Her Father died when she was five—It changed the course of her life

Venerable Marie-Mallet                                                en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Marie-Anne-Marcelle Mallet was born on March 26, 1805, in Montreal. Canada. Her father, Vital Mallet, passed away when she was only five, and his passing immediately changed the direction of her life. Her mother, Marguerite, unable to provide for her children’s education, sent Marie and her brother to live with an aunt and uncle in Lachine. Marie’s new guardians sent her to the nearby monastery of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre-Dame, where she would spend most of her growing years as a boarder.

Marie-Anne, having lost her dad to death and her mom to circumstances, became extremely sensitive to the confusion and disruption that had become part of her very young life. She quickly developed and displayed a natural empathy for the poor and downtrodden. As she grew, she was drawn to religious life as she saw this the best way to help those in need. She decided to join the Sisters of Charity of the Hospital General of Montreal,

This order, (also known as the Grey Nuns of Montreal), was the first religious congregation founded in Canada. Marie was admitted as a postulant when she was sixteen. Two years later, on May 6, 1824, she was allowed to enter the novitiate. On May 18, 1826, she professed her vows. Her primary duty from that point on was to care for the sick.

In 1846, Sister Marie added to her job description when she began visiting the sick and home-bound. She discovered she loved being part of this ministry, and the people she saw came to know and love her. But in 1847, Typhoid struck Montreal.  It was Sister Marie who instinctively put her organizational skills to work. She was appointed assistant superior and assumed complete responsibility and supervision of the hospital and staff.

Her leadership and guiding hand saw her assist in establishing new hospitals in such places as Manitoba, Ottawa, and Quebec.  She was chosen to be the leader of the new Quebec Mission, and this move required her to leave her order and found a new one. On August 21, 1849, Sister Marie Mallet cut ties with the Sisters of Charity of Montreal and founded the Sisters of Charity of Quebec. She and her five followers were immediately faced with a daunting task.

Quebec was going through a terrible time in its history. The city was recovering from its second destructive fire when a cholera epidemic struck. Mother Mallet and her companion sisters, had come to “care for the sick and educate young girls.” Based on the circumstances they confronted, Mother Mallet first ordered the establishment of a relief service for needy schoolchildren. She took in orphan girls, then, in 1855, homeless women, in 1856, the aged and infirm, and then in 1862, she opened a home for orphaned boys. There was never a lack of charitable work to be done.

In 1866, Mother Mallet opened an out-patient center for the needy, and during the seventeen years, she was the director of her community she was responsible for establishing with the diocese of Quebec, five boarding schools for girls which had curriculum similar to local schools but also trained women to be schoolmistresses. Let us not forget that the Sisters of charity also took in newly arrived immigrants who had no place to go and gave aid and shelter to those who lost everything to fires.

On July 1, 1866, Pope Pius IX approved the rule of the order of The Sisters of Charity of Quebec. Mother Mallet and her followers had stayed true the rule of the Sulpicians. However, the Bishop of Quebec imposed a new Rule on the order. This Rule had been derived from the Jesuits. This caused an internal crisis because the sisters wanted to stay true to their original vows even though the difference was hardly noticeable. But it required a pledge of loyalty to the newly designated Rule. Even within the confines of a deeply spiritual environment, politics reared its ugly head.

Mother Mallet, accustomed to 40 years of honoring the Rule of the Sulpician Order, could not give allegiance equally to both Rules. But the new nuns coming in embraced the Jesuit way and, in 1866, Mother Mallet was not re-elected as Mother Superior. She was even left out of all administrative duties. She returned to live the rest of her life as a simple nun.

Mother Marie-Anne Mallet, suffering from cancer, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1871,  in Quebec City at the age of 66. She was declared Venerable in January of 2014.

Venerable Marie Mallet, please pray for us.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2020


This Man viewed Religion with Contempt—This Woman was arrested as a Revolutionary

Together they Founded a Religious Order that would spread around the World

One of the Acts of Mercy—Feeding the Poor            commons.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On December 6, 1752, Florence Chasseloup presented her husband, Pierre Fournet, with their only son who they named Andre-Hubert. Andre had one sister. The infant Andre was baptized the very next day by his uncle, Father Antoine Fournet, in the local parish, located in Vienne, France.

Twenty-one years later, in Le Blanc, France, on July 5, 1773, a baby girl was born into the aristocratic, Bichier des Ages family. They named her Joan Elizabeth Lucy, and she was baptized the same day she was born. From then on, most people knew her as Elizabeth Bichier.

No one ever would have considered that these two unlikely people would connect in 1797, during the height of the French Revolution. Nor would anyone have imagined that they would join forces to found and inspire religious orders that would eventually serve people on four continents and in thirteen different nations.

As a boy, Andre-Hubert was what one might consider a pompous little brat. He acted self-contained and even harbored a disdain for religion. His mother fostered these feelings because she kept telling him she wanted him to become a priest. He resented her prodding because a priest was the last thing he ever intended to be. In fact, he was so determined to show his mom that he meant it, he ran away from home determined to join the military.

His mother found him and made him come home before he could enlist. She sought out the aid of her brother-in-law, who was a priest in a rural farming community. His name was Jean Fournet, and he had a profound influence on his nephew. So much so that Andrew was ordained to the priesthood in 1776. At his ordination, his mother wept with joy.

Three years earlier, about 60 kilometers away (37 miles),  a baby girl had been born into the aristocratic Bichier family. She was named Joan Elizabeth and baptized the same day. Her mom, Madame Bichier, was committed to teaching her children the tenets of the Catholic faith.  Even as a small child Elizabeth felt herself being drawn to a life of prayer.

The  French Revolution began on July 14, 1789, and French Catholics immediately fell victim to persecution. The Bichier estate was now under threat of seizure and Elizabeth and her mom moved to a tiny house in the local village. However, they were still harassed daily by the Revolutionary Surveillance Committee. They were continually being prodded to sign a new oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution. They stood firm and refused—over and over. They were imprisoned, but their brother, who had sided with the revolutionaries, managed to have them freed. Elizabeth’s life was about to change.

Elizabeth, unable to receive the Holy Eucharist because of the new government’s anti-religious policy, felt terribly deprived. Toward the end of 1796, a former servant came to her and told her of a secret Mass being offered at a farm ten miles away. Elizabeth rode a donkey for more than three hours to reach the farm. After Mass, the priest, Father Andrew Fournet, began to hear confessions. Elizabeth was last in a very long line. Confessions lasted all night long, and when Elizabeth’s turn came to confess, the sun was rising.

She and Father Andrew had an immediate connection. Their spiritualities combined and the priest became Elizabeth’s spiritual director. He asked her to consider devoting her life to the sick, poor, aged and to also establish schools for children in the rural areas of their diocese. Even as a child, Elizabeth had consecrated herself to the Virgin Mary, and she immediately responded to Father Fournet’s ideas.

Father Fournet put Elizabeth in charge of a group of women who also were dedicated to Catholic education and the care of the poor and sick. Elizabeth then founded the order known as Daughter’s of the Holy Cross, Sisters of St. Andrew. The year was 1807. When she died in 1838, there were over 100 communities with hundreds of sisters working to help those in need. By the turn of the 20th century there were over 3100 sisters serving around the world. Today, the Daughter’s of the Holy Cross still has more than 600 sisters working on four continents in fourteen different countries helping others.

Father Andrew Fournet was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI on June 4, 1933. Sister Joan Elizabeth Bichier des Ages was canonized a saint of June 6. 1947 by Pope Pius XII.

We ask both of these saints to pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019