Dom Jean-Pierre Longeat, OSB,
President of the AIM


JPLongeatThe Congress of Benedictine Abbots and Priors has just been held in Rome, 5-16 September. This issue of the Bulletin gives a generous echo of it, though we will keep for future issues the contributions which were made at the numerous workshops of the Congress.

A new Abbot Primate was elected, Dom Gregory Polan, hitherto Abbot of Conception in the USA. We know him well because he is a member of the Council. He has always shown a great interest in our work, and we are sure that he will be a great support for us. We assure him of our prayers, and offer him our good wishes. Dom Notker Wolf has always taken special care of the AIM, and has indeed given it a new impetus. We thank him for the great work which he has done for Sant’ Anselmo, for the Benedictine Confederation and well beyond.

SGHappThe months to come will mark an important stage in the life of the AIM, because the Secretary General of our organisation will be returning to her monastery of Eibingen after more than fifteen years of service. It will be remembered that, after the resignation of Dom Marie-Bernard de Soos in 1997, the new Abbot Primate, Marcel Rooney, restructured the AIM to adapt it better to the international service which it was called to give. Dom Martin Neyt, OSB, became the President of the AIM. Dom Jacques Coté, OSB, was appointed Secretary General and resided at Rome. The AIM became the ‘Alliance for International Monasticism’ and exchanges between continents became more prominent. In 2001 Sister Gisela Happ joined the Secretariat of the AIM at Vanves; one year later she became Secretary General. Some years later she was joined by Sister M.-Placid Dolores, OSB (Abbey of Cogon, Philippines). In 2004 a new interior arrangement confirmed the structural reform of 1997. In 2006 the AIM created a Studium at Vanves on the property of the Priory of Sainte-Bathilde, the Centre John XXIII, to welcome young nuns of Africa, Latin America and Asia, coming to study in Paris.

For the last fifteen years Sister Gisela has tirelessly devoted herself to the task of Secretary General. The current statutes of the AIM expected the Secretary General simply to arrange the co-ordination of requests for help coming to the AIM and relationships with the regional centres in other countries of
Europe for fund-raising. Concretely the tasks are multiple:
• Administration
• Co-ordination of requests for projects for monasteries addressed to the AIM
• Contact and co-ordination with regional centres
• Fund-raising
• Organisation of meetings of the Council, the executive Committee, the international Team
• Participation in various monastic meetings and sessions in France and elsewhere
• Management of the offices of the AIM at Vanves.

DSC 2117Sister Gisela entered the monastery of Eibingen (Germany) in 1972. At that time she had decided to spend the rest of her life in the four hectares of the enclosure of the monastery. For several years she was the Cellarer . She took a keen interest in the foundation of Marienrode, and during the four years of the period of foundation she transferred her stability to the vehicle which continuously carried her over the motorway between Frankfort and Hanover, and she left part of her heart in that new monastery. When she was called to the Secretariat of the AIM she was uneasy at having no more than school French and finding considerable difficulty in expressing herself fluently. In addition, she had had no direct interest in the development of monasticism in Asia, Africa and Latin America. She also knew that she would have to travel, though she had always had a phobia of every mode of transport. When she found herself on the Champs-Elysées in Paris she said to herself, ‘Ich bin im falschen Film’ (I’m in the wrong film, a bad dream), the same thought as she had when she was in Sydney or China, separated from North Korea by a little river.

With a redoubtable efficiency she acquired the necessary skills and survived numerous trials. Sister Gisela always said that without the help of Sister M.-Placid she would never have survived. Sister M.-Placid, said Sister Gisela, was her greatest present during her time at the AIM. She told how with her help she had learnt English again. In fact Sister M.-Placid had taken French courses when she arrived, and so the two sisters made a good resolution that from that moment no word of English would pass their lips. But, as with all good resolutions, they spoke nothing but English!

Sister Gisela maintains that she feels a denizen of Vanves. She is on the electoral roll of Vanves and knows the Mayor as well as the street-sweepers. She feels really at home at Vanves. Nevertheless, Sister Gisela is not a sister of the community of Vanves. In the spring she will return to her community of Eibingen, which sadly has recently lost its abbess, Mother Clementia Killewald, and elected a new abbess, Mother Dorothea Flandera. Attached to prayer despite all her activity, Sister Gisela has concentrated her work on the Secretariat of the AIM and in the community of Vanves. Determined to achieve whatever she undertakes, she has allowed the AIM to develop and to assist financially more and more projects.

SMPlacideThe AIM is most grateful to Sister Gisela for everything she had done so faithfully during all these years. Happily, she will remain  linked to the AIM, and will be in charge of relationships with German-speaking countries. Sister Christine Conrath, of the Abbey of Jouarre, will take over the Secretariat of the AIM in the autumn, and will receive from Sister Gisela the necessary initiation. Sister M.-Placid will be in charge of the Secretariat until 2018.