Today is the feast day of Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier. Ora pro nobis.
Rose Virginia Pelletier was born of pious parents on July 31, 1796 on the island of Noirmoutiers, during the terrible period of the French Revolution. So it was that her life began as a daughter of the suffering faith of her beloved France. Because of the suppression and expulsion of religious Orders, the education of the little girl had to be undertaken by her busy mother. At her knees Rose Virginia learned of God and His service.
In 1814 she entered the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge at Tours. After ten months as a postulant in this historic community at Tours, Rose Virginia received the habit and entered upon her life as a novice in September, 1815. For two years she remained in the novitiate, being formed to the religious life, studying and absorbing the history and work of her Order. Listening to the life of a Saint one day, she heard that he quickly attained sanctity by his perfect obedience. Obedience, then, reflected the young novice, must be the best means to become holy. If only I might take the vow of obedience at once! Sister Mary Euphrasia consulted her superiors, and was permitted to take a private vow of obedience. In 1817 she was professed, making then her first public vows. (1)
The house of Angers, which she had founded, seemed destined by God for grand designs. He would decide, by the voice of His pontiff. Like many of God’s elect, she was treated by her adversaries as an innovator, an ambitious person, impatient of authority. Only after incessant labours and formidable opposition did her cause triumph. The Brief in approval of the mother-house at Angers was signed 3 April, 1835, and published by Gregory XVI. The official title of the institute was henceforth “Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd of Angers”. It is directly subject to the Holy See, and Cardinal Odescalchi was its first cardinal-protector. Angers is authorized to send its sisters to the extremities of the earth. (2)
Mother Euphrasia heartily devoted herself to the work entrusted to her. She had been accused of ambition, of innovation, and of disobedience. Her sole ambition was to extend God’s kingdom, and to offer the benefits of her institute to the whole world. Her innovations, in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel, with the fourth vow of her order, were approved by the Church, and gave in thirty-three years one hundred and ten soul-saving institutions to the Church and to society. Her institutions were all founded in obedience to the requests of ecclesiastical authorities in every part of the world. Thirty-three years she was mother-general of the Good Shepherd, and at her death 29 April 1868, she left 2067 professed sisters, 384 novices, 309 Touriere sisters, 962 “Magdalens”, 6372 “penitents”, and 8483 children of various classes. Angers had seen great changes since 1829, when Mother Euphrasia had come with five sisters to found the house. Within thirty-three years one hundred and ten convents had been founded, sixteen provinces established, in France, Belgium, Holland, Rome, Italy, Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Ireland. Asia, Africa, the United States and Chili. Under her successor, Mother Mary St. Peter Coudenhove, in twenty-four years, eighty-five houses were founded, and thirteen new provinces established, making eleven in Europe, two in Africa, nine in North America, five in South America and one in the Oceania.
The cause of the beatification of Mother Euphrasia was inscribed by the postulator of the cause, 17 Nov., 1886. The preliminary examination terminated in 1890. Leo XIII received supplications from numerous cardinals, archbishops, bishops, several cathedral chapters, rectors of colleges, and universities, hundreds of priests, and many noble families, begging him to dispense from ordinary ten years’ interval required before the continuation of the cause. On 11 Dec., 1897, Leo XIII declared her “Venerable”, to the great joy of the whole world, and to the honour and glory of all the convents of the Good Shepherd.
On May 2, 1940, Pope Pius XII raised to the ultimate honors of the altar a most remarkable woman, Mother Mary Euphrasia Pelletier. (1)
Image: Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff