A rural holding of a little more than sixteen hectares: Two farms made up of farm buildings and arable land planted with vineyards, olive trees and fruit trees. This domain is situated in the territory of Aix-en-Provence in a northern quarter far from the city centre; the area bears the name of Banon or Laubassane. Since it is designated by the name of “Domain of the de Mazenods” in the maps of the government administration and of the department of the interior, we can reasonably conclude that these holdings stem from the fortune of the de Mazenod family, properties that Mrs. de Mazenod, upon her return to France in 1795, succeeded in recovering by taking measures which are not perfectly clear to us and due to her legal divorce. (see LEFLON, I, p. 109ff with regard to the recouping of this fortune; also, p. 245ff).
We do know that upon his return to the seminary of St. Sulpice at the end of October in 1812, Eugene de Mazenod requested that he not be immediately involved in ministry. “Nor did he intend to limit his activities to those of a Concordat parish, since they seemed too restricted and too poorly suited to a life of conquest for God.” (LEFLON, I, p. 403) He desired to dedicate a long time to reflection and prayer to evaluate the new situation in which he was going to find himself and to discern how the Lord was calling him. He spent this time of prayer with Brother Maur. To provide recollection in silence, he sometimes went to l’Enclos with his companion and to the Mazenod holdings, a fact redorded in the memoires of Mrs. Flory, daughter of the philosopher Blondel. Mrs. Flory used to attend Mass regularly in the Oblate church. She told Father Charles Sety, o.m.i.: “When she was about eight years old, she accompanied her father to visit the “de Mazenod holdings” along with Bishop Bonnefoy, the archbishop of Aix. The bishop, a former Oblate, told them that Father de Mazenod had spent some time there in prayer along with a house servant. At the time of this exchange, the country people were still talking about the recollected and poor lifestyle of the two recluses, so much so that a story evolved to the effect that the house had once been the residence of monks.” Evidently, the people involved were Father Eugene de Mazenod and Brother Maur. (Quoted by Aimé Roche, o.m.i., in Eugène de Mazenod – Biographie illustrée, no. 27)
Bishop de Mazenod, in the December 16, 1856 entry of his diary, noted the circumstance surrounding the sale of these holdings. He had words of praise for the Brothers of Notre-Dame de Bon Secours and added: “These are the brothers to whom I intend to entrust the house of refuge for convalescents which I am engaged in founding. I communicated to them my plans in this regard and they agreed to it most willingly. With this end in view, I bought the former house of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament where the brothers will have their residence and use it as their mother house. They will care for the convalescents which I will send there without curtailing their services to the unfortunate sick people for whom they are already caring. In order to buy this house which will cost one hundred thousand francs, I sold the two country holdings that I own in Aix in the Banon quarter. I thought best to launch already before my death what I would have wanted to see accomplished after my death.” (Quoted in REY. II, p. 264) It is significant that Bishop de Mazenod used a portion of his family inheritance for different works of his diocese. He did not keep everything for the Oblates. For us Oblates, it is a happy outcome that the history of the de Mazenod holdings ends in an act of great generosity.
The successive owners of this property have been quite numerous. Among them, Mr. Pierre Terrin, president of the Port of Marseille had a commemorative stone set up in the garden in memory of the time Father de Mazenod spent there in prayer.
René Motte, o.m.i.