by Michelle Hubert, translated by Bill Ryan.
In November 2007, MH Belgium moved from a medieval abbey in the village of Marche-les-Dames to a smaller building in Resteigne. This excerpt from the farewell speech given by their parish gives a glimpse of their life there.
Au revoir to Gérard, Diane, Michael, Bill, Joanne, Noella, Cristina, and Adina, you who are with us today, and also to Teresa, Jeanne, Réjeanne, Kelly, and Malcolm, who were with us in the past.
In the year 2000 you came to our valley. Now, seven years later, you are leaving it.
You will soon miss our beautiful valley and the abbey buildings, so impregnated with history and holiness. In this place you have prayed, worked, warmly welcomed others, and created bonds of friendship.
You have had to struggle against the forces of nature, such as the Great Flood of 2002, which really tested you, but which, fortunately, also engendered a beautiful spirit of solidarity with us.
You facilitated catechetic retreats. Here, we think especially of Malcolm, who was a marvelous companion to the children. You took an active part in our Masses by doing the Scripture readings and singing in the choir. We will miss your charming accents, each so individual and distinct, and your beautiful singing voices—Michael’s, for example.
You have opened your doors to the poor of the area and gave them food without probing them with questions, but taking care to offer them comfort and respect their dignity.
You have taken remarkably good care of the vast grounds and safeguarded the beauty of the gardens—pruning, clipping, planting—without sparing effort.
You made yourselves available for guided tours thus permitting us to see again the cloister and other rooms that were previously inaccessible.
You have formed relationships with so many people, who were renewed in spirit by the contact—the aged of the village, the sick, and those who came to you for retreats.
You were, you are, always smiling and joyful, even though you have had your share of wounds, tiredness, and doubts. For all these things we say thank you.
We would love to keep you, but we understand that the responsibility for taking care of the abbey was too heavy for you.
We wish you well in your move to Resteigne, and hope that you will find there all you need to live out your vocation.
We will have many occasions to see you again; in fact, we will create them. And now, we parishioners of Marche-les-Dames will regroup our little band so that we can face life head-on and keep our fire burning in these troubled times. It will be hard. Your prayers will surely be needed, but we know that we will be able to count on them.
Merci. Thank you.
—The author is the president of the parish council in the village of Marche-les-Dames.
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