Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mother Mary-Aloyse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, O.SS.R. Superior of the Monastery of Bruges [2] (Brugge) 1822-1889

Chapter VIII.
Mother Mary-Aloyse is named Superior of the Community of Bruges. Her charity towards the Redemptoristines of Italy. The correspondence with the Most Rev. Father Mauron. His Lordship’s visit to the Monastery of Bruges.

The death of Mother Mary Philomena, (13th December 1878) was a very serious blow to the community of Bruges, but Providence never fails to put a balm on such wounds. Mother Mary-Aloyse was chosen to replace her much venerated predecessor, and the whole community had but one heart and soul in transferring to the newly-elect all the affection that they had shown to their late Superior.

As soon as she was appointed, the Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse, as a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus, wrote to inform the Most Rev. Father Mauron, Rector Major of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. She received the following reply from him:

Villa Caserta, Rome, this 19th February 1879.
My Reverend Mother. - I have received your letter of 6th February, which brought me the happy news that you have been elected by an unanimous vote to succeed Reverend Mother Mary-Philomena, of happy memory, as Superior. She governed your Monastery so well for so many years. God has clearly manifested His will, so He will not fail to assist you with His graces and lights.

“In the name of Saint Alphonsus, I give you my blessing in your position as Superior, with confidence that a good spirit and observance will be preserved and grow more and more, under your direction, at this holy Monastery.”

Mother Mary-Aloyse had already sent some monetary help to the Redemptoristine convent of Saint Agatha. The Most Rev. Father Mauron thanked her in these terms:

“I sent your letter on to the Mother Superior of Saint Agatha, together with an Italian translation, and added 25 francs from yourself, which I had surplus to the 200 you sent me at Christmas. Attached is the letter from the Superior of Saint Agatha, in which she tells you of the death of one of her nuns. This poor Monastery is in danger of being suppressed sooner or later, because the law here states that when there are no more than six professed nuns, the Government has the right to send them away; and it is now twenty years since they were forbidden to admit other nuns.

We hope that Saint Alphonsus will not permit this; but if this convent ever comes to be sold by the Government, we will have to do everything possible to save it from the hands of whatever individual wants to buy it. I have already spoken about this to the Bishop of Saint Agatha.
“I bless you and also all the Sisters of the Community, and I am in Our Lord Jesus Christ
“Your devoted servant.
“Nic. Mauron, C. SS. R.” [23]

This letter was not the only one which the Most Reverend Father Mauron wrote to the new Superior. A man of proverbial wisdom, he was overjoyed to find in Mother Mary-Aloyse the qualities of discretion, charity and apostolic zeal which accorded so well with his own temperament. Some of his letters shed a profound light on the generosity of the good Mother. We shall cite some extracts from them.

On 6th July 1880 (the year of the expulsion of the religious Orders from France), the Most Rev. Father Mauron wrote:

“I am happy to be able to grant you Father Kockerols as your extraordinary confessor, according to your request, in spite of his nomination to the office of Provincial

“I have been brought to satisfy your wishes because of the great good that he has done in your Monastery, and also to enjoy the spiritual advantages that you have promised me in this case. In fact I have great confidence in the prayers of your good community, and I am counting on them, not solely during the promised novena, but during the whole year.

“Pray a great deal also for our Fathers and your fellow Sisters in France who are the butt of persecution. Recommend them greatly to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and our holy Father Saint Alphonsus. The evil is so great and universal that God must intervene and make it end. I await this divine intervention with confidence.”

On 4th January 1882, on the very eve of the heart attack which almost brought him to the love of his children, the Most Rev. Father Mauron dictated the following letter.
“I would like to thank you, you and your excellent community for the New Year good wishes that you have sent me, and above all for the prayers and holy communions that you have applied to me and wish to apply to me as well in the future. I feel more than ever the need to be sustained by your good prayers, as my age is advancing with my infirmities, my powers are diminishing from day to day, and in contrast, my work-load is increasing all the time.”

Next he promises them the help of his prayers, and then he adds, “I also want to thank you with all my heart for the 200 francs which you were kind enough to send me for the poor Redemptoristines in Italy. It is me they turn to for their refuge in all their distress, and it is you who are their great providence. I am continuing to gradually distribute to them the sum of money which you sent me for them above all. These good Sisters are very grateful to you. They beg me every time to express their gratitude to you and assure you of their prayers.

“I bless our good God for the excellent result of the mission at Bruges which our Fathers have just given. Monsignor the Bishop, [24] whom I went to see during his trip to Rome and who immediately visited me in return, is full of praises for our Fathers. He also spoke to me about your Monastery in the most favourable terms.”

Next he encouraged her to entrust herself entirely to God regarding her responsibilities as Superior, which had just been conferred on her again, and gave her advance news concerning a future history of the first Redemptoristines. [25]

A year later, on 4th January 1883, Father Mauron wrote, “Tomorrow, it will be a year since our good God came to visit me. In the first days of my illness, I never thought I would ever see this anniversary. I believed on the contrary that my end had arrived. Our good God wanted it to be otherwise, and this grace, I am deeply convinced, I owe uniquely to the fervent and incessant prayers, and the sacrifices which were made for me in your Order, as well as in our own Congregation. Your excellent community had a large part in this work of charity and devotion towards me, and I would like to express my deepest gratitude.”

The venerable correspondent adds, “I had the happiness a few weeks ago of having a very private audience with the Holy Father (His Holiness, Leo XIII). His Holiness welcomed me with extreme benevolence. He brought me into his apartments, with my crosier in my hand, and invited me to sit down beside him. The Holy Father gave me an order not to fall ill, and I am trying my best to obey him. Finally he asked me to transmit his blessing to all the children of Saint Alphonsus scattered across the face of the earth.”

The same letter informs us that the community of Bruges had now reached 42 sisters.

Finally a letter dated 22nd February 1884 attests to the generosity of Mother Mary-Aloyse and her Community and becomes quite an eulogy:
“I have just received your good letter of 18th instant, in which you tell me you are sending some monetary help to your fellow Sisters in Italy, and also to the Villa Caserta. I received this sum the day before a letter from the Very Rev. Father Kockerols. According to your intention, my Reverend Mother, I shall be sure to distribute the 4000 francs intended for the Sisters of Italy, according to the circumstances and needs of their Monasteries. I shall certainly recommend them to pray for your Monastery of Bruges, which is so generous towards them, and in particular for good Sister Mary-Joseph and her family. I am persuaded that they will do this with the greatest fervour.

“As for the sum of 2000 francs, which you have been kind enough to give as a gift to myself, I thank you for it most sincerely, my Reverend Mother. It is a real act of providence for us, which will allow us to push a little ahead with the costly constructions which have been imposed on us by the municipality of Rome.

“I would equally like to express my deepest gratitude for the considerable help that you have organised from our Province in Belgium, both on this occasion and on many others. Your assistance, as the Most Rev. Provincial has told me, have been mainly used for the establishment of the Students’ House at Beauplateau and for the support of a certain number of young men. And thus, my Reverend Mother, you will have a large part in the fruits of salvation which the present and future Belgian missionaries are producing and will produce in souls. May our good God reward you a hundred-fold, in this world and in the next, for your generous assistance!

“As for me, I pray every day for your fervent Monastery, so that it may always remain as it is now, a nursery of souls agreeable to God and His true saints, occupied totally in loving their divine Spouse and conquering souls for Him from the depths of their cells. To this effect I bless Your Reverence and all your good community and in particular your good Sister Mary-Joseph.

We can see how happy Father Mauron was to say “thank you,” but the moment was not far away when he was able to come in person to the community of Bruges to give them his blessing.

This favour was accorded to the pious Monastery in 1884. The Most Rev. Father Mauron, now frail, but eager to visit the Provinces of Belgium and Holland, and the French Communities taking refuge in these countries, left Rome at the end of July of that year. He braved the fatigues of this long journey to go and reassure the anxieties of his children in person. So many reasons brought him to pay a visit to the Redemptoristines of Bruges, that he gave them a special place in his itinerary, and on 24th August these good religious received the happy news that in a couple of days, His Lordship would be amongst them.

“We hastened,” says the narrator of this memorable visit, “We hastened to put the final touches to our preparations for his reception, which were begun a long time beforehand. The cloisters were decorated with coloured paper-chains, artificial flowers and natural shrubs. A great statue of the Most Holy Virgin was placed near the staircase, as if to invite Mary to preside over our feast. Various banners, graciously disposed, expressed our filial love for our most Reverend Father and our welcome to him. In the main chamber of the community, tastefully decorated, the statue of Saint Alphonsus could be seen in his pontifical habits and at his feet the Saint’s pectoral cross enclosed in a reliquary.

“Finally the 26th August arrived. At about 2.30 p.m. in the afternoon, the community assembled in the main parlour. Half an hour later, which seemed like eternity, the joyful sound of the church bell ringing three times announced the arrival of our Father to us, and some minutes later, as we knelt at his feet, we received his holy blessing with an inexpressible emotion.

“After dinner, the Most Rev. Father Mauron visited the Monastery. At the given signal, we formed two rows in the cloister. The door of the enclosure opened and His Lordship walked through, with his companion on the journey, Rev. Father John Kannengiesser. When he arrived at the main room of the community, this Reverend Father stopped before the statue of Our Father Saint Alphonsus. “Here’s Father!” he exclaimed with a charming simplicity. Then he picked up the Saint’s pectoral cross, touched his forehead with it and kissed it tenderly. When His Lordship was seated, we sang some verses for the occasion, which seemed to please him greatly. Then the Reverend Father spoke to us about our holy vocation, the origins of our Order, the first Mothers, and especially Mother Mary-Colomba, whom Saint Alphonsus held in great esteem. It was to her that Our Lord revealed that all those who die in the Institute will be saved, and consequently, His Lordship added, all Redemptoristines and all Redemptorists faithful to their vocation, for, at this time, the Congregation and the Order were spoken of under the single name of Institute of the Holy Redeemer. The Most Reverend Father spoke to us also about the present state of our different Monasteries. We listened to him, charmed by his goodness, simplicity and joy, and astonished by his prodigious memory. When he got up to visit the convent, some of our Sisters who were suffering from deafness or some other infirmity, knelt down before him with a touching confidence to receive his blessing. This recalled the Gospel scenes, and if our dear sick sisters had been the object of a visible miracle, could we not have doubted that the blessing of a saint, received with such a lively faith, would obtain a special grace for them to bear away their illnesses with love?”

The Most Rev. Father Mauron then visited the Monastery. “Each Sister,” says the narrator, “urged him to visit their cells and give them his blessing. This good Father accepted our wishes and had some simple words for each one of them, such as the Saints say, and which penetrated their souls with their sweet unction. The simplicity of our cells pleased him. 'There is nothing surplus,” he exclaimed, “so you may be completely at peace.' This was a witness which made religious poverty even more dear to us. His Lordship also blessed the Educands and the Novices. He addressed a few words to the Novices on the virtues which are proper to them. In the library, our Reverend Mother told him, as she pointed out the shelves containing the works of Saint Alphonsus, 'This is the well from which our souls draw the most.' - To which the Most Rev. Father replied, 'You are right. Those who read these books and put them into practice will certainly become saints.'

“In the Choir of the Holy Family, the crib attracted His Lordship’s attention. 'It’s charming!' he said, and did not stop looking at it. Next, turning towards us, he said very kindly, 'Be the asses in the stable, not to cry out or stamp your feet, but to warm the Infant Jesus.' Then the Reverend Father finished visiting the convent.

“The following day, we had the happiness of assisting at His Lordship’s Mass. He offered the holy sacrifice at the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. In the morning he had long discussions with the Reverend Mother about the interests of the Community. In the afternoon, the Reverend Father entered the enclosure, accompanied by the Most Rev. Provincial John Kockerols (who had arrived the previous night at Brussels from his voyage to Canada) and Rev. Father Kannengeisser. While visiting us, he gave each one of us a printed leaflet containing some maxims by Saint Alphonsus, and a relic of his coffin, the precious souvenirs of a saint, given by another saint, and which we shall preserve with a double veneration.

“However, time was passing. Before leaving us, His Lordship finally said the following words to us, 'My dear Sisters, I shall meet you again, not on earth, but in heaven. We shall all meet again there if we live and die faithful to our vocation. While we are waiting, let us do here below what we shall do up there one day. Let us accomplish the holy will of God on earth. This accomplishment will cost our own nature, but in heaven, it will procure for us an uncontaminated and unending joy.'

On the 28th, the Feast of Saint Augustine, all the Sisters communicated for the intention of the Father General, then they all went to the parlour to receive his blessing for the last time.

This visit, it was clear, left them all deeply filled with gratitude towards God and their good Superior, who had obtained this benefit for them. For Mother Mary-Aloyse, these were days of great consolation. The Most Reverend Father Mauron had scarcely arrived at Wittem when he wished to thank her, and he did it in terms worthy of a successor of Saint Alphonsus.

“The Most Reverend Father, “wrote Father Kannengeisser, “ has taken away from his visit to your Monastery the most happy memory. He is delighted above all to have satisfied himself that the spirit of prayer reigns there. And this is Saint Alphonsus’ very own spirit. The more it is developed in your Monastery, the more abundantly graces will descend from heaven, not simply upon you, but also upon the poor sinners whose advocates Saint Alphonsus has constituted you to be.”

On 1st January 1885, the Most Reverend Father Mauron gave Mother Mary-Aloyse some news about his trip, and added:

“A short while after my return to Rome, I had the honour of a long audience with the Holy Father. His Holiness was informed about my journey, and asked me if I had been to see your Monastery of Bruges, which he remembered very clearly. [26] The Holy Father is very satisfied with it and has asked me to pass on to Your Reverence and to all your fellow Sisters his apostolic blessing.”


[23] Our readers will be pleased to read the letter from the Superior of Saint Agatha. What could be more touching than this exchange of charity on the one hand, and gratitude on the other?
Monastery of Saint Agatha of the Goths,
“This 16th February 1877
“My dear Sister in Jesus Christ and Reverend Mother Superior,
“We have received the most wonderful consolation in receiving the beautiful picture of your good and holy Mother, the late Mother Mary-Philomena. She seems very much alive, as we hope that she is in reality now in heaven for all eternity. I thank you most cordially for this beautiful gift.
“Jesus wishes to purify all His Spouses left on earth, by calling to Himself first one, and then another of them. May His holy will always be accomplished! We too have lost one of our Sisters, our good Sister Mary-Jeannette of the Heart of Jesus, aged 75 years. After only seven days of an illness, whose sufferings she endured with great patience, she died on 29th January in the most perfect peace.
“She was very devoted to Saint Alphonsus and had a limitless charity towards the poor, and was happy to fast from time to time so as to send her whole portion to the Tourière as alms for her dear poor. I pray you to make the Suffrages prescribed by the Rule for the repose of her soul.
“Also please pray for us too, as the death of each nun fills us with sadness, at the thought that this house founded by Saint Alphonsus will soon cease to exist. Pray to our good God to put an end to these great tribulations, so that we may have the consolation of leaving others here after us to praise and love the Lord.
“Today we received 25 francs from our Most Reverend Father General, a gift of your charity to the poor daughters of Saint Alphonsus, your Sisters who are totally devoted to Jesus Christ. Together with all my Sisters I thank you a thousand times, and I ask Saint Alphonsus to reward you as you desire and deserve, as it is he who knew our needs and inspired you to help us.
“Dear and beloved Mother Superior, I rejoice greatly in your fervour; let us love Jesus greatly upon this earth, so that we may love Him much more in eternity. Let us love each other with the love of the divine Spouse, and let us remain united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in whom we hug and kiss you all.
“Your most affectionate Sister in Jesus Christ,
“Sister Mary Crucified of the Holy Nails.!
[24] Mgr Faict, Bishop of Bruges.
[25] This history appeared a few years later under the title of: Les premières Rédemptoristines (The First Redemptoristines), by Father F. Dumortier. It was the Monastery of Bruges which paid for it to be printed.
[26] The Holy Father, when he was Nuncio at Brussels, made the journey to Bruges to assist in the procession of the Holy Blood. On this occasion he paid a visit to the Redemptoristines. The Monastery Chronicles record this visit thus.
“On 9th May 1844, Mons. Boussen, the Bishop of Brussels, accompanied by Mons. Pecci, the Papal Nuncio, and Mons the Bishop of Ghent, attended for our benefit, after which they paid a visit to our Reverend Mother Sister Mary-Alphonse of the will of God, and asked to see the whole Community. Monsignor the Nuncio showed a great deal of interest in our worthy Foundation and had informed himself with great pleasure about the convents of our Order in Italy. These respectable personages then presented themselves at our new convent, which they visited in detail, examining especially the foundations and walls of our future church. Rev. Father Paul Reyners provided answers to all their questions."

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

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