Summer 2020 at the Birth House of St. Mary Euphrasia, on Noirmoutier Island

 

Every year, during the summer months, the Sisters of the Mother House are very faithful to ensure a presence in Noirmoutier and to open the Birth House to the public. In March 2020 the lockdown began and we asked ourselves the question what will become of our activities in Noirmoutier.

 

Luckily with the end of the lockdown we were able to organize our presence thanks to a team made up of some sisters from the international community, the Province and several mission partners. From the 2nd of July to the 27th of August we were present at the Birth House and every day the oratory was open to the public from 9 am to 8 pm. We had the joy of having the Eucharist at 11 o'clock every day from Tuesday to Friday. Despite the constraints of social distancing and the wearing of masks, many people came to celebrate the Eucharist with us and on some days we had up to 40 people. Every day before the time of Mass and during the afternoon, one of us made ourselves available to be present in the oratory to welcome those who came to pray. Many shared their joy of having a place far from the noise, the comings and goings of the main street to find a haven of silence and peace. Thanks to the generosity of our neighbor, we had beautiful flowers to decorate the chapel. Depending on the availability of the people who were present in the house, we sang Morning and Evening Prayer, and it so happened that some visitors who had come to the house participated with us. We also organized a time of adoration to allow visitors to spend some time with the Lord.

 

Among those who have visited the oratory are the regulars who come to pray to St. M. Euphrasia every summer, those who come out of curiosity and discover the congregation and its mission, or those who wish to entrust their intentions to our prayers, and those who need to find someone to listen to them to share a suffering or to ask for advice. For us, it is always a joy to witness the presence of God and his work in each person we meet.

 

 

This year we were able to participate a few times in the beautiful initiative organized by the parish, with the new parish priest, Father Gérard Billon: Morning prayer on the beaches. A great experience of openness and fraternity. Priests, religious and lay people gathered together by the same Christ to magnify the divine works and to bring to God all the intentions of our world.

 

The major highlights of the season were St. Mary Euphrasia's birthday on July the 31st, a conference on August 11th and the Feast of St. John Eudes on August 19th.

  • For July the 31st we projected in the oratory the film "Our life is a river of Love", the life of St. M. Euphrasia, for the people who had come for Mass and then we spent a time of conviviality together.
  • On August the 11th: a single evening took place, combining past and present: "St. Mary Euphrasia", presented by Sister Odile Laugier and "The Trafficking of Persons Today", presented by Sr Marie Hélène Halligon. A conference with two voices, illustrating the commitment of Mary Euphrasia and her sisters in the 19th and 21st centuries. The conference took place at the Church of La Guérinière. People were touched by the content of this conference and in leaving left a contribution to help women who want to come out of their situation of slavery.
  • 19th of August: A Festive Mass specific to the Congregation was celebrated and an explanation given of the life of St. John Eudes, as founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, his spirituality and his works during the 17th century.

 

In order to better know this place so beloved by the Congregation, we would like to share with our readers a part of the history of our presence in Noirmoutier and how this house became a place of pilgrimage throughout the year and an open and welcoming oratory during the summer months.

 

The turret house, located at the corner of the Main Street "Grande rue" and the street "Rue des Douanes" was the house where Dr. Julien Pelletier and his wife stayed when they were released from prison, towards the end of the French Revolution. It was here that Rose-Virginia was born on July 31st 1796. She lived there until the age of 14. Four years after Dr. Pelletier's death, Mrs. Pelletier left the island and returned to Soulans. Rose Virginie was sent to a boarding school in Tours; at 18 years she entered the Monastery of Our Lady of Charity in Tours, became Sr. M. Euphrasia, founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in Angers and died in Angers in 1868.

 

In 1899, the Congregation purchased the turret house and the adjoining building to house to set up a community and a small number of boarders, either orphans or social cases. Mother M. de Ste. Marine Verger, 3rd Superior General, had the immense joy of seeing this project come to fruition thanks to the dedication of a resident of the island and the generosity of Mother Maria de San Augustin de Jésus Fernandez Concha, Provincial of Buenos Aires (Argentina).

 

In spite of the esteem of the inhabitants of Noirmoutier for the small community, it was to have known only a short existence. The secular laws of the beginning of the century led to its closure in November 1904. Shortly afterwards, the house was sold.

 

However, for almost half a century the Good Shepherd Sisters remained nostalgic for this house in Noirmoutier, the birthplace of the foundress. In the meantime, Sister M. Euphrasia was canonized and the Congregation wanted this house to become part of its patrimony once again.

 

The acquisition of the house of her birth was completed on April 11, 1951. There was no longer a project of opening a convent in Noirmoutier, but simply of restoring the chapel. After a period of time devoted to the rehabilitation of the house, from 1958 onwards the Congregation organized pilgrimages to this place and the house was open to the public during the summer months. The daughters of St. M. Euphrasia scattered throughout the five continents continue to come on pilgrimage year after year to the house where St. M. Euphrasia was born. With great affection, they come to pray in the chapel, the place of the foundress' birthplace and the living room of the Pelletier family where Rose Virginie was baptized and where she lived the first 14 years of her life.

 

We hope that this beautiful tradition of our presence in Noirmoutier, a place so precious to our Congregation, will be perpetuated in the future, and that this small sanctuary will continue to be a paceful and welcoming place for the Sisters, friends, mission partners and visitors. May they feel welcomed by St. Mary Euphrasia and loved by the Good Shepherd "who gave his life for his sheep". May the spirit of St. Mary Euphrasia animate us and strengthen our zeal!