In Saint Etienne, the jubilee of a diocese "on a human scale"

It’s a small change that has “Upset” her faith. In the peaceful parish of Saint Timothée en Forez (Loire), Josette Ville has been involved in the Church for nearly half a century: she was successively relay catechist, diocesan funeral director, active member of Catholic Action. And she only knows one reason for that: “A few years after the creation of the diocese of Saint-Étienne, I followed the training of pastoral actors (FAP), imagined and delivered for the first time in our territory when everything had always been decided from Lyon, she remembers. It may seem insignificant, but it was only then that I realized that I could become an actress with a living faith. “

READ. The diocese of Saint-Étienne relies on dialogue

The former diocese, uniting the Rhône and the Loire, was “So big and so distant” that the young Stéphanoise had gradually moved away from it in the 1960s. Today, at 73, she still remembers the joy of the faithful on May 10, 1971: that day, her department – with the exception of the district of Roanne – officially takes its independence after centuries of negotiation with Lyon and the Holy See. A “Pivotal moment” for the mission of the local Church and in particular that of the laity, while the practice begins to experience a certain disaffection and some priests abandon the priesthood, following the events of May 68.

A local church

Yet it was at this time that Jean-Jacques Thivillier, originally from Saint-Galmier, was ordained. On June 24, 1971, the 25-year-old young man became the first priest incardinated in this new diocese, where he was immediately struck by the close ties that unite the actors of his 27 parishes.

Under the charge of an auxiliary bishop “in residence” in the city since 1916, the diocese does not have to build an administration ex nihilo but it must still forge an identity. : “It is definitely that of a Church on a human scale”, estimates the 75-year-old priest today. During meetings where he is invited all over France, he is regularly called: “It’s quite surprising: when we talk to several people from the Saint-Étienne region, we immediately understand that you are from the same diocese. ! ».

In this small territory with a tradition as industrial as it is rural – and football! – Father Thivillier can easily forge strong relationships, both by creating teams with his peers and by closely accompanying the inhabitants of the communes in the event of a crisis, whether it be a long period of drought or a business liquidation. For several months, the priest has been put to rest in his family home in Saint-Galmier, due to illness: “But every day I receive phone calls and letters from children from each of the parishes that I have. tableware », he rejoices.

A tradition of “great gathering”

The diocese is still young but already marked by personalities, such as the charismatic Father Émile Granger or Mgr Pierre Joatton, who gave impetus to the creation of the new parishes. “We have only known four bishops (1) but they have always known how to put the right resources in the right place and at the right time”, considers Bernard Malcurat, deacon attached to the parish of Saint-Benoît – Saint-Étienne.

Baptized, married then ordained in Saint-Charles-Borromée Cathedral, in the heart of downtown Saint-Étienne, he observed the Ligériens “Develop a tradition of large gatherings”, of which lay people and consecrated people keep vivid memories. The next one, on the occasion of the Jubilee they have been preparing for three years, will finally take place in a reduced gauge this Sunday, May 23. “The opportunity to celebrate the chance to be able to bring our contribution to the building”, he believes, and not the memory of a « rupture » with the capital of the Gauls.

“Because in the Church, the borders are never completely hermetic, likes to remember Father Thivillier, who maintained strong ties with his priest friends at the seminary of Lyon as well as places of healing in the Rhône.

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“The exchanges are direct, peaceful and open”

Bishop Sylvain Bataille, bishop of Saint-Étienne

“The diocese of Saint-Étienne bears both the marks of an anchored Christianity, by its proximity to the city of Lyon and the department of Haute-Loire, and of a strong working tradition inherited from the XIXe century. When I arrived, I was therefore struck by the simplicity of human relations: the exchanges are direct, peaceful and open. This allows a real concern for solidarity and fraternity among the laity, whose strength of commitment and autonomy prove, even today, that the independence of the diocese was obvious. “

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