Walking in the footsteps of Saint Thérèse Couderc is now possible!

Walking in the footsteps of Saint Thérèse Couderc is now possible!

Creating a route in the footsteps of a saint often starts from personal intuition. “This path,” explains Sister Édith Archer, “it was Thérèse Couderc who inspired it for me. I was praying in front of his shrine, in Lalouvesc, and I said to myself: “I must follow in his footsteps.” And in this endeavor, she accompanied me, like a guardian angel on my shoulder. Every day I experienced a providential event! »

Sister Edith Archer is not her first pilgrimage. This secular sister (consecrated virgin), who belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of Reparative Adoration, indeed walked on the paths of Saint-Jacques and Saint Jean-François Régis. Nature is his place of healing. Moreover, it was his hikes that prepared his soul for his conversion. When she was 16 years old, while contemplating a sublime panorama in the Cévennes, she was convinced that this beauty was the work of a creator God. Then, before the Blessed Sacrament, she had a decisive encounter with Christ, which would turn her life upside down. On this spiritual journey, Thérèse Couderc will be his faithful companion.

Thérèse Couderc, a life in the service of pilgrimage

Thérèse Couderc (1805-1885) was born in Le Mas, a hamlet in the Ardèche commune of Sablières. Attracted to religious life at a very young age, she was noticed by Father Étienne Terme, a diocesan missionary, who sent her to Alba, in Ardèche, to join a group of sisters who were responsible for the education of young girls. In 1827, she came to Lalouvesc to take care of a house, founded by Father Terme, to welcome women who came there on pilgrimage. This will be the first house of the Notre-Dame-du-Cénacle congregation. When she was only 23 years old, she became the superior of this new foundation.

Having followed a retreat according to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius (founder of the Jesuits), Father Terme will include this foundation in this spiritual movement. After the death of Father Terme, Sister Thérèse Couderc continued this work, giving of herself without counting. Having exhausted herself with the task, she retired to Lyon where she died in 1885. Her body was brought back to Lalouvesc, in the chapel of the Cenacle. In 2018, he was transferred to the Saint-Régis basilica, where pilgrims now come to pray to him. She was canonized on May 10, 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

A new hiking trail

It was during the transfer of this body that the idea germinated in Sister Edith’s mind. “I then wanted to trace a path linking two emblematic places in the life of Thérèse Couderc: her birthplace, in Sablières, and Lalouvesc, where she devoted herself to the service of pilgrims. »

Sister Édith then took her pilgrim’s staff to go through the successive stages: tracing the route, obtaining authorizations from local authorities and tourist structures, listing accommodation. “The path only uses paths already marked in local PR® and GR®,” specifies Sister Édith, “and accommodation is provided in existing stopover lodges, which ensures its sustainability. »

After nine months (“like the gestation of a baby”, comments the pilgrim), the route was inaugurated with a delegation from the Rhône-Alpes Association of Friends of Saint-Jacques. 180 kilometers long, it is carried out in eight stages of around twenty kilometers.

Crossing the Ardèche

“It’s a magnificent crossing of the Ardèche,” comments Jean-Michel Couturier, president of this Jacquaire association, which surveys its rough mountains, passing from the Rhone side, facing the Mediterranean, to that of the Loire which looks towards the Atlantic: same administrative department of course, but two atmospheres, two very different climates. »

And to find direction? In addition to discreet marking, the tireless Édith Archer has designed a booklet which describes the steps. “We generally start in Lalouvesc, which has just linked the network of sanctuary towns,” she explains, “to head towards Sablières. And you can end your walk at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Abbey, on the borders of the Ardèche Cévennes. »

Already, this path is starting to be talked about, not only in France but beyond its borders. “Last September,” Sister Edith confirms, “three pilgrims came from Singapore to perform it. They didn’t speak French and I didn’t speak English, but everything went wonderfully. They had two accompanying cars to carry the luggage: an option well suited to this route. »

Saint Jean-François Régis, apostle of Vivarais, already had his way, very appreciated by pilgrims: a loop starting from Puy-en-Velay and passing through Lalouvesc, approved as GR®430. Saint Thérèse Couderc deserved hers! The walkers will thank Sister Édith Archer, tireless pilgrim, for having paid tribute to this Ardéchoise who devoted herself so much to the service of pilgrims.

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