Seine et Marne. Avon: who was Father Jacques, who inspired the film “Goodbye children”?


It is in the old courtyard of the college that he founded, that the memorial dedicated to Father Jacques was built.
It is in the old courtyard of the college that he founded, that the memorial dedicated to Father Jacques was built. (© RSM77 / YV)

With a little imagination, one can almost expect to see Father Jacques walking the corridors or the vast playground of the Carmelite convent. Where, during the ware, he hid three Jewish children and paid for his acts of Resistance with his life. This religious who inspired the film “Goodbye children” will be remembered 76 years after his death.

In Avon, the Carmelite brothers maintain his memory, and multiply actions aimed at the general public.

The site, haven of peace dedicated to spirituality, has undergone many renovations in recent years, and now has a memorial dedicated to Father Jacques, directly accessible from the courtyard: “originally, it was the courtyard of the college in which he taught,” explains Brother Olivier Rousseau. We have refurbished it to make it a pastoral project. We have been thinking about it for four years, it took two years to achieve it concretely ”.

It is in the small cemetery of the Carmelite convent that Father Jacques rests
It is in the small cemetery of the Carmelite convent that Father Jacques rests (© RSM77 / YV)

It is therefore a double permanent exhibition room that is offered to visitors, recalling its history.

A film retracing his life has even been produced: “since the inauguration in June we have welcomed a lot of schoolchildren, and the feedback is very good, says Brother Rousseau. It is a great encouragement for us ”.

Canonization in progress

Here, Father Jacques is everywhere. We can meditate on his grave which is in the Carmelite cemetery, or discover his classroom which has remained as it is, where he was giving a French course at the fateful moment when he was arrested.

The character continues to fascinate, and a canonization procedure is still in progress in Rome: “it is a complex procedure, which takes a lot of time.. But there is still a heroic figure who defended the values ​​of justice, an outstanding educator and a remarkable religious, committed to human rights ”.

With the memorial, the Carmelite convent now has a quality educational tool, highlighting not only the memory of Father Jacques, but all the activity of the structure: “ we can make a mini-pilgrimage on these steps. We are a formation committee welcoming groups, but also a place of spiritual welcome for times of retreat alone or accompanied ”. All under the benevolent gaze of this character that no one has forgotten.
Yoann VALLIER

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Information
The memorial, but also the spiritual center and the Carmelite gardens are accessible free of charge. The memorial is open Wednesday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Info on 01 60 72 28 45.

Who was Father Jacques?

Born into a poor family, Lucien Bunel very early on affirmed his desire to become a “great Monsieur le Curé” and became an educator. He joined the Discalced Carmelites in 1931, became Father Jacques de Jésus and founded in 1934 in Avon the “Petit-Collège Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus”. There he develops modern teaching methods based on the empowerment of the child. Faced with the rise of Nazism, he joined the Resistance and made the college a place of accommodation and transit for resistance fighters and Jews. In February 1943, he welcomed three Jewish children to college. But following a denunciation, the Gestapo invaded the college on January 15, 1944. The three children and Father Jacques were arrested. He has this final word: “Goodbye children, continue without me. The children died at Auschwitz and Father Jacques was deported to Germany at Mauthausen-Gusen. Exhausted, he died on June 2, 1945, buried in the convent of Avon, where he had founded his precious college.

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