Joigny in Burgundy, France is a very significant place for the Religious of the Sacred Heart and their associates and colleagues. It is there that Madeleine Sophie Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, was born on December 12th 1779. She was baptised that same night in the parish church of St. Thibaut, because she was not expected to live.
Sophie was the daughter of Jacques Barat, a vintner and barrel maker. Her early years were marked by the landscape of terraced vineyards, gentle hills and meandering river Yonne. The small house in which she was born, 3 Rue Davier, is today part of the centre of spirituality run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart.
As the birthplace of Sophie Barat, Rue Davier is full of her presence and spirit. Her bedroom, the family living room and the extensive cellars are largely unchanged since her day. The small gardens, including the walled fruit and vegetable garden, have a charm and stillness that draws the visitor into silence; whilst the vineyards and the banks of the Yonne offer opportunities for walking.
The town itself is of historic interest with its three ancient churches and its many half timbered houses, some of which date from the 16th century and are famous for their carved facades. Joigny is also a thriving cultural centre with three small art galleries, a school of dance and of music and a concert hall. During the Second World War it was a centre of the Resistance and has a fascinating museum dedicated to this movement.
The spirituality centre, Centre Sophie Barat, welcomes retreatants from all over the world. People can come for a day or for retreats lasting three, eight or thirty days. They also offer a programme of themed workshops. The place provides an atmosphere of real silence and simplicity whilst at the same time offering programmes and hospitality for groups of ex-alumnae of Sacred Heart educational establishments, Associates, university students, artists, teachers and other professionals who seek time out, as also for religious, priests and laypeople of all ages.
But really, it's only by going there, by enjoying the simple hospitality, excellent cooking, the silence and the support of the community’s prayer and accompaniment, that one can appreciate what a special place it is! Why not go and see?
To find out more: http://www.centre-sophie-barat.com/