Then the good Lord gave us that lovely little house called “Vignettaz” in Freiburg. We moved our things at the end of June and so our seminarists would have been able to carry on there like they did at the Salesians. But for the eleven new ones we would have to look at a preparatory year before they entered seminary properly, a year of spirituality rather like a noviciate. But where were we going to put them? We looked everywhere in Freiburg and round about. It was going to be very difficult to find something.
Then people in France said to me,
“Go and see Mr. Lovey. He lives in Valais and has a house there which he might let you use. It used to belong to the canons of Great St. Bernard”. Mr. Lovey lived in Fully… Now, I didn’t know Mr. Lovey at all but I did know Fully; I knew Fr. Bonvin who was parish priest there. He was one of my companions from my seminary days, we were together at the French seminary. We had already met several times.
So, I went to Fully to see Fr. Bonvin and I said to him,
“Do you know Mr. Lovey?”
“Of course I know him. Why?”
“Well, it seems he has a house which he might let us use for a sort of novitiate, a year of spirituality. I would like to know if it were really feasible”.
“Well, that’s simple enough. I’ll invite him round for lunch then you can have a chat and see for yourself.
Mr. Lovey came. It was the first time I had met him and he said to me,
“Yes, it’s true. We’ve got a house which could be used. The canons of Great St. Bernard sold their house in Ecône which was their country house and at the same time a novitiate. That’s where they trained their dogs. Anyway, when we learned that they were going to sell we didn’t want the house, which had been a religious house for six hundred years, to be turned into something else, perhaps something wicked. So five of us in Valais got together and formed an association to buy the house. There was Mr. Genoud, Mr. Rausis, Mr. Marcel Pedroni and his brother Alphonse and then myself. So, we went ahead and were waiting to give it to someone suitable. We already offered it to the Carmelites in Montelimar who wanted to move in but then the building didn’t meet their requirements. At the moment it’s occupied by a group of disabled people but I get the impression that they’re not going to stay either… Anyway, we’ll see… go and see them… If you like it, that’s fine, if not you will find somewhere else.”
It was a good idea so we went to see the house for the disabled. It was the first time I’d met the parish priest of Riddes which was the village next door. He was very pleased to think that a group of seminarists would soon be moving in near to his village. We went to see the house and sang a Salve Regina in the little chapel of Our Lady of the fields. It was already almost an act of thanksgiving. It wasnt settled yet, but mere you are!
Then everything happened at once, really… Providence was pulling us forward. We had to go and look for priests who would look after the youngsters who were coming, In the end the disabled people didn’t stay and Mr. Lovey said to me,
“There we are, the house is yours. When you want you can move in.”
And that’s what we did. In October we came to move in. That was already two important steps. A house in Freiburg and one in Ecône. On the one hand three seminarists which wasn’t much, though later another came to join, Mr. Waltz, that was four, then Mr, Cottard, that made five. Five at Vignettaz and eleven in Ecône. It was already a good start.
Nonetheless, we had to know if Mgr. Charriere agreed with this famous society, yes or no. I went to see him full of doubts and fearing that he wouldn’t agree. It was the 1st November and he said to me,
“Of course I agree, I agree wholeheartedly! Yes, yes! I’ll go and get my secretary.”
He told the secretary,
“Get the papers ready and so on. Type out my canonical approbation of the Statutes of the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Mgr. Lefebvre.”
I said to myself,
“It can’t be true, I must be dreaming, it isn’t true!” I can still see myself coming back with the statutes, signed by Mgr. Charridre and myself, showing them to the seminarists in Vignettaz and saying,
“Well, there we are, the statutes of the Society have been approved!” I don’t think they believed me either. But it was a sign of Providence, we had been approved by the local bishop, it was tremendous! Because three months later Mgr. Mamie succeeded him and he was already against us. Being Vicar General at the time, he wouldn’t have liked Mgr. Charriere giving his signature to this Society. He didn’t agree but it was done!