Eugene continues to describe his “founding efforts” to his friend Forbin Janson. He needed a large house and property to accommodate the nearly 300 energetic youth who met every Thursday and Sunday for prayer, instruction and games. At the same time he needed a big house to accommodate the future members of the missionary group he was planning to start to share in the ministry he was engaged in.
Attached to his family’s property in the outskirts of Aix was a large convent of the Minimes, which was for sale, had an old and historic church as well as spacious grounds. At the last moment the place was whisked away from under his nose as he was about to conclude the deal! He then turned his attention to the centrally-placed former Carmelite Convent. Here Eugene’s charismatic vision was to become a reality.
How do matters stand? Without going into the whole business – that would take too long – Les Minimes was for sale. This place suited us perfectly. I thought it should not slip through our fingers and considered my duty was to buy it. To this end, I braved enormous difficulties, but all for nothing. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament politely whisked it from me by a surprising trick.
In proceeding, I had mentioned the matter to some priests whom I believed suitable for the holy undertaking and who indeed are so. These did not think the cause was lost when my efforts failed. I would have been ashamed and upset to let their enthusiasm be quenched and tried to obtain the only other place in the city wherein we could set up our community.
My approaches were unexpectedly successful. In a single interview the affair was settled and I found myself proprietor of the major part of the old Carmelite convent situated at the top of the Cours with a charming church attached, somewhat the worse for wear, to tell the truth, but which we could restore to use for less than a hundred gold sovereigns.
Letter to Forbin Janson, 23 October 1815, O.W. VI n.5