Pierre-Andre Blanc’s death has been defined “a mystery” and “a shock” by many people. Pierre was a Swiss focolarino who died after a period of deep depression. Those who knew him, however, are sure that he found peace in that God-Love to whom he gave convincing witness in many different situations.
“Your departure, Pierre-André, was too sudden for us. But your word of life, taken from the book of Isaiah (43:1) ‘I have called you by name: you are mine’ gives us an intuition of the love with which we think God welcomed you into paradise.” These words concluded the address given by Denise Roth and Markus Näf, jointly responsible for the focolare town of Montet, Switzerland, at Pierre-André Blanc’s funeral. They summarized the conflicting feelings of many of those present: on the one hand, an indescribable perplexity about his death and, on the other, trust and, indeed, the certainty that he has found true life.
Fifth of six children, Pierre-André was born on April 2 1962 in Sion, Switzerland and grew up in Ayent, a small village in the Valais. His family was always very loving. He trained as a specialist educator and later completed theological studies.
In 1980, he went to the Genfest in Rome, an international youth event organised by the Focolare Movement and it was there that he first came into contact with the spirituality of the Movement. He was impressed “by the quality of the relationships between people and by the joy that was evident on their faces” as he would later write. When he returned home, he began to allow the words of the gospel to impact upon his everyday life. He had been accustomed to “meeting” God when he was skiing during retreats in the mountains but he then discovered a new way of relating to God as he loved the people around him in concrete and practical ways.
While attending a workshop on social issues, he suddenly and unexpectedly found himself in front of someone who spoke of his total donation to God. In Pierre-André a question arose: what if God were to call me to live like this person? He later wrote, “My fears of following God in a totalitarian way were not able to withstand his intervention in my life. I simply tried to show commitment in living the gospel and God did the rest. I understood how much he wanted my happiness and, above all, that in his eyes, I had enormous value. It seemed obvious to say yes to Jesus, to follow him where I felt he was calling me – to the focolare.”
In 1989, he began his formation and preparation for a life of donation to God in the focolare. Those who knew him at this time describe him as sensitive to everything that “spoke” of God. They say that was able to grasp the essential in what was happening around him and in other people. At the end of the time of formation, Pierre-André entered the focolare in Geneva, Switzerland, and in 2006 he moved to the little town of Montet. For many years he made a valuable contribution to the life of the focolare community there, assisting other people in a variety of ways but always with generosity, practicality and discretion.
In the professional field, he worked as an educator, first with children with physical disabilities and then with young people with learning difficulties. He always showed a deep capacity to be close to other people who were suffering. He had a fine sense of humour and, in everything he did, Pierre-André gave unreservedly of himself.
At the end of May 2018, he showed the first symptoms of depression. He immediately received medical help but, after a month, he had to be admitted to a clinic. At a certain point he was able to return to Montet at weekends. In October 2018, he left the clinic and returned to the focolare whilst remaining under the care of a specialist doctor. At this time, the other focolarini were especially attentive to him, supporting and accompanying him during this phase of life. He was continuously in donation to others and it seemed that his condition was beginning to improve. However, in the end the disease was stronger and on November 28 it ended his life in a very sudden way.
In spite of the shock, Pierre-André’s funeral was an expression of great gratitude from everyone for his life and for the delicate love he showed until the very end.