France: Towards a Recovery of the Abbey of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges

June 15, 2022
Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Abbey

The Trappist Abbey of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges [Our Lady of the Snows] in Ardèche announced last Christmas that it would have to end its community life by September 2022. It has only about ten monks left who will join another abbey in the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance.

“A process of discernment has been initiated with the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Boulaur with a view to a takeover of the premises” by Cistercian nuns, was announced at Easter by the Father Abbot of Notre-Dame des Neiges.

At the invitation of Msgr. Jean-Louis Balsa, Bishop of Viviers, and with the support of the Fathers General of the two Cistercian orders, the foundation project was voted on by the community of nuns on March 21.

If the General Chapters of the OSCO and the OCist approve this decision at their meeting next fall, eight nuns from Boulaur will join the Abbey of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges on December 1, 2022.

“We received 27 proposals,” the Abbot told the magazine Famille Chrétienne. “For my part, I contacted seven religious communities to propose that they take over from our community. The Boulaur sisters answered me positively.”

The contact between the monks and the nuns “went very well.” Welcoming vocations for several years, the sisters of the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Boulaur were looking for a place to expand. “The community has 31 sisters aged 25 to 94, including 9 postulants,” indicates the Abbey's website.

The sisters voted unanimously for the new foundation. After completing their vast project to renovate a Cistercian barn, they embarked on the creation of an “ecotone”: a place of exchange and encounter between the outside world and monastic life. “The two ecosystems (sic) must be preserved and keep their own characteristics,” they stated.

Founded by the Abbey of Aiguebelle in 1852, the Trappe of Notre-Dame des Neiges, about a hundred kilometers from Viviers, surrounded by mountains, counts among its known personages figures that of Charles de Foucauld.

After his dazzling conversion in 1889, he joined the abbey as a novice on January 16, 1890. He remained there for seven months before joining the Trappe of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, in Akbès, near Aleppo, in Syria, founded by Notre-Dame des Neiges in 1884. “I have kept all of Notre-Dame des Neiges in my heart,” he declared.