Collège NDS Grenoble, France: yesterday, today and tomorrow

Two Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion joined staff, pupils, parents and external guests at the Collège Notre Dame de Sion Grenoble, to commemorate the day the school’s first stone was laid 80 years ago. The two-day programme was created by the school in a spirit of bringing alive history, appreciating the present, and looking towards on the future.

Pupils decipher clues about their school in the Escape Game.

Over the two days, 600 pupils in 96 teams took part in a giant immersive Escape Game – a kind of treasure hunt that took them around the school grounds, solving enigmas whilst deepening their knowledge of the history of their school and the congregation that founded it.

The young participants enjoyed finding out about their school in a fun way. “I learned a lot,” said a 12-year-old, “about the history of our college, about its values and activities, about our founding fathers. It was really cool!”

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Mme Laurent presents the school and the significance of the event.

The pupils learnt that when building work started in 1942, the Sisters of our Lady of Sion faced many challenges. “In their fight against Nazi barbarism, they saved Jewish children and succeeded in completing a construction site during wartime, when restrictions were felt in all areas,” explained school Principal, Dolène Laurent. “What women!” she remarked, “What a landmark for our young people today, what ambassadors for our Alpine city and the duty to remember!”

Sr Christiane Marie shares stories from her school days.

Sr Christiane Marie Formant was among the first pupils to be taught in what are today’s school buildings. After leaving the school, she followed her call to become a Sister of Our Lady of Sion. In an evening of talks led by Mme. Laurent, Sr Christiane shared some precious anecdotes from the early days.

One high point of the event was the unveiling of a commemorative plaque bearing a quotation from our founder, Théodore Ratisbonne, celebrating diversity: “All trees do not bear the same fruit: do not look for grapes on pear trees or oranges on the vine.”

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The plaque and the time capsule.

The plaque also has a hidden purpose: its hollow pedestal is in fact a time capsule. Members of the educational community and guests were invited to place notes in it about how they imagine the school will be 20 years from now. On 13 May 2042, when the school celebrates the centenary of the laying of its first stone, the capsule will be opened. In the meantime, it will preserve the gift of new memories for pupils yet to be born.

Sr Alice Bernadette Buchholzer underlines the importance of both memory and vision. “It’s very important to remember,” she said. “It’s also part of our spirituality. This remembrance gives a new impetus for the future.”