endeavor of the French and Haitian Provinces. They have come to Lyon to continue their formation as a sign of the cooperation between the two Provinces.
The community today
The current year saw ten in formation in the communitypreparing for ministry either as priests or brothers. The term “scholastics” includes both. Two are from the Province of Haiti and eight for the Province of France. One is a native of Laosanother a Tamil originally from Sri Lankaanother a Congolese from Congo-Brazzaville. The others are “French of France”. Two of the scholastics were on regency this yearone in French Guiana and the other in Australia.
Fr. Courvoisierhaving come to the end of his term of office as superiorwill be succeeded by Fr. Kykèo PRADAXAY on June 30th. Fr. Pradaxay is originally from Laosbut has lived in France for more than thirty years.
It should also be noted that the house on Trion street also occasionally welcomes Oblates from other parts of the world who come to Lyon for language studies. Recent years have seen Oblates from BangladeshSri LankaZambiaLesothoGermany and Italy. Other visitors have come from the PhilippinesSouth AfricaCameroonCongo-KinshasaHaitiMadagasacar….
“Ecce quam bonum….”
Sowhat is life like in a multiethnic and international community? Fr. Courvoisier invites any Oblate who wants to know to come and seeand even to spend a few days. “He will be a witness of exchanges on our various cultureson the very different ways of living family relationson the place held by eldersthe ancestorsor even the "spirits". The tone rises sometimes a littlewhen it is question of colonizationneo-colonialismreception of foreigners in Franceglobalization or the oil companies.… Unless one or the other prefers to keep silent.… This little cell of the Church is in our hands. It is always fragilebut we cherish it. Each person feels at home and finds respect for his history and for what is important in his life. The celebration of name-days and birthdaysthe common prayerthe daily Eucharistall are so many places and moments when we expressbetter than with wordsthe joy of being together and of knowing that we are called and gathered by an Otherwho faith allows us to sense is very close to us.”