Religious Communities for Men
Chapter 8
:

L’OEUVRE DE L’ETOILE

It is a result of quite a number of providential circumstances that L’Oeuvre de l’Etoile was started in 1957, by Father Maurice Raffali, when he was still a young seminarian of the diocese of Nimes in the South of France. 

Our Lady, our Star

This educational work endeavored through the example of the Divine Master to remain discreet and modest because it wanted to remain attached to that evangelical ideal, knowing significantly that the tiny seed must always die to itself if it wants to respond to the divine desire of seeing it give a hundredfold. 

Father Raffali at first looked after orphans and children in great distress.  Every year he brought them, during the summer months, near Lourdes.  There, amidst the beautiful Pyrenean mountains, in a camp in the open country, under the protection of Our Lady, the principal task was the teaching of the catechism and of a life of union with the Good Lord.

Faithful to the Mass of all times and to the traditional teaching of the Church, Father Raffali initiated many seminarians of the Society of St. Pius X into the delicate task of apostolate with children; about forty boys come and live each summer in the camp of l’Etoile, thus preparing their future as Christians.

But, as events happened, the Good Lord showed to L’Oeuvre de l’Etoile that there were other distresses – those of deeply Christian families who sometimes sought in real agony an authentic Catholic education.  Thus, still keeping its original vocation of answering to every appeal, the work was led into another recruitment and into the organization of schooling for boys in its house in Nimes.  This house is called the ‘Sénévé’ (“mustard seed”), the little seed in the Gospel, a symbol and a program. And in Lourdes, on the site of the camp, is located an other house that will become the noviciate.

The community with its Founder and Superior,
Fr. Raffalli

There, more and more families are asking for an education for their children, an education which their Faith claims.

Finally on April 26, 1990, on the feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Archbishop Lefebvre thinking that “the hour, in God’s plan, had come” for L’Oeuvre de l’Etoile, asked that it should be constituted as religious Family.  For a long time, Archbishop Lefebvre had encouraged Father Raffali to take on the formation of the “Fathers of Youth – les Pères de la Jeunesse”, that is to say, to form priests and religious consecrating themselves to this mission of educating and teaching the youth.  After much hesitation and after many prayers before undertaking such a responsibility – the Archbishop expressing paternally on many occasions the way to follow – Father Raffali finally made up his mind to draw up the constitutions of the future religious family. These constitutions were drawn up after two visits to Ecône; the Archbishop then declared that “they conformed to the Law and the mind of the Church”, and gave his letter of approbation.

L’Oeuvre de l’Etoile, now entrusted to the vigilance of Bishop Fellay, has therefore also a mission to form religious, who will take up again, according to the words of Archbishop Lefebvre, “the holy traditions of St. John Bosco and of Father Timon David”, by dedicating themselves and by devoting themselves to Catholic education.

Dedicating themselves, that is to say, by the fervor of their religious life contributing to drawing graces and Divine blessings on the parents, on the families, and on the schools, in a word, on all Catholic works of education.  Devoting themselves, that is to say, by their zealous participation in the sanctification of the young.

The new buildings in February 2000

L’Oeuvre de l’Etoile is supported in its sublime and immense task by the devotion to the United and Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, devotion which is drawn from the teaching of the Saints, whom the Church has given us and in particular from St. Bernard, St. John Eudes, and St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort. The religious are called “Stellamarins”, from Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, Our Lady. Their spirituality is the devotion to the united Hearts of Jesus and Mary, by their very special consecration to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The office of the community is the recitation of the Roman breviary for the priests, and of the little office of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the brothers. The offices of Prime and Sext are said in common every day, as well as Vespers and Compline on Sunday. There is a daily meditation of half an hour in the morning before the Mass. The community gathers two more times a day to make an examination of conscience. Beside the formation of the children (teaching, supervision of studies, of games, of recreations, of the dormitory), other exterior manual activities are keeping the religious busy: the exploitation and the maintenance of a large vegetable garden, a flower garden, an orchard of fruit trees, a hen house, and of several beehives. The children also take part in these activities; it is very interesting for them, and it prepares them with their scholarship to their future of men and Christians.

To honor the United and Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary is for the religious of L’Etoile the mark of their lives by a very special practice of the virtues of purity, of humility and of obedience.  These virtues, by their splendor in Jesus and Mary appear to be the main characteristics of the wonderful likeness which unites these most Holy Hearts. For many years, l’Oeuvre de l’Etoile was carrying the project of a sanctuary dedicated to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, where all intentions concerning Catholic Education would be brought day and night to Our Lady. Today, this sanctuary is getting realized; everything in this building must evoke the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Our Holy Mother, so that the most afflicted or most wicked soul, after passing the door, be touched by what is surrounding him, and be lifted, moved, conquered, relieved by the Heart of his Divine Mother.

Father M. Raffali, Superior
L'Oeuvre de l’Etoile
Route de Generac km 7
F-30900 Nimes
France

Tel: [33] 4 66 29 09 73

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