University Archivist and Associate Librarian Christine Guyonneau presented her life narrative in the Schwitzer Student Center Trustees Dining Room on Monday afternoon, April 18. The event was sponsored by the Lantz Center for Christian Vocations and Formation. The title of Guyonneau’s presentation was “From Ste Thérèse to All Saints.” Approximately 35 people attended.
“I feel like my story has a lot of emphasis on diversity,” Guyonneau said.
Guyonneau was born and raised in Saint Étienne, France, a town known for its rich cultural and architectural heritage. Saint Étienne is the French capital of the arms industry, earning it the name Armeville at one point in history, according to Guyonneau. She said it had a coal mining industry and was known as the Black City.
“There are no mines now, but there were when I was growing up,” Guyonneau said. “It also was a city with a lot of black lung disease, a lot of alcoholism, because you had to drink to work in the mine.”
The town had supported soccer, the textile industry and bicycle-making. Guyonneau said that all these industries are in decline now, if they have not disappeared. She explained her home life next.
“My grandmother was from Belgium. That was the first hint of my diversity,” she said.
Her themes of diversity, inclusion and French culture were paired with that of Catholicism and spirituality. Guyonneau’s mother came from a family of atheists, and neither of her parents ever attended church with her. But that did not stop her from attending Ste Térèse. Guyonneau remembered sitting on the bench at church and hearing the vicar tell the children that if they ever looked up, they would go to hell. Her high school catechism was completed at Ste Térèse. Later, Guyonneau was confirmed at Saint Charles, but after a while, stopped going to church. She said this was the beginning of a long hiatus.
“Life went on. I went to college. During the first year I came here [to the United States], I was a student and helped [French] teachers,” Guyonneau said. “I’ve talked in a lot of churches about France.”
Then she went back to France to finish her studies. An opportunity arose for Guyonneau to return, and she has been in the United States since 1973. She married, had a daughter and attended Christ Cathedral Church. She and her husband decided they wanted a change from Catholicism. Her husband was Episcopalian, and they decided to go to the Episcopal Church of All Saints.
“I was very happy to go Episcopalian, because for one thing, I do not believe that priests should not be married,” Guyonneau said. “The Catholic Church, for me, was a lot of hypocrisy.”
Her involvement at the University of Indianapolis began in 1987. She will retire this year after 29 years at UIndy. This international journey to spirituality resonated with audience member and English major Nancy Shannon.
“I enjoyed getting to hear about Christine’s past and her childhood growing up in France,” Shannon said.
Office Manager for Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs Cindy Sturgeon introduced Guyonneau and coordinated the event.
“Christine actually called me. She is retiring this year, and she really wanted to do this,” Sturgeon said. She said Guyonneau had attended other Sharing My Story events that inspired her. This was the last Sharing My Story event of the year.