Visitation Monastery, Carmel and Espace Bernadette-Subiras: Take a Spiritual Break at Nevers

“Take a time of rest, reflection and prayer with St. Bernadette”, “A few days of silence and prayer to ‘take stock’ or ‘take stock’, to better cope with the ‘difficult daily life’ of the world” , Monastery of the Visitation: It takes place in Nevers. Without going as far as total isolation in a convent or monastery, a spiritual break is a peaceful and inexpensive vacation formula, so long as you’re not looking for four-star comfort.

Converted newborn room

In the heart of the city, the large St. Bernadette Sanctuary, motherhouse of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, transformed the rooms of many novices trained in religious life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Among them, on July 7, 1866, came a certain Bernadette Soubiras.

He remained there for 13 years until his death. For his exhumation, his body was almost miraculously exhumed in 1909, then again in 1919 and 1925, in an exceptional state of preservation. It was then displayed in a glass and bronze shrine in the Saint-Gildard Chapel, still visible to visitors and pilgrims today.

“Few people know it,” said Grégoire Boucher, head of communications and commercial development at Espace Bernadette, the association that manages the premises. A communication campaign and a strong presence at the fair are trying harder than ever to encourage the millions of visitors who are drawn to Lourdes from where Bernadette is said to have seen the Virgin. The main ad banner sums up the state of mind: “Come and see Bernadette Soubiras in Nevers.”

Espace Bernadette, in Nevers, will diversify its activities to cope with the lack of visitors

Because if the Saint-Bernadette sanctuary attracted a million visitors in 2008, the 150th anniversary of the Lourdes Apparition, attendance has dropped since another appearance of Covid: 50,000 visitors only in 2021, and “without a doubt 020 020” ” estimates Grégoire Boucher.

This significant drop in attendance due to the health crisis has led to financial hardship, which has impacted the workforce. A total of 16 employees were to leave the site in 2021, out of 34 who worked there. Eight have been made redundant, some retirees have not been transferred.

“We are working to bring people back, but we are still in an atmosphere of containment. Many retirees don’t take up group travel again,” observes Grégoire Boucher. The objective, to “balance the cost of Espace Bernadette”, is to increase 300,000 visitors per year. The centenary of Bernadette’s beatification in 2025 may contribute to this.

A search for a cure

The audience has evolved. “There may be fewer pilgrims, but more spiritual tourists. They do not go to retreats, but to places where there is money. This search for a cure was intensified by illness and lack of human connection. And in a turbulent world, they find peace and serenity here,” observed Espace Bernadette director Christophe Goubier last year.

For the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela who travel from Vejle to Yone, the Sanctuary of St. Bernadette has 200 beds. They should also fulfill the Feast of the Assumption scheduled for August 15 with the Social Prayer Network Hozanna. Rooms with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 beds, with or without bathroom, start from €43.25 (breakfast included), with a special rate for pilgrims. A real restaurant is also open to all, for lunch and dinner.

It is completely open, and it is the profession of the Sisters of Charity to welcome everyone.

“It is the vocation of the Sisters of Charity to be completely open, and everyone is welcome,” emphasizes Grégoire Boucher. Between work rooms and auditoriums, Espace Bernadette also hosts business seminars. Not only political parties are welcome.Espace Bernadette has 90 rooms and 200 beds, as well as three dining rooms, with seating for 200 people.

At the Monastery of the Visitation, surrounded by greenery and close to the Loire, the doors of the sisters are also easily open to the outside world, for a spiritual break of no more than 8 days. Here, daily life is shared in its simplicity, especially in the refectory where retreatants feel comfortable serving themselves according to their needs.

The room is reserved for them and they must respect the silence; “If they want, they can visit a monk”.

Finally, at the Carmel of the Nevers, where eight monks live in retirement, the reception is also “wide open to those who seek a place of retreat, for a few days away from the noise and stress of their working day… to catch their breath, to reflect, to pray, to find true silence. To taste “…

Alain Gavriloff

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