Somain, June 2021
Dear Father Gailhac,
Your name appeared last week in an article in the Journal Midi Libre! (May 27, 2021) It does not speak of you but of the house that bears your name, a house that you founded in 1834 to take in abandoned children* It was then called the Orphanage. Today, “Maison Jean Gailhac” still welcomes about sixty children from 4 to 17 years old, divided into several living quarters. As a novice, I spent a few months there and it was there that I began to get to know you better, my “curiosity” stimulated by the permanence of this magnificent project in which I suddenly found myself immersed.
The sisters spoke to me about you (how can I forget the enthusiasm of Mother St. Maurice who, at the turn of a corridor in the Mother House, quoted over and over like a mantra, your pressing invitation “Study Jesus Christ. Be other Jesus Christs”. Of course, I had read some of your letters. At the end of the 70’s, we did not yet have the booklets “Sources of Life” to guide us and I found the reading of your writings rather arduous I must admit.
It was your life journey that grabbed me and that is still “Word” for me today: a journey marked, since childhood, by the love of God that burns in your heart, shapes it and directs it irresistibly towards the least of these, towards the people that society isolates and marginalizes. Father Gailhac, your faith is audacious, your creativity is courageous even in the worst difficulties. They touch my heart and continue to speak to me in my daily questioning: in whom do you put your trust? What do you do with your talents? Who are you “next” to?
When, at the beginning of the 1990s, the mission brought me once again close to “your” Children’s Home in Béziers, I once again felt a deep inner connection with the spirit of its project, which continues to live on in your native land (almost 190 years old today!). I participated in the Board of Directors and the commitment of the lay people who made up the Board reminded me of your friends Eugène and Appollonie Cure Pélissier**, that deeply Christian couple who shared your enthusiasm and your concerns and gave of their time and money to meet the needs of the establishment you had founded. With you Father Gailhac, I cherish the place of friendship in my own life, I have learned the missionary strength of the projects that I share with my sisters in community and with so many others. My creativity would like to be like yours, totally available to the Spirit in order to contribute to more human responses to unjust situations, such as that of the refugees hosted in our city of Somain.
The article mentioned at the beginning of my letter testifies to the fruitful longevity of “Jean Gailhac”! (this is how your house is called and known in Béziers! A shortcut of language that I interpret as an affectionate tribute to you). It filled me with joy and it is for me a clear and moving sign of the continuity of your accompaniment as a tireless Good Shepherd from “Heaven”. The “miracle” of the dented, wounded life that is rebuilt day after day thanks to this place, is “like” a living exegesis of the word of Christ taken up in part on the cross of our Institute that I put on every morning: “I have come that they may have Life, Life in abundance” (Jn 15, )
Thank you Father Gailhac,
Marie-France Correau RSHM
*A journey in faith and in time R do Carmo Sampaio Vol.1 p 35 ** supra p 40,41