For fifteen years the Oblates served at the chapel of Notre-Dame de la Croix, about twenty kilometres east of Notre-Dame de l’Osier.
This shrine is situated in an isolated spot on the mountain of Parménie (Isère) which is over 700 meters high. In the VII century there stood here a fortified castle which belonged to the archbishops of Vienne. They subsequently gave it to the bishops of Grenoble who built a chapel there. From the XIII century to XV century, it was the women Carthusians who lived there. In the XVI century, their dwelling was reduced to ashes by the soldiers who were ravaging the Dauphiné (Wars of Religion) and the chapel was half destroyed. The whole complex was restored in the XVII century and entrusted to the care of the diocesan clergy until the Revolution. Sold as state property, the buildings were bought in 1798 by Abbé Marion who accepted to swear allegiance to the civil constitution of the clergy and subsequently joined the anti-concordat party of the small Church. In 1830, Bishop Philibert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble from 1826 to 1853, acquired this piece of property. For some time, he settled diocesan priests there and then the Capuchins. In 1842, he pressed Bishop de Mazenod hard for the Oblates to take pastoral responsibility for it. Simply to be obliging, Bishop de Mazenod accepted and the Oblates of Notre-Dame de l’Osier took possession of the place on July 15, 1842.
Father Eugene Bruno Guigues, the superior of Notre-Dame de l’Osier at the time, stayed there for two weeks. And on August 1, 1842, he wrote to the Founder: “The view is delightful. Those among us who wish to make a good retreat and to be entirely apart from the world to dedicate themselves to study, will consider Parménie as one of the most delectable places in the world. The solitude is perfect there and not without its charm. The chapel gives great pleasure in such an isolated spot.” The buildings consisted of a chapel rather low in vaulting and two quarters for lodging, separated by a garden. The one building is for the priests who serve the sanctuary and the other is destined for use by the pilgrims.
Of the twenty-five foundations made in France by Bishop de Mazenod, in the correspondence and in the archives, this is the one that has left the least marks and traces. Father Théophile Ortolan (I, p. 387) wrote: “The Oblates were very numerous there because the ministry to the pilgrims was not overly engrossing. During the winter, there were some weeks, almost entire months, of inactivity. The priests replaced each other, coming from l’Osier each in his turn. One had to be very much a friend of solitude or have some long-lasting personal work to do in order avoid becoming bored. During the seasons of fine weather, the Oblates attracted a goodly enough group of pilgrims, especially on Sunday, by inviting the parishioners from the neighbouring parishes. Two great retreats preached each year during the months of May and September drew the crowds. The chaplain ministry there was, therefore, not unfruitful. In the silence of that mountain stillness, many a soul rediscovered peace of conscience and the energy they needed to carry out their duties.”
We have practically no knowledge about who staffed this chapel of ease of l’Osier. We do know that in the autumn of 1842, Father Toussaint Dassy spent a few weeks there taken up with writing his work: L’abbaye de Saint-Antoine, en Dauphiné. It was a brief historical, descriptive essay published in Grenoble in 1844. During the summer of 1843, it was Father Joseph Bise, the treasurer from Notre-Dame de l’Osier who took care of the pilgrims. He was replaced in 1844 by Father Frédéric Mouchel. On May 12, 1844, Bishop de Mazenod did, in fact, write to Father Guigues: “Since you need someone at Parménie, I am sending along [Father Mouchel] to this solitude without wanted to give it too much prominence. On the contrary, what is needed is that this devotion should die out. There are more problems than advantages in maintaining it.”
From July to October of 1846, ten young priests were gathered there under the direction of Father Ambroise Vincens to prepare themselves for the preaching ministry by study. Father Jules Piot then spent a few years there. When he was sent to Nancy in 1850, Father Dassy did not succeed in making him follow the Rule. On October 26, he wrote to the Founder: “He is a candidate who is worn out, threadbare, a mere shade of what a religious should be. He tells everyone who will listen to him that we left him for four years running at Parménie in the most independent, the freest of situations and that now he cannot follow the Rule. And since our house is one of regular life, our example, instead of edifying him, irritates him.”
In the course of the same years, two brothers took care of the farm: Gaspard Janin and Claude François Martel. They were better religious than Father Piot. In their obituaries their austerity of life, their spirit of obedience and their dedication is praised. The former was sent to Oregon in 1849 and the latter to Notre-Dame de Talence a few years later.
In the month of May of 1847, Bishop de Mazenod visited Notre-Dame de l’Osier and went to Notre-Dame de Parménie. “He was delighted with the panorama that unfolded at the feet of the visitor” wrote Father Achille Rey (II, p. 254), “but he did not think that this too profound solitude could respond to the goals of the institute. According to his way of thinking, work at this shrine had to be dropped sooner or later, at the opportune moment indicated by Providence.”
In the month of September 1851, Father Charles Bellon made a canonical visit of l’Osier and Parménie. After that Oblate sources no longer mention it. We simply read in the codex historicus of l’Osier entry of June 16, 1856: “The Oliveto Benedictines have replaced us at Parménie.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.