Les Contamines-Montjoie should only have been a short stay but Philippe Rey never left! 17 years ago the former priest and laborer settled into the house next to the church of Notre Dame de la Gorge where he took his retirement in 1996.
“I discovered Les Contamines in 1949, during a holiday camp” recalls Father Rey. ” Years later, I came back regularly, to take my three weeks of summer vacation. »
With his childish look and smile, Father Rey is an institution. One talks of him with malice, admiration and tenderness. Over the years he became the village confidant, the attentive ear of souls in pain. “I define myself as a donkey” exclaims the hilarious septuagenarian. ” I have two big ears, a good back and I’m far from knowing everything!”
Humble and discreet, he refuses to be labeled as a hermit. “I love the solitude, but I am in no way isolated from the world. On the contrary, everything connects me to it: my faith, my humanity… but it seems that I am somewhat special! »
In pleasant weather he sits on a bench outside his house, he reads, chats with walkers and passers-by, observes flowers and contemplates nature. In the winter, he observes the sky and admires the stars that communicate through light. In the summer months he scours the hiking trails in search of a rare flower, a wild orchid perhaps? Father Rey is an outstanding naturalist. He always carries a small magnifying glass in his pocket to closely observe the local flora.
“One minute, with a magnifying glass, on a flower”, such is his credo.
“Nature speaks of men, like any other science”, says the priest, who, as a child, observed his mother picking medicinal plants.
“I like to apply this precept to the people I meet. I listen to their stories and show my interest. It’s a wonderful way of understanding the region and the aspirations of those who live here”.
Photos : © Zir