Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Parish of Trinité-Saint-Hilaire, Poitiers

Before the parish.

There have long been Orthodox Christians of various origins in Poitiers and Vienne. Their presence has been attested since the 1970s, such as the Russian families Lapteff, Skakounov or even E. Konovalov, a former Cossack non-commissioned officer who co-founded the Russian-language section at the University of Poitiers (a room there also bears his name). There were also a few isolated Greeks and Serbs and some Romanian political refugees. From the 1980s, Lebanese doctors fleeing the war and some Greek students arrived.

The first offices celebrated in Poitiers.

In May 1987, a pilgrimage organized on the occasion of the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Radegonde brought together Orthodox Parisians, Poitiers as well as nuns from the Monastery of the Transfiguration (located today in Terrasson, Dordogne). On this occasion, a first Orthodox Liturgy was celebrated in the Sainte-Radegonde church in Poitiers by Father Elie, igumen of this monastery and sung by the choir of the crypt of the cathedral in rue Daru (Paris). That same year, a parish was born in Tours (Indre-et-Loire). Due to the proximity between the two towns, links were quickly woven between the Orthodox Poitiers and Touraine, and in September 1988, Father Pierre Tchesnakoff, chaplain of the Orthodox Fraternity of the West, Father Jean Catteloin, of the young the parish of Tours as well as Father Elie celebrated a second Liturgy in Poitiers, still in the Sainte-Radegonde church, in the presence of the faithful from Tours and Poitiers.

It was there that Father Pierre, noting the presence of Orthodox in Poitiers, immediately asked Father Michel Evdokimov to found a small community in this town. Father Michel, residing near Paris, was professor of comparative literature at the University of Poitiers since 1979 and was present in this city two days a week.

At the request of the Bonnet family (Poitiers recently chrismated by Father Elie), Rodica Enea (Romanian refugee), Eugénie Lamy (of Greek origin), Pierre and Serge R., living in Châtellerault but studying in Poitiers, a first office of vespers was celebrated in January 1989 at the diocesan house by Father Michel. At the rate of one office of vespers per month followed by catechesis and feasts in a meeting room rented for this purpose, a certain regularity of the celebrations began to be put in place, but Father Michel having a parish in the Paris region , Sunday services could not be celebrated. This situation continued until September 1994.

Birth of a parish.

The situation changed radically in September 1994, when Father Michel retired. More available, he was able to come and celebrate the Liturgy once a month in Poitiers, thus initiating a regular liturgical and sacramental life there for the first time. He was assisted by the deacon Jean-Claude Gurnade, now a priest, who came expressly from Bordeaux. Marie Savinkov, choir director in Tours, also came to direct and train the choristers. The cantor Georges Michalakis ensured the song of matins according to the Greek tradition.

In 1995, parishioners from the ECOF of Poitiers decided to join the community, which considerably strengthened it. Among them, Father Philippe Maillard, who arrived in Vienne in 1990 for professional reasons with his wife Christiane, Marie-Reine Hugot, iconographer and director of the Atelier Sainte-Théodora in Azay-le-Brûlé (Deux-Sèvres), Joseph Abinader and his family, doctor, as well as five other parishioners. This providential contribution made it possible to constitute a four-part choir, as is the Russian tradition, and to have a priest on site. Father Michel, while training him, gradually gave way to Father Philippe.

In February 2000, the community received Archbishop Serge (Konovaloff) of blessed memory. At the end of this first Pontifical Liturgy in Poitiers, Bishop Serge strongly encouraged the community to set up as a parish - which was done in 2001 - and to find a fixed place of worship, despite the difficulties that this presented.

A place of worship for the new parish.

The prayers of the faithful were quickly answered: in 2001, the Catholic Archbishop of Poitiers, Mgr Rouet, contacted Father Philippe to tell him that the Saint-Joseph chapel, located at 77 avenue de la Liberation, was available for one euro. symbolic. However, many works were necessary: ​​installation of heating, running water, electricity, lamps, toilets, carpets and ultimately the necessary for the liturgical celebration: iconostasis, lecterns, frescoes. In October 2002, a first Liturgy was celebrated there. In 2004, Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder) came to solemnly consecrate the church, now equipped with an iconostasis, and the following year, Jean-Baptiste Garrigou, from the Saint-Jean-Damascène workshop (Drôme) and former teacher of Marie-Reine Hugot, produced murals in the apse, representing a Christ in majesty and a Orante Virgin, harmoniously marrying the Poitevin Romanesque style and the canons of Byzantine iconography. In 2011, J.-B. Garrigou painted new murals in the transept with a group of students and parishioners. They each represent local saints (Radegonde, Martin, Marie de Paris) but also the patron saint of each Orthodox country (Dimitri, Sava, Isaac the Syrian, Nino, Vladimir, etc.), thus reflecting the multiethnic character of the parish.

A parish which has grown and has changed its face.

From 2003, Georgians began to settle in Poitiers, often in a very precarious situation and not speaking French. Their number has continued to grow to this day. From 2013 Ukrainians arrived, while the number of Romanians also increased considerably. Nationalities are very diverse: Romanians and Georgians in large numbers, Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Lebanese, Syrians, Ethiopians ...

The parish has put a lot of effort into integrating them. Administratively first, by helping them in their efforts to obtain papers. Materially then, by helping them punctually. Spiritually above all, by making them participate in liturgical and parish life. Services are always held in French, but the Our Father is read in the languages ​​of all present. On ordinary Sundays, the number of worshipers often exceeds forty people.

Liturgical and spiritual supervision.

Father Philippe Maillard is rector of the parish. He is also the dean of the Val-de-Loire-Poitou region. He is assisted by Father Pierre R., former cantor, deacon from 2014 to 2015, then priest since that date, and deacon Nicolas Petit, ordained in 2017. All three are married and fathers of families. During the feast of Saint Hilaire de Poitiers (January 13), we had the joy of receiving our Archbishops, Mgr Job, Metropolitan Jean, as well as Mgr Syméon (priest at the time) as well as Father Elie.

The parish provides all the offices of liturgical and sacramental life: Saturday evening vigils, Sunday liturgies and major feasts, baptisms, weddings, burials, offices for the deceased, confessions, sacraments for the sick, chaplaincy in a penitentiary center, catechesis and 2000 to 2012 a strong ecumenical presence, which has since dried up: for the new generations to resume the dialogue and perpetuate the spirit of the parish according to the words of Saint Paul to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek , there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. "