Bon Repos

When the two Colin brothers left Cerdon to come to Belley, the Marist sisters came also.

This group of ten sisters and five postulants arrived in Belley in the pouring rain at midday on 29th June 1825, and found a small house and barn which were sold to them by Bishop Devie. The bishop had originally wished that the Sisters take a big building with a high wall fence, but Jeanne-Marie Chavoin opposed this from the beginning.

The Bon Repos site had several advantages.

  • It was some distance from the town, and yet not too far from the shops.
  • It was near the bishop’s house but not too far from the minor seminary where the Fathers were living.
  • The station for the coaches which assured a daily service between Belley and Lyon was also quite close.

Jeanne-Marie Chavoin recalled those early days.

We were very hard up in our early days. Often we’d spend ten days with only a few pence in hand. I slept for a month in a room so cold that in the morning I was frozen and there was a hoar frost under my bed. But how happy we were! We were never more contented than when the purse was nearly empty. At that time we were light-hearted and simple as children. The greatest charity reigned among us. Never a harsh word. Such happy periods are blessings attached to the poverty of beginnings. (RMJ doc 104:1-7)

The whole Marist family took an interest in Bon Repos and Fr Colin often when there to ask for prayers.

  • The barn was changed into a chapel and used for twelve years.
  • It was here that Bishop Devie received the first vows on 6th September 1826.
  • In 1833 there was a retreat for the Third Order.
  • In 1836 Peter Chanel was farewelled from here as he left for Oceania.

The Memories of Sr Jean Baptiste tell us: “Fr Colin often came to Belley, to our convent of Bon Repos, to ask the Sisters’ prayers. “I would like a Novena.” “Father, we are making one”, came the reply. “Well, make a second, a third if necessary, until the grace is granted.” and then I have seen the sisters leave their work at once and keel down to say the Rosary to obtain the desired grace.” (RMJ doc 253:1)

The body of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin rests in the chapel, which she began but did not see completed.

In 1891 the house ceased to be the place of the General Administration of the Marist Sisters and is now a house of retreat for Sisters and elderly ladies.