from our regional correspondent
Combining spiritual life and life in the countryside, this is the promise of the company Monasphere, founded in 2021 by two young Catholics, to households who want to leave the metropolises. “We offer a form of thematic habitat – like an eco-hamlet – around Christian spiritual places”, explains Damien Thomas, one of the founders, former secretary general of the Louis and Zélie Martin sanctuary in Alençon (Orne). The objective: to build real estate projects around small communities of Christian fraternity, “but open to all”, in rural areas.
If other projects are “under consideration” in France, the first Monasphere housing estate program, described as a “Christian hamlet”, is located in L’Île-Bouchard (Indre-et-Loire). Validated by the Buildings of France, it is awaiting the building permit to start work next summer, with the hope of welcoming the first owners at the end of 2023.
The choice of this town of 1,500 inhabitants owes nothing to chance. Saint-Gilles church, renowned for its Marian apparitions in 1947, attracts thousands of pilgrims. In summer, the village comes alive thanks to the families staying in the two guest houses run by the Emmanuel community, which also administers the sanctuary. When settling in L’Île-Bouchard in 1997, the community directed its actions towards young families, organizing summer sessions attracting up to 200 people each week. Damien Thomas explains that some of them are “undoubtedly” among those wishing to settle in Clos Saint-Gabriel. Faced with the demographic decline of her city, Nathalie Vigneau, the mayor of L’Île-Bouchard, assured, in the daily La Nouvelle République, that she did not want to “deny 17 additional families in the town”, a chance “to welcome children in our schools. Since then, faced with criticism from part of the population, who have had a national echo, accusing her of giving way to a “communitarian” project, “reserved for Christians”, she prefers to remain silent.
Among the opponents, Betty Delavenna, resident of the town for fifty years and former municipal councilor, says she is “scandalized”. Member of a collective which seized by mail Emmanuel Macron, the sub-prefecture of Chinon and the deputy of the constituency, she denounces the “opaque and underground” influence of the community of Emmanuel. The latter sold the plot in June – inherited from a gift from a resident – to Monasphere. “Reading its statutes, we realize that it is on a mission of evangelization, points out this retired teacher. I respect individual beliefs but they should not spill over into social life. »
Father Philippe Marot, rector of the sanctuary of L’Île-Bouchard, did not respond to requests from La Croix. Moreover, according to our information, Mgr Vincent Jordy, the archbishop of Tours, would not have been informed of the existence of the project until the day before the publication of an article which appeared in La Nouvelle République, on January 13. “Given the turn of events, it was a mistake,” admits Damien Thomas.
On the other hand, the real estate developer denies carrying a “political or communitarian” project. There is no question of “filtering the profiles who would like to join a Monasphere hamlet according to their religion, nor of creating places cut off from the territories that surround us like a kibbutz, he pleads, contrary to what has been advanced in some media.
The declared candidates have also told him of their desire to get involved in local life. “Our intention is not to exclude people who do not share the same religion as us,” he says. We have always advanced in transparency. »