Spiritual retreat center at La Flatière

The Charity Center of La Flatière – A place of calm and healing in the mountains [https://www.flatiere.org/le-foyer-et-la-communaute/ ]
Originally, on the locality of La Flatière, there were two old alpine chalets, one dating from 1662 and the other from 1814. These chalets were intended for herds and their shepherds. There was no water, no electricity, no heating, no access road, just a mountain path. It took determination to settle there.

1935-1955 – THE GENE
In 1935, Marie-Thérèse Isnard , a child nurse in Lyon, was looking for a place near Mont-Blanc to lead scout camps and summer camps. It is oriented towards the old chalets of La Flatière. From 1941, Hélène Villers , a social worker joined Marie-Thérèse. They welcome underprivileged children from Lyon and young girls from the “Aide aux mères” association for training sessions. These two lay women, true pioneers, are committed to giving their activity a spiritual dimension.
Father Jacques Ravanel (1923-2011), originally from Chamonix, on a mission during the 1939-45 war as an alpine hunter at the Col du Midi, contemplates “the icon of creation ” in the heart of the eternal snows. Faced with this immensity is born his desire to make God known through the beauty of the summits. Ordained a priest in 1948, he carried the project of finding a mountain chalet to preach retreats there.

In July 1955, providence led Father Ravanel to La Flatière where he met Marie-Thérèse and Hélène. In September, at the invitation of Marie-Thérèse, he went to Châteauneuf-de-Galaure where Marthe Robin and Father Finet encouraged him to found a Foyer de Charité . In July 1957 , with the authorization of the Bishop of Annecy, the first retreat took place, in which 10 retreatants took part. This is how the Foyer de Charité de la Flatière was born with the first 4 members: 3 lay women and Father Ravanel.

In 1960, the first development work took place : a tunnel was created between the 2 existing chalets; follow the kitchen, the boiler room and a floor of bedrooms. During the enlargements and the various constructions, Father Ravanel was always keen to keep an atmosphere of mountain chalets favoring the use of old wood and stone. Anxious to encourage contemplation of the Mont Blanc range, he had many bay windows installed.

In the 1970s, an important building, consisting mainly of rooms served by an elevator and then the large chapel, was built. The conference room was extended and the garage at the entrance to La Flatière became the reception chalet. In order to be able to carry out these constructions, Father Ravanel takes his pilgrim’s staff to visit his many acquaintances and elicit their generous support. In 1989, the old mazots were replaced in order to offer less “rustic” comfort!

Father Jean-François Hüe , born in 1948 in Brittany, was ordained a priest in 1976. While he was a teacher at the Rennes seminary and a scout chaplain, he took part in a retreat at Châteauneuf-de-Galaure in 1994. There he met Father Ravanel who then invited him to preach a first retreat at La Flatière… Responding to God’s call, he joined the community in December 1999 and took over from Father Ravanel as Father of the Foyer of La Flatière on 8 December 2000.

To harmoniously combine the spirit of the origins and compliance with new safety, hygiene and accessibility standards, work resumed in the 2000s in order to improve the quality of reception for retreatants. Rooms for people with reduced mobility and an elevator serving the building of the large chapel are created. The last works in 2018 allowed the extension of the dining room…

At the initiative of Father Jean-François, the first camps/retreats for teenagers were created in 2001, thus completing the reception of the children of retreatants at the Chalet du Rocher. A retreat for families starts in the summer of 2019… the mission continues…