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The Abbey of Bonne-Espérance

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Situated near Binche, province of Hainault, Diocese of Tournai, Belgium. It owes its foundation to the conversion of William, the only son and heir of Rainard, the Knight of Croix. William had been seduced by the heresies of Tanchelm, but through the persuasive exhortations of St. Norbert he had been brought back to the true Church, and his grateful parents, Rainard and Beatrix, had given land to St. Norbert for the foundation of an abbey at Ramignies, while William followed St. Norbert to Prémontré. Ramignies having been found unsuitable, Odo, the first abbot, led his young colony to another locality in the neighbourhood. The legend says that when Odo saw the spot he exclaimed: "Bonæ spei fecisti filios tuos" ( Wisdom 12:19 — O God, Thou hast made Thy children to be of good hope ). Others say that the statue of Our Lady of Good Hope was venerated there. Whatever may have been the cause, Blessed Odo's confidence was not misplaced. The abbey grew and prospered and has ever sent forth numbers of holy and learned priests. Blessed Odo was succeeded by Blessed Philip, surnamed the Almoner. Abbot Philip is the author of several books which have been published in Migne, P.L., CCIII. Blessed Oda, whose heroic act in defence of her virginity has been described by Abbot Philip, was a Norbertine nun in the convent of Rivreulle under the direction of the Abbot of Bonne-Espérance. The forty-sixth and last Abbot of Bonne-Espérance, Bonaventure Daublain, saw in 1792 and again in 1794 the abbey taken and pillaged and his religious dispersed by the French Republican army. At the time of its suppression the abbey counted sixty-seven inmates. Greatly though they wished to live in community, they were not allowed to do so during the French Republic nor after 1815 under William I, King of the Netherlands. The last surviving religious gave the abbey to the Bishop of Tournai for a diocesan seminary. The church is still Norbertine in its appearance, possessing as it does the body of St. Frédéric, which had been saved from the Protestants and brought from the Norbertine Abbey in Holland to the Abbey of Bonne-Espérance in Belgium. The church is still adorned with the statues of St. Norbert, of St. Frédéric, and of two Norbertine bishops, St. Evremonde and St. Isfrid. At the time of the suppression the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Good Hope was hidden; and when peace was restored, it was brought to the church of Vellereille of which one of the canons of Bonne-Espérance was the parish priest. In 1833 it was solemnly brought back to the abbey church, or, as it is now, the seminary church.

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