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Mother Generals

 

By Faith...

La BeauceLa Beauce

 

 

How can we not recall the witnesses of faith in the history of our Congregation? There are innumerable names of sisters who have left their mark, as living witnesses of their faith in everyday life through the simplicity of their lives. Many of whom we have known, with whom we have lived. It is good to remember them in community and thank God for them. Today we are invited to retrace the footprints left by our superior generals. By faith, their lives were filled by God and they knew how to keep the Congregation alive by fulfilling their mission.

BY FAITH... MÈRE AGNÈS REVERS knew how to put her organizational skills and practical sense at the service of the common good in order to strengthen the community in fidelity to the original spirit while at the same time attend to material needs and administration. Her faith helped her to overcome the internal difficulties of the community and to maintain with a vision for the future everything in relation to the mission.

BY FAITH... MÈRE LA CROIX with her simple, poor and faithful life led the Congregation during the difficult years of the French Revolution. She lived with great pain the dispersion of the Community, with a great charity she took care of her sisters, looking out for their future and awakening in them a lot of confidence. She said: "you have taken the sisters out of their house of stone, but you cannot take them out of His heart, the spirit remains and gives them life".

BY FAITH... MÈRE AUGUSTIN despite her reluctance, accepts her election and begins her generalate in a very difficult time: the Reconstitution of the Community. Her main mission is to replant the religious spirit of Marie Poussepin in the small remnant of sisters and welcome those who wish to return and renew their consecration. With great hope, trusting in Providence she works for new vocations and their formation. She finds a house to reunite the community and, among sorrows and joys, carries the heavy burden of the time with great confidence and courage in the future of the Congregation.

BY FAITH... MÈRE POTENTIENNE in the midst of hardships, demands and confusion among the clergy, is sustained by prayer. Tireless and selfless, full of tenderness and compassion, she faces the situation. She becomes the mother of the neglected. She insists on the formation of poor girls, always faithful to the legacy of Marie Poussepin.

BY FAITH... MÈRE ADELAIDE lives as her predecessors in a turbulent time that demands creativity, strength, and above all prayer. Mère Adelaide was renowned for her ability to work and her talent in order and administration. She dedicates herself to strengthen communities, make visits, and prepares communications to stay connected to her sisters and offer them appropriate advice and support. Her faith leads her to follow the way of discernment. Each sister receives the General Rules not as law but as a way of following Christ.

BY FAITH... MÈRE SUZANNE was very intelligent, innovative and tenacious in her resolutions. She strengthened the foundations, managed well the economic needs of the Community, demonstrating good reflection and prudence. Her active faith prevents her from being paralyzed in the face of difficulties. She is concerned for vocations and she searches with her sisters for the will of God.

BY FAITH... MÈRE ASSOMPTION embodies and updates the service of Charity by herself attending to the cholera victims and encouraging the sisters to do the same. She wanted to respond to the needs of the sick and poor in whatever way they could. During her Generalate she opened multipurpose works in marginalized areas. In faith she welcomes the guidelines of the Church for religious life. From this time onwards the sisters begin to make vows. She edits a Manual for the sisters.

BY FAITH... MÈRE SAINT PIERRE as a child discovered her vocation: “I want to be a missionary” and for that she filled her life with Charity. “There charity happens" was the expression of those who knew and witnessed her goodness, mercy, wisdom and simplicity. Her living faith moved her to see the face of Christ in the poor, the sick, orphans, through those who devoted to them their time and love. Animated by faith, she gave herself to the service of the Congregation. She was concerned about the expansion of the Dominican Charism of Marie Poussepin and made many foundations for the service of Charity. She opened the way for the formation of the sisters and was able to carry the cross of misunderstanding and humiliation.

BY FAITH... MÈRE DU CALVAIRE in simplicity and strength assumes the government of the Congregation during a critical time in the Community. By faith, she opens new horizons for the Presentation: Spain, Colombia and Iraq are witnesses of her limitless audacity. Her faith in the sisters, her missionary spirit and vision for the future leads to the establishment of the first province of the Congregation: the province of Bogota. She was fraternal and cared for each sister. Her advice, her letters enabled her to be presence in each community and in their entrusted mission. She does not rest until she received the recognition of an institute of Pontifical Right for the Congregation.

BY FAITH... MÈRE JOSEPHA from the time she joins the Congregation, offers her brilliant intelligence, her fiery temperament, her big heart and her availability at the service of the mission. It is her spirit of faith that energizes her life. It leads her to dedicate all her forces during her 33-years as a superior general to make 190 new foundations, as an expression of the Charism and fidelity to the Original Vision. Her love for Marie Poussepin inspires her to begin the Cause of her Beatification, which will be continued by her successors. She became interested in trying to get the recognition of our origins as Dominicans. She obtained from Pope Leo XIII the rescript with the official name of the Congregation: “Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation “.

BY FAITH... MÈRE LEON JOSEPH sustains her spiritual life with constant prayer; her love for the Church is unshakeable. She faced difficult times because of World War I, yet with hope and serenity, she knew how to lead the Congregation for 18 years through the most difficult issues with sensibly, clarity and firmness. For love of the Foundress she insisted with all her strength to continue on the process for the Cause of Beatification. She made no foundations in France due to the political situation but supported the existing missions. She worried about the communities of Spain and Colombia. She visited Colombia for six months leaving her mark, especially in the line of education.

BY FAITH... MÈRE THÉRESE AUGUSTA in a spirit of fortitude, wisdom and prudence, she accompanies the Congregation in the difficult years of World War II. Only her faith in Providence and her spirit of organization helped her to face the unexpected exodus of the sisters from the Mother House due to the invasion of German troops. The community leaves for Benais (France), "as they leave they pray the Magnificat with a broken heart but full of trust in the Lord's protection." They remained eight months there. Mere Therese Augusta instils peace and serenity; she creates a family atmosphere of mutual help with simplicity, participating in household chores, without neglecting the care of the Congregation. She sent a circular letter to the Congregation explaining what had happened. All by faith.

BY FAITH... MÈRE THÉRESE DES ANGES begins her Generalate with a very significant event which was very much in agreement with her Dominican spirit: the definitive affiliation of the Congregation to the Order of Preachers as the culmination of the great work of her predecessors. She assumes and presents the demands of "aggiornamento" as a challenge to the Congregation. Proposed by the Vatican, she convenes, prepares and presides over the extraordinary General Chapter of 1969. With missionary zeal she expands the Congregation to nine countries, “the mission is everywhere." “Together we want to be a small cell of the Church, that humbly participates in the coming of the Kingdom of God to this world which desires to be more just and more human." Thanks to her vibrant faith, she gave thrust to an increase in the renewal of our religious life oriented towards the future, facing the Church and the world.

BY FAITH... MÈRE MARIE SAINT THÉRÈSE lives her mission as Superior General at a time of great changes on the political, social, economic and ecclesial fronts of our world. She feels the need for a renewal since religious life has become more secularized, vocations have diminished, and tensions and difficulties within the communities demand options that require returning to the essentials. It is she with her faith, integrity and simplicity, who invites the Congregation to follow Jesus as the only standard for our life. The elaboration of the Constitutions implemented with the guidelines of Vatican II, returns to the genuine sources of the Community. This mission commits all the sisters and she says, "Together we can build in a solid way and our Congregation will endure".

BY FAITH... SISTER INÉS MERCEDES MEJÍA TORO, could not grasp the reality of the Congregation without situating it within a much broader scope on various contexts: the influence of violence, poverty, injustice and religious indifference. It was a world without peace awaiting our response. Our faith required firmness, clarity, vision, courage, commitment. She found in the Word of God, her light and strength to inspire the Congregation to seek an option for justice. Formation and mission were emphasized strongly during her Generalate of 15 years. At the end of this time, the Congregation is present in 33 countries. On November 20, 1994, the Beatification of Marie Poussepin occurs in Rome when Sr. Maria Fabiola Velasquez was newly elected Superior General.

OUR HISTORY CONTINUES... with Sr. Maria Fabiola Velasquez, Sr. Monique Colrat and presently with Sr. Maria Escayola Coris...

Text: Sr. María Betsabé Guevara

 


 

Biography of our Superior Generals

The Congregation along its more than 300 years of history has had 19 Superior Generals including Marie Poussepin, our Foundress:

THE COMUNITY OF SAINVILLE BEFORE THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
 
 
AFTER THE FRENCH REVOLUTION: RECONSTITUTION OF THE COMMUNITY OF JANVILLE (1803), 
ESTABLISHMENT IN TOURS (1813) AND
EXPANSION OF THE CONGREGATION IN FRANCE
 
 

GENERALATE OF MÈRE ST. PIERRE   

 
EXPANSION OF THE CONGREGATION IN THE WORLD
 
 
AFTER VATICAN COUNCIL II
 
 
CONTEMPORARY TIMES
 
The norms of historic accuracy does not yet encourage us to write an objective history of these generalates.

 

MÈRE AGNÈS REVERS († 1765 in Sainville)

- 1744-1762 -

 

On Feb. 2, 1744, eight days after the death of Marie Poussepin, Msgr. de Mérinville, Bishop of Chartres, proposed Mère Agnès Revers as the superior of the Daughters of Charity of Sainville. Agnes was a cousin of Marie Poussepin, born in Linas (Essonne) on November13, 1682. She was about 13 years old when she followed our Foundress to Sainville and she was one of the first boarders of the newly born community. During 50 years, she lived by the side of Marie Poussepin, which undoubtedly, greatly influenced her formation.

Her signature appeared for the first time in 1711. Subsequently one finds it often as delegate of Marie Poussepin to certify the death of the sisters at Sainville. With the growth of the community and the added responsibilities attached to government, it seems that Marie Poussepin reserved for herself the animation and spiritual duties of the Community, while Agnès Revers would assist her in the material tasks and administration. In 1731 she is called "sub-prioress".

She was an energetic woman, who knew how to preserve and complete the work of Marie Poussepin. She completed building the interior of the Convent. She had cisterns dug in the garden of the Community and had a source built in cast iron. In 1759, she expanded the house north to south. Outside of Sainville, she consolidated the existing establishments and added to the number of foundations by founding: Chatou (1746), Rozay en Brie (1749), Mauregard (1753), Faremoutiers en Brie (1754), Chaussy y Richebourg (1760) Courtry (1762) and Courpalay. 

She gave up her responsibility in 1762 and died on December 11, 1765 at Sainville where she was buried at the side of our Mother Foundress.


 

MÈRE LA CROIX († 1801 in Janville)

- 1762-1792 -

 

Jeanne Boue was born on May 22, 1722, in Rouvray Saint Denis, a village in the region of the Beauce located a few kilometers from Janville. Nothing is known of her infancy and adolescence. A simple mention of her name is made in the archives of the Community in 1738. She is added to the Body of the Community in 1740. In 1755, we find her at the “Hotel Dieu” of Joigny. In 1760, she is associated with the government of Mère Agnès Revers under the title of coadjutor. She succeedes her as Superior General, on November 21, 1762.

During her Generalate she starts numerous foundations: in1765, Saint Florentin; in 1773, Villeneuve le Roi; in 1775, le Boulay d'Achères and Châtillon sur Loing; in 1881, Nanteau sur Lunain; in 1784, Blandy and Boulogne sur Seine and in 1792, Lorris. She will also withdraw the sisters from the “Hotel Dieu” of Angerville. In all these places, Mother La Croix presses the administrators to obtain contracts with the intent of maintaining order and justice. In faithfulness to the Original Vision, she leads the Institute with a firm and steady hand, conserving a strong and health Community.

However, this generalate will go through one of the most somber periods of the history of France: the Revolution of 1789. The end of the winter of 1793 will see the flight of the Community and the abandonment of the Couvent of Sainville which will be sold as state property in 1796. In the other establishments, according to the possibilities, the sisters will continue their service of charity. It is the case, especially of Janville where Mother La Croix will take refuge after her departure from Sainville. From there, with the collaboration of Father Granger, Pastor of the Parish, she will prepare the reconstitution of the Congregation. Dying suddenly on May 16, 1801, she will not have the joy of seeing the fruit of her labor.


 

MÈRE AUGUSTIN († 1809 in Janville)

- 1803-1809 -


Geneviève CHAINTREAU was born in Puiseaux (Loiret) on August 30, 1736. She had probably attended the little school of the Sisters of Sainville which was present there. In 1765, we find her as superior of the “Hotel-Dieu” of Saint Florentin where she lived until 1777, the date on which she is recalled to Sainville. At the end of the Revolution, at the time of the death of Mother La Croix, she is at the “Hotel-Dieu” of Janville, as provisional administrator of the community. Her name is among the three proposed by Father Granger for the sisters to vote on during the Chapter of Reconstitution. On November 21, 1803, she is elected 4th Superior General of the Congregation. After a first triennium (3 years), she will be re-elected on June 3, 1807. During that year, helped by Father Granger and in spite of internal difficulties, she will obtain interest from the mother of the Emperor, to help bring about the rebirth of the Community. On the 30th of September 1807, Sr. Pélagie represents the Congregation at the General Chapter of the Sisters of Charity, convoked by the Emperor. She returns with monetary aid of 15.000 "livres" for the acquisition of the “Maison Rose” that was occupied by the Community.

Mere Augustin needs to manifest much firmness during this dificult time of reconstitution since the last ten years of dispersion had altered discipline and religious spirit. She achieves the acceptance of deprivations inherent in a serious poverty proper to the circumstances of the time, and she reestablsih ties with former places of mission. Gradually new vocations to the Community emerge.

Although advanced in age, Mere Augustin continues her work, receiving and forming novices. She reestablishes previous establishments such as Richebourg et Chilly. In 1809, she opens new ones at Villers-Cotterêts, Clairvaux and Blérancourt. She inaugurates a new type of foundation: houses for the destitute (dépôts de mendicité).

Four months after the death of Father Granger who succumbed at his work on April 20, 1809, Mere Augustin also dies in full activity. She was 73 years old. In a meaningful coincidence, that same day of her funeral, on August 12, 1809, Msgr. de Barral, Archbishop of Tours, arrived at Janville. He came to ask for sisters for the General Hospital in his city of Tours.


 

MÈRE POTENTIENNE († 1817 in Tours)

- 1809-1816 -

Mère PotentienneMère PotentienneTo replace Mère Augustin, the Chapter on September 20, 1809 elected the Superior of Lorris, Mère Potentienne of 66 years of age. We don't know any thing about her infancy, neither of the entrance to the novitiate of Jeanne ROUSSE, born in Dampierre les Conflans, in Haute Saône, on March 31, 1743. History records her time in Lorris, a remembrance of her dedication to the service of the sick and her great hospitality.

Mère Potentienne was not present at the Chapter. At the news of her election, she hesitated greatly before such a great burden at her age. She accepted on the insistence of the Bishop of Versailles, repeating to herself the words that would become legendary: " Divine Providence will come to our aid" and "God be blessed in all things." This is what she liked to repeat in all happy or unhappy events.

Such help is manifested in the person of Father Evette, the successor of Fr. Granger. The times were still difficult. The financial status of the Community was precarious. The extreme distress of the time did not calm the agitation of some minds who severely judged the administration, having accepted grudgingly the choice of Janville as the headquarters for the Community.

In January 1810, she convokes a Chapter to study the situation and to look for means to ameliorate it. She obtained authorization to advance the works of construction and remodeled the house started by Mère Augustin. However, very soon she became convinced of its insufficiency and inconvenience.

On the other hand, she does not hesitate to expand the charitable activities of the Community. In November 1809 she sends seven sisters to the General Hospital of Tours, under the direction of Sr. Thècle. A few months later, the Administrative Commission encourages the creation of a novitiate. Soon, Sœur Suzanne replaces Sœur Thècle as Superior of the community and as mistress of novices. During that same time, she completes existing houses such as Villers Côtterets or Saint Florentin and founds Lailly in 1810; Villeneuve sur Yonne en 1812, Luçon et Villeneuve sur Lot en 1813.

On January 19, 1811 Napoleon signed the first decree approving the Statutes of the Congregation of SISTERS OF CHARITY, OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN OF JANVILLE. This was an important act assuring the future of the Community. Mère Potentienne expressed her thanksgiving in a prayer of praise to the Holy Trinity, written in the registry of the Community. At that time the community had 78 religious, and between the years of 1809 - 1813, it received 46 postulantes and 26 novices. Mère Potentienne formed them on solid virtues, on humility, fraternal spirit and the communion of souls. She radiated above all her unshakeable trust in Providence.

During her second thee-year mandate, Mère Potentienne had to make a serious decision: to move the headquarters of the Congregation. With the consent of the Bishop of Versailles, under whose jurisdiction was Janville, and the consent of the Archbishop of Tours and Madame Laetitia, Mère Potentienne was able to acquire a property in Tours, in the Parish of Notre Dame, La Riche. Thus, the community was moved to Touraine. A decree of August 14, 1813, signed by Marie Louise (wife of the Emperor), confirmed the authorization. Mgr. De Barral gave to the community as ecclesiastical superior one of his most eminent General Vicars: M. Danicourt.

Since August 1814, Mère Potentienne continues new foundations: at Sens, under the direction of Sœur Pélagie, and very quickly Neuvy le Roi, followed by Ballan and then, Amboise in 1816. After having provided the Mother House with a chapel, Mère Potentienne thought of founding an establishment where the sisters could receive, besides their spiritual formation, a complete professional formation which would qualifiy them for the demands of their state in life. She bought a house contiguous to the novitiate so as to establish a small hospital and also a training school for nurses. She did not have the joy of seeing the completion of this project. At 73 years of age and tired, she resigns at the Chapter of September 16, 1816. She finished her life full of dedication and prayer in the Mother House, in the district of the suburb of La Riche. She died on May 4, 1817. Her memory remains very alive, to the point of creating a true legend over her name during that time, as much in Lorris as in Tours. A tradition recounts that her body buried in the cemetery of La Riche, has not been altered by corruption.


 

MÈRE ADÉLAÏDE († 1822 in Châtillon sur Loing)

- 1816-1821 -


Marie Anne Catherine COMBIER was born at Puiseaux (Loiret)on September 3, 1752. As a child she frequented the small school which the sisters of Sainville had in Puiseaux since 1733. She enters the Novitiate around the year 1772 and works as head of the ward of patients at the ”Hotel Dieu” of Toury. In 1777, Mère La Croix sends her to Châtillon sur Loing. Starting in 1785 she assumes the direction for the schools in the city, since she had successfully earned the Pedagogical Credentials required by the Duke of Châtillon. She was a kind and intelligent sister, which the population of Châtillon appreciated as "a person who does good".

In 1793, by request of the revolutionary authorities, Mère Adélaïde accepted the temporary direction of the Hospice of Montargis located some kilometres from Châtillon. When she was able to put the direction of the establishment in the hands of a lay person, she returned to common life in Châtillon. In the year VI of the Revolution (1798) she was ready for a short time of rest at Puiseaux with another sister, Sr. Augustin. Then until the year IX of the Revolution (1801) she is at the hospital in Richebourg. An identity card of the time describes her as rather tall: "1m62, brown hair, gray eyes and a mark left from chicken pox on her face.”

Sr. Adélaïde had returned to her service in Châtillon when the Chapter of September 16, 1816 called her to head the Congregation. She was 64 years old. Mère Adélaïde put herself, with her usual dynamism, to the task which the Lord had assigned her. A woman of order and administration she visits and consolidates houses and makes several new foundations: 1817, Richelieu; 1819, Saint Julien du Sault et Dampierre; 1820, Chateauneuf sur Loire; 1821, Château la Vallière, le Coudray et Ouzouer le Marché. In spite of her age, the hardships of the season and the slowness of travel, Mère Adelaïde presided at the inauguration of establishments and visited the sisters to encourage them in their mission. She enjoyed only a moderate health and had to go to rest for a time at Amboise, where the air was healthier than that in the neighbourhood of La Riche. In those difficult times, she did economic miracles to balance always-precarious budgets. At a time when she felt the lack of sisters to assume important responsibilities, she deprived herself of the council and support of qualified sisters for the apostolate, taking upon herself a considerable amount of work.

She worked hard to maintain the purity of the primitive spirit of the Constitutions of the Congregation. Many copies of the "Rule of Sainville" had disappeared in the termoil of the Revolution, so she asked the Archbishop of Tours to have them reprinted. The approval and confirmation from the Archbishop was given on April 9, 1820, without any abridgments or additions and "to be practiced in perpetuity."

Mère Adélaïde had been re-elected for a second three-year term on October 18, 1819. However, during the month of September 1821, her physical strength declined. She presented her resignation to the Archbishop of Tours. Five years of persistent work had used up her energy. Desiring to finish her days in the "exercise of Charity," she asked to be reintegrated in the hospice of Châtillon sur Loing, where she died on July 9, 1822, at the age of seventy.


 

MÈRE SUZANNE († 1838 in Tours)

- 1821-1824 -


After the resignation of Mère Adélaïde, the Chapter of October 15, 1821, gave the responsibility to Mère Suzanne, at the time superior at Rozay en Brie. This 55 year old woman was not an unknown person. She was intelligent and had a strong personality. Fifteen years previously, she had been the leader of the group in Châtillon. Born on August 9, 1766 at Cubry (Haute Saône) Anne Claude SYLVESTRE, made profession before the Revolution, she was of the generation of the sisters of Sainville. At the end of her novitiate in 1785, she was sent to Meung under the direction of Sr. Honoré Deshaies who she succeded in 1803. At that time she participated in the Chapter of November 21 at Janville. On the next day she proposed two postulants, employed at the hispice of Meung, where she was in charged of formation by a special exception. Sœur Suzanne did not approve of the choice of Janville as the site for the Reconstitution of the Congregation. Her great fault was to communicate her disapproval and to rally a certain number of sisters to her views, which were then outside of the legitimate authority of Mère Augustin. In spite of the suffering felt then by Mère Augustin, Sœur Suzanne had redeemed herself thanks to her great dedication, and Mère Potentienne trusted her giving her the charge of superior of the community of the Hospital of Tours and of the novitiate from 1810 to 1813. She understood very soon that this city had many possibilities for the Community and she communicated this to the superiors. However, at the time of the transfer of the Mother House in 1813, she was sent to Rozay en Brie and it is there that she is in 1821.

As Superior General, Sr. Suzanne received Sr. Séraphie, as secretary and Sr. Assomption as mistress of novices. Fr. Danicourt was still the delegate ecclesiastical superior. With the ardor and tenacity of her enterprising character, she got into work and realized new foundations. In 1821, she took again Blandy and founded Brienon in l'Yonne; in 1822, Saint Benoît sur Loire et Loudun; in 1824, Chablis, Loches and the small school of Château la Vallière. She knew how to maintain in the Congregation its missionary orientation of charity and mercy. Her administration was one of the most successful. She arranged intelligently the various facilities at the Mother House, she bought property next to it so as to develop and perfect the Health Center which rendered a great service to the neighbourhood, while also allowing for the training of nursing for the novices. Her Generalate was a dynamic period: the recruitment for the novitiate was intensified, and the community of hospital sisters of Chinon merged with the Congregation.

We do not know the exact reasons why Mère Suzanne did not want to accept re-election. She gave her resignation to Msgr. du Chilleau, in September 1824. She was 58 years old. She returned to Rozay en Brie, to take up again her service of charity there. In 1834, she was named Superior at Amboise. Two years later and tired, she returned to Tours, where she lived two more years at the Mother House, worn out and in much suffering. She died on April 16, 1838, and was buried in the cemetery of La Riiche. She leaves behind the remembrance of an outstanding personality, capable of making mistakes and even more of being redeemed and atoning for her faults.


 

MÈRE ASSOMPTION († 1849 in Meung sur Loire)

- 1824-1843 -

 

Mère AssomptionMère AssomptionMarie Anne Nicole LASNAU was born in Tours on April 6, 1777. She waited until she was 25 years old to ask to enter the novitiate of Janville in 1811. She had Sr. Pélagie as mistress of novices. At the taking of habit on June 28, 1912, she received the name of Sr. Assomption. Sent to Meung sur Loire, she was named treasurer and assistent to the Superior Sister des Anges. She will replace her after she is fully admitted into the Community in June 1814. She stayed at that post until 1821. At that time, the Chapter named her Mistress of Novices, a responsibility which she will assume during the generalate of Mere Suzanne. Her kindness and smile, her serenity and open spirit gave her moral influence on the young.

It is at the Chapter of October 18, 1824, that she was elected Superior General. She had the qualities of her birthplace with a certain inclination to tolerance, but under her government the Presentation did not lose its dedication to work in light of the service of Charity. In 1824, 145 sisters spread over some forty places formed the Community. In 1843, when she left the charge of the Congregation, having openned forty-four houses, we numbered 290 sisters. The Presentation had doubled in numbers. Mère Assomption expanded the Presentation in the regions of Touraine, Orleans and in the South West. She was innovated by being present in the urban areas of: Angers, Nantes, and especially Paris. It was, as it had been in the past, schools and hospital establishments, but also places for the poor which where later transformed into establishments for the elderly. She reflected well the vision of Mother Foundress, when she wrote: "The indigent are the solid gold of our treasure." She opened the orphanages of Tours and of Montauban (Miséricorde) where the first superior was Mère Saint Pierre, in 1835. The urban expansion was done by services of nursing and hygiene (clean linens) for the students of the schools. She also responded to the calls from the penitentiary camp or colony for boys at Mettray, and in Indre et Loire. Mère Assomption expanded even more the buildings of the Mother House, but even then, the space remained insufficient. She bought land outside of town to transfer the headquarters but the choice was not a good one and it had painful consequences for the next Generalate.

Traces of the Dominican heritage, so desired by Marie Poussepin remained, such as certain external observances: fast, abstinence, daily recitation of the seven Penitential Psalms. Their observance was difficult due to the many tasks of the sisters. Mère Assomption obtained from Msgr. de Montblanc, a dispensation from this last point of the Rule, replacing it by the daily “Miserere." The great innovation of her Generalate, is without doubt, the introduction of the Vows of Religion. After consultation with the assembly of sisters, Msgr. de Montblanc decreed by an ordonance of September 24, 1838, the instalation of annual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience each November 21. The changes in Canon Law made this possible, which was not the case at the time of our Mother Foundress.

On the occasion of this decision the “Manual of the Sisters of the Presentation" was published in August 1839. It is a kind of Directory with the obligations of religious life in two parts: first, excerpts from the Rule of Sainville. Second, a collection of prayers, the Office of Virgins and diverse exercises, including the letter of St. Ignatious on obedience. M. Bruchet, ecclesiastical superior since 1834, is the author of a great part of this Manual, it called attention to the sisters' manner of voting by correspondence as not being in accordance with their Contitutions or the Rule. This was followed by an ordenance of Msgr. Morlot, dated the 22 of August, 1843, notiying them of the new norms concerning elections. It was expected that all local superiors plus the Council in charge and those who had been councilors who were in Tours would vote, and this abolished the vote by correspondence.

The Generalate of Mère Assomption knew times of hardship: The Revolution of 1830, and a serious cholera epidemic which lasted six months, during which the sisters gave a lot of themselves with heroic charity. Having arrived to the age of sixty-six with weak health, Mère Assomption considered that her mission had been accomplished. She had given the best of herself and henceforth a younger and more dynamic presence was necessary for the advancement of the Community. After having resigned the post, on October 9, 1843, she retires to her earlier community of Meung sur Loire. There she found the poor and the sick and she did much good by her availability, her hospitality and her peace. She died on July 22, 1849. She was 73 years old. She is buried in the cemetery of Meung sur Loire. "The pious Mère Assomption had gently leveled all the roads, [thus], all was ready for the great impulse which would follow."


 

MÈRE SAINT PIERRE († 1878 in Villenueve sur Lot)

- 1843-1858 -

 

Mère Saint PierreMère Saint PierreOn April 9, 1803, a little daughter, Françoise Apolline, was born at the home of Pierre Merlin and Anne Accault. She would become orphan of both parents before she was ten yars old. She was welcomed at the Rectory of the Pastor, M. le Curé Pierret, her godfather. She received and excellent education in an erudite environment, near a sensitive and good priest. Circumstances supported the development of her intelligence and as well as her aspirations for a life out of the ordinary... She had high literary qualifications and “Missionary" aspirations, which she confided to the pages of her grammar book or scribbled them on the Church pillars. Her older sister had already entered the novitiate in Tours and she had often visited the community of sisters established at the Hospital since 1812. She would get close to them for "meditation, to sing the Office" and her heart was full of compassion regarding the misery and the sufferings which she encountered while visiting the sick. One day she decided to respond to the call of the Lord and shared this with her godparent, who ill-received the news, and denied her his permission. However she left for the Mother House in Tours, with the consent of her tutor. There she was welcome by Mère Adélaïde. She took the habit on July 22, 1817, and received the name of Sœur Saint Pierre.

She started her religious life at the Hospital of Amboise, and after her admission into the body of the community, on August 13, 1821, she was sent to Saint Benoît sur Loire. After a short visit in Dampierre, she came back to Amboise where she supplied the hospital with a good pharmacy while assiduously specializing in this science. Then she was called to the Mother House to the office of Mistress of Novices. In 1831, she was entrusted with the mission to go to Richelieu to close the house which was in jeopardy. Her iniciative, however, reversed the situation: she created "the pot of the poor", organized visiting of the sick who were most isolated and trained the laity to continue this work; she founded a "hospitality house". In four years she had given new reasons for our presence in this city.

In September 1835, she left Richelieu to found an establishment in Montauban. "The Mercy" [for the poor] started in complete need. Thanks to her dynamism and to her spirit of faith, the small community of three sisters would soon become one of twelve for a mission which went beyond the city, with clothing for the poor, visit to the sick, catechism and conferences for the adults, and hospitality to Spanish refugees. Her preference was for the orphan girls and the abandoned children. She started the construction of a building destined to welcomed them and it was at this time that the General Chapter of 1843, called her to Tours. In eight years she had conquered the whole city, simply living the spirit of the Gospel.On October 9, 1843, to her great surprise and dismay, Sister Saint Pierre was elected on the fourth round, as Superior General of the Congregation. She was forty years old. A woman of character, and at the same time a woman of heart, she was the one that was needed at the time and the Superior, M. Bruchet, was highly pleased.

In the last years of her generalate, Mother Assomption was obliged to curb signs of a lack of discipline through certain freedoms which had been taken. With lucidity, Mere Saint Pierre confirmed the loss of spiritual vitality. In one of her first conferences she manifests her own intentions: "You have named me against my own liking to a responsibility which I have never desired. Here I am, and I will fulfill my duties at all cost." She will take hold of a situation which Mere Assomption had not been able to re-establish. In relation to abuses, she reacted by bringing to mind the thinking of our Foundress in the Rule that she had left them. She reforms with tact and without offending anyone. So as to know the houses and the sisters, she undertakes traveling, in spite of the difficulties of poverty, due on the one hand to the economic situation in France, and on the other, the project to transfer the Mother House. Finding the land bought by Mother Assomption as unhealthy, she declares herself against it and proposes to build on the slope of Saint Symphorien. It is there that she will have built the "Grande Bretèche," in the midst of great moral isolation and of great financial concerns. The future will, however, prove her right.

In the fifteen years of her Generalate, she will open seventy-five houses, especially those of "mercy" with visit to the sick, the poor, classes for the public and soup kitchens for the poor. She also accepts service in the small seminaries and schools for boys, the new project of “economic ovens” (soup kitchens) and hospitality to young girls of color at Ancizan. In the novitiate, she institutes a course of religious studies, reinforced by weekly conferences given by the chaplains. She herself gives classes for the community since she envisions an integral formation for the sisters. She opens the "pensionnat" (private boarding school) next to the Mother House, which will also serve as place of school practice and training for the novices destined for teaching. She institutes a normal school for science and letters, given at the novitiate by university graduates from Tours. This audacious idea could not be maintained as planed but the thrust had already been given. She sends certain sisters to Paris to follow the courses of Madame Pape Carpentier, which were highly reputed for their pedagogical content. She also creates a new neighborhood dispensary next to the Bretèche.

As Superior General, she remains a sister of Charity, with an open heart towards any distress: in 1849 and 1854, she offers her services to the city authorities to fight agaisnt the epidemies of cholera. During the exile in Amboise, of Abd El Kader and his family, she overcomes the differences of beliefs and customs, to accept a mission of dedication near the women and the children of the Arab Chief.

Her attachment to the Congregation and to Marie Poussepin incites her to look passionately for the traces of our Foundress in view of a greater fidelity. It is first of all the return to Sainville. There she establishes a small community which will renew the tradition of schools and hospitality. With Father Gervais, Chaplain of the Mother House, she researches memories of the origins and experiences the joy of discovering the tomb stone and then the remains of Marie Poussepin. She tries to reconstitute the Archives of the Congregation and does researches at Chartres which will allow her to obtain important papers such as the Testament of our Mother and the act of donation to Noëlle Ménard, where Marie Poussepin confirms her project as a Dominican community and her apostolic and charitable intentions.

The povidential encounter between Father Lacordaire, restorer of the Order in France, and Mother Ludovic, provided for a closer relationship with the Order of Preachers. Marie Poussepin had chosen Saint Dominic as secondary patron of the Congregation and she appeals to some of the religious of the Order in some instances. Thanks to older sisters who had kept the traditions, one can confirm that the Dominican spirit has remained alive in the Congregation. Unfortunately that closer relationship with the Order, which was judged untimely or misunderstood, will be in part, the cause of the dismissal of Mere Saint Pierre.

A little time before the elections of 1858, a new archbishop is named in Tours. He does not know the Congregation and he is not aware of the issues. He listens to the gossip of certain discontent sisters supported by an influential priest. He calls Mother General to the Archbishop's palace. Without the possibility of self explanations, he asks her not to participate in the next General Chapter and invites her to withdraw to a house of the Community far from the general government of the Congregation. Sacrificing herself for the Institute, she gives a witness of heroic faith and of total detachment leaving the Bretèche forever. She retires to Villeneuve sur Lot to live there for twenty years in a mission of dedication and service to the poor and the sick, as a true sister of charity.

She dies suddenly at Villeneuve, on October 30, 1878, after contracting an illness at the side of the wounded from the war of 1870. She was 75 years old. Buried in the cemetary of Villeneuve, her body was found intact after 45 years. It was brought to Tours, and it was placed in the Chapel of the Mother House where it rests since July 13, 1923. This Generalate has strongly marked the Congregation in what concerns our belonging to the Dominican Order. Mere Saint Pierre was one of the first to delineate the identity of the Dominican Sister of Charity, uniting the apostolic spirit of St. Dominic and monastic observance with the practices of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.


 

MÈRE DU CALVAIRE († 1887 in Tours)

- 1858-1887 -

 

Mère Du CalvaireMère Du CalvaireOn September 14, 1858, Mother Saint Pierre could not be reelected and it was to Mother du Calvaire that the majority of the votes went. Marie Angélique DRANCOURT was born on June 3, 1819, in the village of Saint Aubert near Cambrai. She had succesively lost her mother and her father, and found herself orphaned at 10 years old. She matured early and was entrusted to the Sisters of Charity of Cambrai. There, she made her First Communion in 1831 and at her Confirmation she took the name Charlotte. Passionate for serious reading and gifted with an excellent memory, she will say later on : "It is reading that has taught me the little I know."

This autodidactic formation enabled her at 16 years of the age to teach a class for young children in an institution at Cambrai. Becoming ill, she was cared for by a doctor who helped her discover the sisters of the Presentation. Two years later, in October 1837, Marie Angélique entered the novitiate of la Riche. On February 1, 1838, she was admitted to take the habit which took place on March 5th. She took the name Sister du Calvaire and was sent to the Hospital at Saint Florentin where a school was annexed. At 19 years old she repaced the very competent and experienced, Sister Saint Maurice. On October 12,1840, she was admitted for Profession. The following year she had to leave teaching; work and fatigue had depleated her delicate health. After some months of rest she was sent to the hospital in Sens where she was put in charge of the pharmacy. She remained there until 1843 at which time Mere Saint Pierre sent her to Villeneuve sur Lot to found and direct the center of public assistance where she increased many charitable activities (hospitality to orphans, workshops, help to the needy especially during the famine of 1852.) It was said of her: " All within her was attractive, revealing a cultivated spirit at the service of a great heart."

In 1853, Mere Saint Pierre entrusted to her the responsibility of the General Hospital in Tours, an important role which required good coordination with those responsible for administration. There she lived the epidemic of cholera in 1854, and the almost total flooding of the city in 1856. She risked her own life by participating in and overseeing the rescue efforts while being close to the patients. Leading the community of 32 sisters, at a hospital of 1000 beds, Mere du Calvaire did not neglect the work of the Congregation, she had become councilor at the Chapter of 1855. She was, therefore, informed of the difficulties which disturbed the Community since 1857. Mere du Clavaire lived then, painful hours which must have wounded her deeply, given her affection for Mere St. Pierre.

At the time that she was elected to the Chapter of 1858, she began a long generalate of 30 years. At the end of 1858, Mere du Calvaire undertook to complete the vast project of enlarging the Bretèche, as envisaged by Mere Saint Pierre. First, she supervised the addition of a parallel wing to the chapel (today St. Dominic) which was finished in 1859. In 1863, she affixed at the Grande Salle of the Community, two marble plaques with all the names of the Superior Generals, after Marie Poussepin. In 1868 she had prolongued the wing parallel to the Loire, on the other side of the chapel. Finally, she had built the wing that makes an angle, perpendicular to the Loire to house the boarding school. This building, finalized in 1870, will not be used for its original purpose. Because of circumstances, it will serve, starting in October 1870, to house an ambulance service which brought the wounded from the Loire front.

The foundations of this Generalate are numerous and varied. We can mention here for the sake of remembering the one of the "Demoiselles du commerce" (young ladies of commerce) a type of society of mutual assistance, which would take charge of the young employees from big parisian stores when they fell ill and were deprived of earnings. Besides, they could participate in formation activities, cultural, or of entertainment. In place of old hospitals and shelters for the destitute, a new and interesting initiative is applied: Hospitality for workers.

The newness of this time is the mission to those beyond the French frontiers. First in Spain with the foundation of Arénys de Mar in 1867. This first start is interrupated by the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. After the end of the conflict, the foundations pick up with new energy with the opening of the hospital Saint Jacques in Paris and the orphanages of Tanneurs and des Douets in Tours. The missionnary impulse continues with the settlements in Colombia (Bogota) and in Iraq (Mossoul) during the year 1873. The end of her Generalate was marked by the persecution through the laws of laicization. These resulted in the change of communal schools into free schools, in a climate of vexation, sadness and hostility. During this dark period died Father Gervais (1882); Msgr. Colet, archbishop of Tours (1883) and Father Malmouche (1886).

In 1868, Mere du Calvaire had the joy and the honor to receive at the Breteche, Father Jandel, Master General of the Order, who came to discuss the Dominican question, however, there was no immediate solution. Instead, Mother General, encouraged by Msgr. Meignan, continued the work on the Constitutions started by Father M. Gervais, to obtain the recognition of Pontifical right of the Community. The manuscript was presented in Rome by the Canon Pouan, in 1884. On July 25, 1885, the Decree of proclamation was promulgated. Lastly, on April 22, 1887, the Constitutions were approved and on the 30 of May the decree of Pontifical recognition was signed. At the same time a Clinic on via Milazzo in Rome was opened.

From her part, Mere du Calvaire finished writing the Directory for Superiors and for Sisters. In spite of the weakening state of Mere du Calvaire's health, the General Chapter of 1887 went on with her re-election. A month later her state of health was aggravated and she was bedridden. Even in her suffering she kept her lucidity and great peace. She died on the feast of St. Charles, November 4, 1887. Before giving up her soul to the Lord, she had expressed her desire "to be buried as the poor" and she prayed that "we would keep in the community, the spirit of simplicity and of poverty." According to her wishes, she was buried in the cemetery of Saint Symphorien. Her tombstone says: that "she had been of great virtue and adorned with prudence; the souls she led received the solidity of her wisdom and of her holy words". The sisters from Mossoul had sent a marble plaque with the following words: "on the banks of the rivers of Babylon, we have cried remembering her."


 

MÈRE JOSÉPHA († 1921 in Tours)

- 1888-1921 -

 

Mère JoséphaMère JoséphaPierrette MAROU was born at Montauban, on November 13, 1839. The day of her baptism, on the 24 of the same month, she received a second name of Mary under which she continued to be called. She was educated with the black Sisters. She was highly intelligent and of positive spirit along with an energetic will. At the death of her father, her mother and brother were very opposed to her project to enter the novitiate of the Presentation. However, she left in 1864 to realize her desire for religious life. She was then 25 years old. Her novitiate was serious and devote. One could foresee in this postulant a spiritual depth and a strong personality: "an ardent and impetuous nature even imperious," wrote later Mother Théophane, her mistress of novices. She took the habit on May 30, 1865, and received the name of Sr. Josépha. She was sent to Rozay en Brie. There she assumed responsibility for the first class until her profession on September 30,1867. Then she returned to Rozay and was named superior of the house. Soon after she started the boarding school which flourished.

In 1875, she started in Paris, the parish pastoral works of Francis de Sales: visits to the poor, distribution of provisions, a nursery, a place for the destitute, gratuitous classes and charity workshops. She had a wide vision. She was a woman of accomplishments, she gave a vigorous thrust to all the projects entrusted to her. In 1881, she was called to the Mother House. In 1884, she was secretary, councilor and assistant. At the death of Mere du Calvaire, her eminent qualities made her the choice of the capitulants and on April 10, 1888, she was elected Superior General. In her first circular letter, Mere Josepha wrote that the mission of the Superior General is "to give her time, her strength, her life until her last breath." She realized this fully during her 33 years in the midst of great difficulties.

A former directress of studies, she put her efforts in the work of education. She had established graduate programs for various subjects and introduced performance contests among the schools, she would review notebooks from students, encouraging them and stimulating their initiative. In 1900, At the world exposition in Paris, a Gold Medal was bestowed on the Presentation for its direction, organization, pedagogical methods, general competition and for the exposition of notebooks presented by their students. As those before her, she extended the spiritual influence of the Congregation and multiplied it throughout France. Often she rushed through roads and crossed frontiers to visit the communities. She had several audiences with His Holiness Leo XIII. Since 1893, she took steps to resolve the Dominican question of belonging to the Order. In 1897 it was accomplished with the papal bull from Rome bestowing on the Congregation the title, Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation and acknowledging the filiation “in virtue of its origin, customs and uninterrupted regular observances, in a word, its identity.”

At the Mother House, Mere Josépha enlarged the chapel (tribunes and transepts). In 1897 she placed in it the statues of Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena. She also started the infirmary. At the dawn of the century there were 100 postulants. But the somber years would begin. They started to see the confrontation of powers between the civil and ecclesial authorities, with the consequence of maintaining or closing communities depending on whether they were authorized or not. There were numerous school closings because Mother Josépha took a global decision against the demands of secularization: "We will not take off the religious habit, she had said. "If they chase us from the schools, we will open hospitals. If we are chased from France, we will go to foreign countries." Thus, the laws of expulsion provided the opportunity to send sisters to Spain, Colombia and Iraq. Houses were also opened in England, Switzerland, North Italy, and at the request of our Dominican Fathers, in Fall River, USA. Although she had a robust constitution, the incessant work and travel, numerous correspondences and difficulties drained the energy of Mère Josépha. On May 12, 1921 she resigned from her office. Her health failed and she died on the night of November 29, 1921. She is buried in the cemetery of Saint Symphorien in Tours.


 

MÈRE LEÓN JOSEPH († 1943 in Tours)

- 1921-1939 -

 

Mère León JosephMère León JosephAlexandrine Eléonore Perrin was born at Bourges (Cher) on November 2, 1864, the fifth child of a family of doctors. Her mother, who was very well educated, oversaw her studies and passed on to her a great religious devotion. While in Tours, she meets Father Lefay, the chaplain of the Grande Bretèche. From that day onwards she will receive spiritual direction from him which will last half a century. However, it is not without difficulty that she enters the novitiate of La Bretèche, on March 29, 1893. She takes the habit on March 4, 1894, with the name Sister Léon Joseph. In July of the same year she takes the exam for teaching in the elementary schools.

Mere Josépha sees that this novice is very pious, obedient and attached to her vocation. She finds her gifted and sends her to Paris, to the professional school on rue de Clichy which has some 30 students. She also consistently gives catechism to the orphan girls, visits the parents and other activities. On September 10, 1896, she is admitted to make profession and takes up her work at the rue de Clichy, until 1899, when she is named superior at Montauban, replacing Mere St. Jean de Dieu. This house is already a center of attraction for the Parish and under the impulse of Mere Léon Joseph, it becomes all the moreso. She organizes meetings for young girls of society: the Association Sainte Germaine, and a residence for students and workers. Later this house will become a center for women’s ministries in the diocese. In December 1908, she is called to the Bretèche as General Secretary. In 1914, she is elected assistant and she maintains a close collaboration of 14 years with Mere Josépha, before succeding her as Superior General on May 24, 1921.

Mere Léon Joseph will govern the Congregation during 18 years and leaves her mark through a strong religious presence, growing vitality, and dynamic missionnary expansion. She leads the Institute on the original path, faithful to the spirit of Marie Poussepin, for whom she professes a strong devotion. Her lucidity, firm judgement, ability to adapt, allows her to find herself at ease in administration. More than that, she has a spiritual way of seeking the will of God in all that she undertakes. Thus, she faces problems with serenity, without ever giving the impression of precipitation or discouragemnent. This self mastery, together with a great sobriety in her words, has great influence on those who knew her. The zeal for the glory of God impels her to undertake great things: far off travels in difficult circumstances, foreign foundations, times in Rome to work for the cause of Marie Poussepin.

At the Grande Bretèche, she completes Saint Joseph's building and transforms the "enclos" (1923). This same year will take place the transfer of the remains of Mere Saint Pierre from Villeneuve sur Lot. It is also the year she visits Colombia for six months, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. In 1928, she undertakes the visit to the mission in Mesopotamia. There, she is able to assess the important presence that the sisters have close to the Muslims and the English. During the war, the sisters created health services and saved many prisoners. She is struck by the influence which the sisters have over the Iraqi women, whose promotion they encouraged.

In the year 1929, there is the implementation of the new Constitutions at the same time that the French Academy bestows on the Congregation the Monthyon Prize, for the superiority of its teaching in the establishments in America and the Orient. In 1930, the new Latin American Province of Medellin is created, while in Spain there is a sequence of painful events. When the Revolution of 1936 breaks out, 121 sisters are forced to leave the country. The same year in France, the political developments and the coming to power of the Popular Front, obliges the Novitiate to find refuge in Switzerland for several months.

In 1938 the long and laborious historical and archival research by Father Théry, O.P., at the request of Mere Léon Joseph, results in the publication of two big volumes: "Collection of the Acts of the Venerable Marie Poussepin". In 1939, she will have the joy of re-opening the houses and educational institutions in Spain, after the establishment of peace in that country. However, in France it will again be a time of war.

The 18 years of continuous work, numberless travels and visits to houses had depleted her health. She decides to resign from her responsibilities at the Chapter scheduled for May 24, 1939. However, her trials are not yet ended. War is declared, France is invaded and then occupied. This obliges her to put herself in safety at Montbeton where she stays until August of 1940. When she goes back to the Mother House, she will be inactive and suffers for three years. She edifies others by her patience and the offering of everything for the Presentation. On the evening of February 15, 1943, the Lord comes to take her in her 79th year of age and the 49th year of her religious life. Msgr. Gaillard, archbishop of Tours will say at her eulogy: "She was magnificently ready to receive the signal for this encounter and to say from the depth of her heart, the motto of her whole religious life, "Ecce Ancilla Domini".


 

MÈRE THÉRÈSE AUGUSTA († 1966 in Tours)

- 1939-1959 -


Mère Thérèse AugustaMère Thérèse AugustaMarie Paule Germaine Rose Malrieu is born at Amboise on July 30, 1884. She is the third of five children. Following the prematured death of her mother in 1889, she is entrusted to her grandmother and to her aunts, along with her sister, Jeanne, 18 months younger. The two little girls frequented the boarding school of St. Aloysious Gonzague, directed by the sisters of the Presentation. They left there the memory of exceptional students, of irrepoachable work and of being very gifted. In 1899, she successfully takes the exam for teaching on the elementary school level. On November 11, 1905, she enters the Novitiate of the Bretèche. Available, energetic and organized, having already the taste of responsibilities, the time of Postulancy gave her an environment of silence and prayer which she longed for. She takes the habit on the 21 of November, 1906, and receives the name Sr. Thérèse Augusta. She is sent as a teacher to the boarding school of Rozay-en-Brie and stays there until 1907, at which time she returns to the Community to prepare the exam to teach on the superior level in the schools. In 1908 and 1909, she is responsible for a class at the borading school of the Bretèche. On October 2nd, 1909, after her profession, she is named sub-mistress at the novitiate. She will leave a profound human and spiiritual mark on the novices and at the same time she deepened her doctrinal formation by study, reading and prayer. At Easter in 1925, Sr. Thérèse Augusta is named mistress of novices. In 1932, she is called to replace Mother Jeanne du Sacré Cœur on the General Council, a decision which will be ratified the following year by the General Chapter. In 1932, she accompanies Mere Léon Joseph to Rome, then, she makes the visit of the communities of Algiers, Morroco and Spain. In 1934, she visits Fall River and in 1936 she goes to Latin America for a long passage during which she falls gravely ill. She will, however, confirm the vitality of the works there in full vigor.

At a time when the entire world would enter into one of the worst cataclysms of history, the General Chapter of May 24, 1939, elects Mere Thérèse Augusta, Superior General. The war breaks out on September 3rd, and at the Mother House a hospital service is organized with 200 beds. In May 1940, the offensive: twelve million civilians flee on the roads. The departure of the older sisters and of the postulants is prepared. Soon after, the novices take the road to exile towards Lourdes. On June 16, 1940, a torpedo crashes in the garden of the Bretèche. The General Council in its turn leaves Tours for Montauban. The return will be on July 11. After the Armistice, France is cut into two zones. Two sisters are killed, one at Nantes and the other at Beauvais, victimes of the bombardments. Communications are impossible and deprivations reign.

In the meantime, the law of September 1940 authorizes the Congregation to go back to teaching and allows for the opening of 35 small schools. In 1942 this leads to a modification of statutes and to a speedy formation of teaching sisters. In 1943, a fusion took place with the Congregation of the Sœurs de Sainte Anne de Feugarolle. In 1944 there is a new exodus for Benais. The use of the Bretèche was requested by the Germans. This called for the emptying of the house, except for the chapel which was sealed. In October, after the liberation, the sisters there will find the house mutilated and dirty but standing. That same year a novitiate was started in Spain. In 1945, Mere Thérèse Augusta undertakes the visit of countries from where she had not had any news from the sisters..

Transformations take place and the accent is on formation in all domains. In 1951, there is the opening, at the Bretèche, of a center for women's education. In 1954, another fusion with the sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Manosque, along with two new Provinces being created in Colombia: Manizales and Bucaramanga. Following in 1957, is the establishment of the Vice province of Asia. That same year, there is the beginning of proceedings for a modification of the Constitutions. In 1958, the opening of a school of nursing in Marseille – Prado. New structures are put in place: in 1958, the erection of the Provinces France North and France South. In 1959, the erection of the Province of Spain. This de-centralization required by Rome will have influence on formation, whose responsibility is now that of the Provincial Governments. 1959 is also the year of the work of preparation for the Dominican aggregation to the Order.

In 1953, for the re-election of Mere Thérèse Augusta, the authorization by the Holy See was needed, and in 1959, after 20 years in the Generalate she leaves the post, while continuing to assure within the General Council the role of Vicar. In 1962, she receives the Legion of Honor award, accorded for the cultural influence and the expansion of France abroad. The spirit of wisdom, balance and prudence of Mere Thérèse Augusta, her love of the Rule and her interior life, greatly influenced the Presentation which she governed during difficult years. She always showed serenity and self possession, a sign of her interior peace and of her strength of soul. Her physical strength declining, she died in Tours on July 25, 1966.


 

MÈRE THÉRÈSE DES ANGES († 1992 in Tours)

- 1959-1971 -

Mère Thérèse des AngesMère Thérèse des AngesIrène Louise Marie Haguenier was born on April 17, 1903 at Villers-Cotterêts dans l'Aisne. She entered the Presentation to live a dominican vocation and took the habit on August 28,1924. She made her first vows on August 28, 1925 and her perpetual vows on August 28, 1928. She started her religious life at Wokingham (England) where she went to teach music. She was at the Mother House in 1939, since she was to go to the Middle East, however, the war changed plans for her and it was towards Colombia that she departed. The trip was seeded with snares and perils.

For seven years she directed the “colegio del centro” (Center School) in Bogotá; then she was chosen as Provincial of Medellin, where she stayed for 10 years. She gave a vigorous thrust to the Province which had then 17 years of existence. She overflowed in dynamism and vitality. In the interest of the Congregation she strongly encouraged the sisters to complete their studies as teachers and nurses so as to serve better. She opened a School of Nursing, created the Clinic El Rosario, built and organized the Provincial House and modernized the works of mission, knowing how to adapt to her time, to be open to the future and to the needs of the Church.

After a few months spent in Reading (England) to launch a new foundation, she came back to France at a moment when new structures were being put in place and she was named Provincial of France North, setting the location for the Provincial House at 106, rue de Vaugirard in Paris. On the 24 of May, 1959, she succeeded Mere Thérèse Augusta as the 14th General Superior of the Congregation. The changes in the world and the Church which had slowly started will take hold during her Generalate which will coincide with the Second Vatican Council and with the events of May 1968 in France.

Her mandate starts with the aggregation to the Dominican Order. The efforts started with Mere Saint Pierre until they finally achieve their completion. This event did not imply any modification of the Statutes and Constitutions. The juridical situation remains unchanged, except for the habit which would be modified. We adopted the veil, the tunic and the scapular.

In her ardent desire for openess and her love of the Church, our Mother General enters into the perspective of aggiornamento wanted by His Holiness John XXIII. She trains the sisters in that spirit and invests in all her undertakings the dynamism which characterizes her. The urgent need to prepare the sisters to new tasks and skills makes her put the stress on FORMATION. In 1963, she opens a juniorate and moves on to renewal programs of study for the novitiate (theology, Bible, spirituality, anthropology, métaphysics etc.) The time of formation is lengthened introducing stages of initiation for the postulants and the novices. Formators follow the courses of "Forma Grégis" and a great number of sisters are engaged in studies, be these theological, biblical, professional or technical.

In the aspect of return to the sources, Marie Poussepin is proposed as the ideal for each sister to gaze upon and to imitate. In 1963, the proceedings for the Beatification of our Mother are taken up again. New research is needed and resumed for the writing of the "positio". In 1964, the local historical commission is instituted and the Center of Documentation and History is created. In 1968-69, the reconstitution of the places of origin at Sainville took place. Finally, in 1969 the Superior General convokes and presides over the General Chapter of "aggiornamento" in Rome which will be taken up again in 1971. The goal is to give once again a forceful thrust to the religious and missionnary life of the Congregation for a better service of the Church and of the world.

With regard to structures, Mere Thérèse des Anges, created the Vice province of the United States (1961) and of Italy-Switzerland (1966). The Province of France Center in 1968. It is this same year, she establishes the Generalate House in Rome. In response to the calls of the Church she founded communities in Ecuador (1959), Chile (1960) Burkina Faso (1961) Puerto Rico (1962), Panama (1963) Lebanon and Israel (1964), Peru-Bolivia (1965) and India (1971).

Having ended her mandate, Mere Thérèse des Anges remained some years at the Bretèche. She gave herself to the publication of "In Ecclesia" while organizing and giving English and Spanish courses to the sisters, she led numerous and interesting activities on continuing formation. In 1980, she joined again the community of 310 rue de Vaugirard, where in silence and prayer, hospitality, faithful and plentiful correspondence, she followed up with a fruitful mission for the Congregation. Because of delicate health, she was submitted to certain precautions. On May 17, 1990, an aggravation of her state signaled for her to return to a renewed infirmary, at the Bretèche. It is there that the Lord came to search for her on August 28, 1992. She had exactly 67 years of religious life..


 

MÈRE MARIE SAINTE THÉRÈSE († 1998 in Tours)

- 1971-1979 -

 

Mère Marie Sainte Thérèse with Paul VIMère Marie Sainte Thérèse with Paul VISimone Odievre, was born in Havre (Seine Maritime) on December 17, 1913. She entered the Novitiate at the end of the winter of 1942, in the middle of the war. At her taking of habit, on August 28, 1943, she received the name of Sister Marie Sainte Thérèse. Starting in March, 1944, she lived the exile at Benais, where the community gathered during the occupation of the Bretèche by the Germans. In spite of the difficulties, on August 28, 1944, in strict privacy, her ceremony of Profession took place. After her profession, according to the custom at the time, she spent some months at the Bretèche, which had been recovered since mid October, 1944, then she was sent to Marseille, to the foyer of young girls at rue Marengo.

In 1950, she came back to the Novitiate as sub-mistress and remained there until 1957, when she was named Mistress of Novices replacing Mere Saint Jean de Dieu. She assumed this charge until 1965, when she was named assistant in charge of formation on the General Council. In 1970, she was sent to visit Latin America and the United States. It is at the General Chapter of 1971, held at the Grande Bretèche, that she was elected Superior General. Although it was short, her generalate is registered in the post-conciliar period, in which religious life is faced with a strong movement toward secularization. Our life must adapt to the present world without losing any thing of its force to challenge others in the spirit of the Gospel. The great themes will be:
 
During her mandate, there was an increased presence of sisters in salaried positions and living "rooted" (implanted) in the heart of cities. The great work of this Generalate will be the elaboration of the new Constitutions as requested by the Council. In faithfulness to the project of Marie Poussepin, they must express with clarity what we as Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation, want to be and live today. The review of our "Gospel path" would be done in three stages:
 

Parallel to this work of spiritual renewal, in 1973, after the visit of the U.S.A. Province, Mere Marie Sainte Thérèse had the joy of celebrating the Centenary of the arrival of the sisters in Colombia. She participated in the different activities prepared by the Provinces. The festivities closed with the EGC in Bogota. The celebration of the arrival of the Sisters to Iraq was delayed due to the upheavals in the Middle East. It was then, in 1974, that Mere Marie Sainte Thérèse went to Bagdad to participate in the celebrations marked by simplicity and thanksgiving.

The year 1975 was marked by the General Chapter in Rome, the erection of the Province of the United States and a foundation in Curaçao. Other foundations followed: El Salvador in 1976 and Mexico in 1979. 1976 was a year of visits to communities: Dighton, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Colombia, as well as India and the Middle East. In 1977 the EGC was held in Dighton. Attentive of our fidelity to the Charism, she launches in 1978, the international one-month experience on the “History and Charism of Marie Poussepin,” a first attempt to what develop into the CEMP.

A year later the General Chapter will be held in Rome during July and August, 1979. She prepares to pass the torch to the one the Lord will choose. After leaving the charge of Superior General, she is sent to Switzerland as local superior until 1986, at which time she returns to the Bretèche as secretary of the Mother House. Some year later, illness starts it course but she maintains her responsibilities until a fall resulting in a fracture requires care at the infirmary. After long months of silent suffering she leaves us on the eve of the feast of the Ascension, on the 21st of May, 1998. Mere Marie Sainte Thérèse was simple, humble and poor. Underneath the appearance of coldness and distance, she had a real sense of integrity and duty, she was truly sensitive, delicately attending to each one while respecting their freedom. With her, lessons were learnt without words: it was enough to see her live.


 

SISTER INÉS MERCEDES MEJÍA TORO († 2011 in Tours)

- 1979-1994 -

 

Sr. Ines Mercedes (center) recently elected with Mère Marie Sainte Thérèse (right) and Mère Thérèse des Anges (left)Sr. Ines Mercedes (center) recently elected with Mère Marie Sainte Thérèse (right) and Mère Thérèse des Anges (left)Inés Mercedes Mejia Toro was born in Sonson (Colombia) on April 3, 1933. She entered the Community in 1951 and made Profession on February 3, 1954. After several responsibilities given to her in education and formation, and a stay in France for religious studies, she was named mistress of novices for the Province of Manizales, a responsibility she held from 1969 to 1974. She was then elected Provincial Superior until 1979 when the General Chapter gave to the Congregation the first Superior General of Colombian origin. From the start and for the 15 years of her Generalate, Sr. Inès Mercedes reminded us "as a Congregation, we exist in view of the Mission". To succeed in this goal, it is "formation which structures the person in community and guarantees the quality of our life in the Church".

Service of charity and the commitment towards the poor, demanded of us a revision of administration and of the structure of the Congregation. At the level of administration, the General Secretariat and the General Finance Office were reorganized. The Common Fund of the Congregation was created. At the level of government, the length of mandates were modified and moved from 4 to 5 years. Numerous Provinces and Vice-Provinces were created or subdivided in view of a better spiritual life and quality of apostolic commitments. The missionary field was expanded to twelve new countries and 129 new foundations. A real concern for communion begins the creation of a network of connections and information among the sisters. Thus, the Communication to the Congregation begins to complement the traditional "circular letters". The Information Service of the Congregation (ISC) is created. It keeps each one currently informed on what is the life of the communities. The success of the session on the "History of the Charism" of 1978 called for its extension. Two iniciatives were taken towards that end: the Renewal Sessions in 1981 and the creation of the Center of Studies Marie Poussepin. How to express in a few lines the richness of this great Generalate? Let us point out that for the accomplishment of its objectives it consistently referred back to the example and vision of Marie Poussepin. Let us also note the tenacity and the attentive care given by Sr. Inès Mercedes to the completion of the Cause of Beatification of Marie Poussepin. She will see these efforts being crowned by the celebration on November 20, 1994, presided by His Holiness John Paul II, at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
 

After her third mandate ended, Sr. Inès Mercedes was named Director of the CEMP, which she ran with passion, first at the Bretèche, while assuming the charge of Councilor at the Mother House, and then at Sainville. She was very involved at the Parish level, participating in various activities and ministires.

In 2010, her health had became more and more of a concern with the onset of a crisis in march 2011, which led to her hospitalization early at a clinic Alliance in Tours. It is there that the Lord came to her on April 29, at 10.30pm., feast of St. Catherine of Siena. She gave her all to the Lord and to the Congregation. She rests among her sisters in the cemetery of Saint Symphorien, in Tours.


 Text: Soeur Dominique du Christ