Grandchamp: A Women’s Monastic Community Born of the Reform and with an Ecumenical Vocation


Click on the link below to access the full article and the “Koinonia Newsletter”

by Thomas Ryan, CSP
September 12, 2019

Thomas Ryan, CSP

When hearing about a community of women religious, most Christians in North America would automatically identify it as a community of Catholic nuns. That is not so much the case in Europe, however. In Switzerland, the Community of Grandchamp has existed since 1952, drawing women from Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, Evangelical and other Reform traditions of Christian faith.  

How did this come about? In the early 1930’s some women of the Reformed Church of French-speaking Switzerland rediscovered the importance of silence as a help to letting the Word of God resonate within them that it might bear more fruit in their everyday lives. They began by organizing spiritual retreats in a residence at Grandchamp, near Neuchatel in Switzerland. Thus spiritual retreats were the fertile ground from which the community was born. 

They began with just one retreat a year, but as things moved forward, held them more frequently. Very soon, the need was felt to open the house throughout the year and to cultivate there a permanent presence of prayer. Between 1936-1940, three women came to live there. When Geneviève Micheli arrived in Grandchamp in 1944, the community became stronger in its vocation and began to develop. She later became the first ‘Mother’ of the Community. 

Rooted in meditation of the Word, attentive to the Church’s tradition in seeking to live community life, and obedient to the Holy Spirit, the first sisters returned to the sources of monastic life through the friendship and support of Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic religious communities. Carrying in themselves the pain of division among Christians, they were from the very start mindful of the prayer of Jesus for the unity of his followers (John 17:21) and encouraged on their journey by Fr. Paul Couturier of Lyon, France, an ecumenical pioneer who was a contributor to the formation of an annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. 

Grandchamp Welcome Center

Fr. Paul was a strong proponent of “spiritual ecumenism”. He felt that if Christians could be aware of each other’s history, spirituality, traditions of faith and worship, their hurts and their glories, they could thus grow closer to each other. If Christians would not just go to each other’s services, but integrate each other’s spirituality and traditions into their own, the path to holiness in one church could be adopted and enhance the path to holiness in the other churches as well. This, Couturier felt, is the “race that is set before us” in which we spur each other on beyond our own small worlds to fresh understanding, to new awareness of Christ and his Church, to a closer bond with him and his people. 

Another significant source of encouragement for the Sisters was Bro. Roger Schutz, a Reformed Protestant and the founder in 1940 of the ecumenical community of Taizé in France. Meeting Brother Roger and their links with the budding community of Taizé were determining factors for what was to follow. In 1952, the first sisters made their life commitments. They adopted the Taizé Rule of Life that Brother Roger had just completed and soon afterwards the Taizé Office of Prayer. These became the basis of their community and liturgical life. 

The Rule of Taizé draws clear guidelines for life in community, emphasizing the grace of forgiveness, given and received, encouraging one to always begin again. And so reconciliation is right at the heart of the Rule. This was the turning point. The Rule rooted the Sisters prayer for unity in the reality of community life and called them to live the parable of community. It also made explicit a new way, that of living in small groups or ‘fraternities’ and ‘sororities.’ It was an invitation to go out and join the most needy people where they lived, to be just a presence of prayer, friendship and sharing.

Soon after the life commitment of the first seven sisters in 1952, and inspired by the example of the ‘Little Sisters of Jesus’, the community sent sisters to live a presence of prayer, friendship and solidarity in other places and countries, notably in Algeria, the Holy Land, Lebanon, and also in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and in Switzerland. Most of these stays were for a limited time. And by welcoming German and Dutch women into the community shortly after the Second World War, their vocation of unity expanded into a vocation of reconciliation.

Prayer Chapel

Today the community consists of about 50 sisters who come from different churches, countries and cultures. The majority live at Grandchamp, Areuse, in French-speaking Switzerland. Some are at Sonnenhof, near Basle. And others are elsewhere in Switzerland, the Netherlands and France. In each place, the essentials remain the same: common praise, meditation on God’s Word, the daily Office of Prayer, the call to reconciliation and community life as a parable of communion, and sharing with all those who come. The community wants to be open to all as a place of listening, of finding new strength.

From the start, the community was surrounded by people who cherished the desire to live that spirituality of unity while remaining in the everyday life of the world. From this a whole spiritual family of women and men was born– the Third Order of Unity—a movement in the spirit of Grandchamp and Taizé. Attentive to the prayer of Christ “that all may be one so that the world may believe,” the Third Order’s members seek the unity offered by Christ in their families, their congregation, and in the Church at large. Today groups exist in different places in Switzerland, in Germany, in the Netherlands and in Benin. 

In the spirit of being open to the world, the Grandchamp community seeks links and exchanges with other communities, groups, movements and committed individuals, especially networks of religious and/or monastic communities at local, regional, international and ecumenical levels; ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue groups; and movements for reconciliation, justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

     My first contact with the Grandchamp community came in 1980 when I was taking a graduate semester in ecumenism at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Switzerland. One of my classmates was Sr. Pierrette, a Grandchamp sister. While in Switzerland this past August, I spent a few days at Grandchamp. In my conversation with Sr. Pierrette, who served as the superior of the community from 1999-2016, she said, 

“We want to witness to the importance of our unity as Christians. You would think that in a time like this, of diminishing congregations, fewer clergy, churches that are being closed, that it would be all the more important for us to join hearts and voices in prayer, and hands and feet in service, to witness to the gospel in our societies today.”

Thomas Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Boston. More information on Grandchamp is available at

Season of Creation - Catholic Climate Covenant - September 2019 Newsletter

Catholic Climate Covenant (1).jpg

September 2019 Newsletter

Dear Michael,

The relentless heat has finally eased in the mid-Atlantic region (and much of the US). July was the hottest ever recorded globally and August surely was not far behind. But as I write this, Hurricane Dorian has already leveled the Bahamas and threatens the Southeastern coast, the West braces for another fire season, exceptionally dry weather this summer has much of south-central Alaska on fire. The scientific community has warned us over and over that human activities are the driving force behind climate change and now we are seeing the consequences. We must act with greater urgency.

As you can see below, many Catholics are acting. The Covenant and its partners are generating excellent materials to help the Catholic community celebrate the Season of Creation. Implemented well, this time between September 1 and October 4 can help educate a much larger proportion of Catholics who then become inspired to act. Please do what you can this month and next to ensure that we build this movement. Our lives and the lives of future generations depend on it.

In Gratitude,

Dan Misleh
Founding Executive Director
Catholic Climate Covenant

Action of the Month

Urge Your Senators to Support Climate Action

During this Season of Creation (Sept. 1st-Oct. 4th) the U.S. Catholic community is calling for climate action. Failure to act on the climate crisis will mean increased heat waves, decreased rainfall, loss of biodiversity, and sea level rise. Our most vulnerable neighbors—the poor, the elderly, children—both at home and abroad, will be first and most impacted. But the impacts of climate upon our health, food, water, and economic well-being will affect everyone.

Everyone also needs to be involved in climate solutions. The International Climate Accountability Act (S.1743) calls upon the United States to remain a global leader in the effort to address climate change.  It asks the Administration to develop and submit a plan that enables our nation to meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement, which was signed by 193 other nations.

Urge your Senators to support the International Climate Accountability Act (S.1743), a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by 46 Senators.   A similar bill in the House of Representatives—the Climate Action Now Act (H.R.9)—passed the House on May 2nd, 2019. To learn more and take action click below.


Catholics Leading the Way

2019 Feast of St. Francis Program Available...Please Share With Your Faith Community
Catholic Climate Covenant’s 2019 Feast of St. Francis program focuses on the issues that will be central during the Special Synod of Bishops on the Amazon this October 6-27—the issues affecting the Amazon Basin and other rain forests, including deforestation, resource extraction, climate change, integral ecology, justice for indigenous populations and support for the essential role they play in protecting critical ecosystems.

Download the free 2019 Feast of St. Francis educational program, “We Are All Connected: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor”The program will show how Catholic communities can walk in solidarity with the Amazonian Synod participants. The free 90-minute program includes prayers, readings, a short video, discussion questions, and suggested activities (an advocacy action, a tree-planting action, and the establishment/registration of a Creation Care Team). The program includes a Facilitator Guide on how to host a 90-minute educational program, a Participant Program, and an optional Blessing of the Animals liturgy.

The program is intended as a resource to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis on October 4th. However, each community may schedule it at any time that is convenient and are encouraged to adapt the program to meet their community’s needs.


Faithful Action on Climate Change

      Season of Creation

Vatican and Season of Creation
The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development invites Catholics worldwide to celebrate the Season of Creation (Sept 1st-Oct. 4th). Resources to help your community celebrate are available here.  They include denominational liturgical resources, prayers of the faithful, weekly homily guides by Fr. James Hug, S.J., and celebration guides.

On September 1st, Pope Francis released a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation calling on all the faithful to pray, reflect on our lifestyles, and  undertake prophetic actions. He also lifted up the world’s youth who “are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions. They feel let down by too many unfulfilled promises, by commitments made and then ignored for selfish interests or out of expediency. The young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down. They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now. We owe them real answers, not empty words, actions not illusions.”

Pope Francis’s Prayer Intention for September 2019 is to “pray this month that politicians, scientists and economists work together to protect the world’s seas and oceans.” To watch this month’s “Pope Video” go here.

Note: The theme for this year’s Season of Creation is “Protecting the Web of Life”. (The Covenant’s 2019 Earth Day Program resourceAll Creation Gives God Praise: Protecting Biodiversity in a Time of Climate Crisisalso focused on this important issue. You may wish to consider using it during the Season of Creation.

Archdiocese of Chicago’s Season of Creation Resource and Call to Action
The Archdiocese of Chicago has put together a website for the 2019 Season of Creation. To read about all their suggested activities go here. Given the momentous climate-related actions that will be happening this September (United Nations Climate Action Meetings and youth led climate strikes), the Archdiocese has designated Sept. 20th as “Climate Action Day” and invited Catholic schools to plan an assembly about climate change and participate in prayer and action. Their wonderful Climate Action Day resource is available here.

Season of Creation Homily Help for September 15, 2019
Father Jacek Orzechowski, OFM provides this homily help, a reflection on the parable of the Prodigal Son (Gospel of Luke 15:1-32) for the Season of Creation. For more homily helps and other resources for Season of Creation

Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM)-Laudato Si’ Generation and Season of Creation Resources
Catholic youth are organizing events in solidarity with the “Climate Strikes” during the week of Sept. 20-27, 2019. The Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Laudato Si’Generation has a website with information and resources (including bulletin announcements, prayers, and promotional materials) here.  GCCM also has resources for those interested in supporting the climate strikes.

GCCM Webinar
To learn more about global Catholic call to action, especially during this Season of Creation, you are invited to join an exclusive webinar on September 4th at 9:00 am Eastern. This webinar will explore why Pope Francis declared a climate emergency. It will be led by the Vatican’s Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, who coordinates ecology and creation care, and Dr. Lorna Gold, author of the book “Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children's Future.” Register here to join us on 4 September at 9:00 New York / 14:00 London or to receive the recording.

Ignatian Solidarity Network “Mini-Challenge”
Our partner, the Ignatian Solidarity Network has created a resource where you and your faith community can sign-up to learn about a new environmental issue each season of the liturgical year. You will receive weekly emails with opportunities to learn, pray, and act on a issue during the Season of Creation, Advent, and Lent. Sign-up now to participate in the Season of Creation challenge: Fast from meat or palm oil on Fridays or throughout the Season of Creation.

California Catholic Conference Creation Care Efforts
The California Catholic Conference is not letting the recent California Bishops pastoral statement God Calls Us to Care for Our Common Home, to be put on a dusty shelf and forgotten. Buoyed by the prophetic statement, they are working on nine active bills that promotes integral ecology, improves air quality, assures a clean water supply, and safeguards environmental health. For more info on their creation care efforts go here.

100% Clean Energy Action
Our partner, the Columban Center for Outreach and Advocacy, is calling on Catholics to support 100% clean energy. You can 1) call your Members of Congress and urge them to support a 100% clean energy economy and/or 2) write a letter-to-the-editor (or LTE) to your local newspaper urging your federal representative to support a 100% clean energy economy. To take clean energy action go here.

Catholic Climate Covenant provides all its programs and resources free of charge. We rely on the generosity of our supporters to  inspire and equip people and institutions to care for creation and care for the poor. Through our 19 national partners, we guide the U.S. Church's response to climate change by educating, giving public witness, and offering resources. Thank you for giving to care for creation and care for the poor.

Contact Us

Catholic Climate Covenant
415 Michigan Ave NE
Suite 260
Washington, District of Columbia 20017
(202) 756-5545

Season of Care for Creation 2019 By Carolyn Townes OFS: OFS-USA - J.P.I.C. Animator

Season of Care for Creation 2019   By Carolyn Townes OFS:     OFS-USA - J.P.I.C. Animator

We are coming up on the time of the year when we give mindful and deliberate attention to our Sister Mother Earth. Yes, I know there are many things occupying our minds, our hearts and our prayers at this time. But our God is bigger, greater and mightier than all those things. We must trust and have faith that the Holy Spirit is doing a mighty work that we are not privileged to see right now.

Until the Sky Turns Silver: A Summary

By Kelly Moltzen OFS

Until the Sky Turns Silver: A Summary

“Until the Sky Turns Silver” is a documentary fiction book about the work of the organization All Together in Dignity / ATD Fourth World, which connects people living in extreme poverty with opportunities to share their stories. Those who participate become empowered to advocate for themselves and their communities, including by speaking at the United Nations. The book is based in New York City, and the characters in the book are based on the lives of people the authors have known in real life.

The book tells the stories behind people who are living in poverty, and the work of the ATD team members in engaging those individuals – particularly youth – in activities that demonstrate they truly do care about the dignity of every individual. For example, ATD sets up art activities and libraries on the streets, so it is easy for people to attend, and the participants can beautify and activate their neighborhood. ATD members share the dismay when community members who have been kicked out of their homes, or have become drug users, get put down by others who often judge people without knowing the people’s stories. The book communicates why it is important for initiatives aimed at ending poverty to truly aim to include all individuals, not just half of the population as the Millennium Development Goals do. It also communicates the importance of including people living in poverty directly in conversations about policies that will affect their lives, as the people most directly impacted know best from life experience what works and what doesn’t.

In “Until the Sky Turns Silver,” the characters had the chance to organize a skit and write a talk and poem for an event at the United Nations, which gets attended by dignitaries, ambassadors and their staff. After weeks of worrying about her speechwriting and not knowing what to say, Tanita gives a moving speech about what it feels like to be looked down upon as a person living in poverty. She gives the speech alongside Ahmed, an ATD Fourth World volunteer who came in from Tanzania for the event. It was for World Day for Overcoming Poverty, held each year on October 17. The event is well received and is successful in helping some of the people in attendance to think differently about engaging people in poverty. Following the UN event, when the characters go to UN Church Center for refreshments, it sparks a conversation about churches and religion. They share some enlightened perspectives on religion:

“A church ought to tell me what they do to stand by folk who are in trouble.”

“In a number of prisons, the government has started funding religious programmes geared to help prisoners fit into the community after they’ve served their time. That’s an important goal – but the programmes are very much based on Jesus and the Christian gospel…I’ve heard a Muslim prisoner say he joined a Christian programme because he was afraid that if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be released on parole. How can people feel free to choose whether to convert when they are in prison and a programme like this seems like their only chance for early release?”

“I am a Muslim, but I don’t think God wants us in different categories, whatever our religions. Practicing any religion is a way of being part of a community and reaching out to one another.”

“Not everyone believes in God, but people who don’t believe have to have a powerful, powerful mind. God is the only one who can help you start over again when you have a millstone around your neck. He’s the only one with you when you get thrown in jail. God is the only one who can help you get off drugs.”

“But that’s the problem nowadays. Our young people don’t go to church the way we did growing up. The priests don’t even know them. And how can we protect our kids without the church?”

“Churches just can’t compete. The streets are speaking to our kids loud and clear. No matter how we raise them, violence is waiting at every corner. How do we expect religion to compete with that? But what helps my kids is the art workshop. It’s right out there on the street where we live. They don’t have to look for it. And I hear how Jesse and Yun Hee talk to our kids. They want them to be their own person and to believe in themselves. Maybe getting confidence can keep our kids away from gangs.”

ATD Fourth World is the partner organization that worked with Franciscans International to create the handbook, “Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty.” It should be clear to any Franciscan or Franciscan-hearted person that ATD Fourth World and religions have at their roots missions which are very much the same, and that is seeing the dignity in every person, seeking out those in extreme poverty, and giving them a platform and/or helping them to find their voice.



“The Church believes that all decisions which affect society have a moral dimension. So, when making decisions with affect social, economic, political, cultural, and family life, there are moral principles which must be embodied in any such decisions and policies. Immigration is one of the realities that the Church’s social teaching address often.”

Invitation to Participate in Healing Day Nat'l Bell Ringing Aug. 25

Invitation to Participate in Healing Day Nat'l Bell Ringing Aug. 25

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop James B. Magness invite Episcopal churches to take part in a national action to remember and honor the first enslaved Africans who landed in English North America in 1619 by tolling their bells for one minute on Sunday, August 25, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET.