Perched on a hill with beautiful views over the village of Échourgnac in the Dordogne, is the Notre Dame de Bonne-Espérance abbey where this year a community of nuns have been celebrating their 100th year at the abbey. The nuns are also involved in a very successful cheese maturation activity (see the full article). Fascinated by the story of the nuns of Echourgnac , I went along to find out more about life in the monastery.

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From archeology to monastery. Interview with Sister Nathalie.

When did you first decide to become a nun and why?

In 2000. I was 32 and working as an archaeologist on an excavation of an abbey. I started to discover and learn about this form of religious life of which I didn’t know a lot. Questions began forming in my mind about the meaning of life and where I was going. And little by little I was drawn to it. I felt a calling to Christ. It seemed to make sense to me and made me happy. For me, entry into the monastic life took eight years.

Can you describe a typical day?

Our day is very structured by prayer time which takes place seven times a day. We also have our work to do, whether manual or intellectual. The cheese side of things is largely managed by employees of a small business although we are very present with our savoir-faire.

What is your favourite moment of the day?

Favourite isn’t the right word to use. The most important times of the day are my meeting with Christ.

Do you have any free time and if so, what do you enjoy doing?

Yes, we have free time when I enjoy walking and reading.

What is the biggest challenge for you in being a nun?

That’s a difficult question to answer. What is difficult is not to get exhausted. The demands of others are very, very diverse therefore it’s difficult to decide which ones are the most urgent to deal with straight away and those that can wait. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the important point in our lives is our relationship with Christ and we must maintain calm, balance and have our hearts open. If not, we will miss the point. It’s perfectly normal that mankind is always searching for meaning and people see us as having found that and they want to know more. But as nuns, we have chosen to separate ourselves from the world and we are happy. But we are constantly being pulled away from this by external demands which are, of course, totally legitimate

With only 22 nuns currently in the monastery, with time you are obviously going to lose some. Do you have a regular number of new nuns joining you?

No, not a lot. Not regularly. In Europe it’s not a brilliant situation and we need to be realistic. God will decide. We intend to carry on doing what we are doing but we understand that we have to evolve and adapt as a community before it is too late and while we still can. I think that the joy that we share will attract others.

Can you explain a little more about the idea of sharing?

When you arrive, you give everything you have to the collective life here. We share everything between us. It’s a choice. We also share with others outside of the monastery. If we have more than we need in life, we share it with others, according to their needs. If someone needs more than the next person, then we share more with them. It’s the rule of Saint Benoit. It’s about respect for the person.

How do you see the future of the monastery?

We set up a temporary museum for the centenary but it’s not that that really interests us. We look forward. So, we are currently studying a project to open a visitor’s centre where we can show what our life is all about today, because life is beautiful.

Contact details:

Notre Dame de Bonne-Espérance

Échourgnac en Périgord

24410 Échourgnac

Tel : 05 53 80 82 50

Email :

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Photo credit: Aeriel View:© Photographie.Pro