Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Foundation of Saint-Anne de Beaupré (Canada)

The Venerable Father Passerat had just introduced the Redemptoristine Sisters into Austria (1831). When the sons of Saint Alphonsus had reached as far as America in 1832, the Servant of God resolved to have the nuns follow in their footsteps. It seemed to him to be absolutely in conformity with the views of divine Providence to thus give the daughters of the holy Doctor a part in the immense field that the New Word offered apostolic zeal. And so attempts were made for this purpose, and some time before 1840, some land was purchased for the establishment of a convent of Redemptoristines.

For reasons that have remained unknown to us, this attempt produced no effect. Later on the famous Father Bernard, the first Dutch Redemptorist and the first Provincial of North America (1848-1853), who personally knew the Redemptoristines of Marienthal, took up the project again, but without being able to put it into effect. [1] The Most Rev. Father Oomen, Provincial of Holland (1874-1887) in his turn took some steps to bring it about. An American bishop, His Lordship Mons Gross, Redemptorist, first of all Bishop of Savannah and then Archbishop of Oregon, keenly encouraged this project. On the two visits he made to the Convent of Marienthal in 1876 and 1889, he expressed the desire to possess a monastery of Redemptoristines in his diocese. As a special reason for a foundation in the United States, he alleged, on his second visit, that his priests desired to see established in America an Order less austere than that of the Carmelites, and promised to find them vocations, for besides, this country was already sufficiently provided with active Orders.

The nuns of Marienthal did not let themselves be easily influenced by these reasons. The number of Sisters they had did not seem to them to be very considerable, and the idea of founding a convent in Germany was much more attractive to them, and then, North America seemed far away to them, and the enterprise a very difficult one! The reply was put to them that if their fervour had already permitted them to found the Convent of Ried in Austria (1852), that of Sambeek in Holland, to which they had given thirteen religious, and to furnish Superiors many times to other monasteries of the Order, the colonising genius of Holland was to reach a pinnacle this time by making them cross the Ocean. But their hopes for a foundation in Germany (many of their Sisters were from this country) suddenly came to life more urgently than ever, thanks to the encouragement and promises of the Coadjutor Bishop of Cologne, Mons A. Fischer. When he became the Cardinal-Archbishop of this seat, this prelate gave them reason to hope for the accomplishment of their desires in 1904, the jubilee year of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and which the canonisation of Saint Gerard Majella (11th December) was to make dear to them forever.

However, this year passed without the Cardinal being able to realise his plans. His great influence at court was sometimes blotted out by the clamour of the German Protestants, for the progress of Catholicism had made inroads against the heretical and impious movement of the Loss von Rom (Far from Rome)! He made the Sisters of Marienthal aware of his powerlessness and asked them for the meantime to look for a more suitable site.

These successive delays or set-backs were permitted by Providence so that they could realise a more grandiose plan, or rather, so that the original plan could finally be put into effect. It was indeed to America that God wished the Redemptoristines to go. The graces spread into the hearts of the Sisters by the Jubilee of Mary Immaculate and the canonisation of Saint Gerard, the disciple of the founder of their Order and in the past so devoted to their first Mothers, - these graces, we may say, prepared them unknowingly to bring it about after a period of waiting that lasted thirty years.

* * * * *

On Wednesday, 18th January in the year 1905, the Most Rev. Father Meeuwissen, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers of Holland, was visiting his confreres in the Convent of Wittem. On this occasion he went to celebrate the holy Mass in the chapel of the Sisters of Marienthal, not far distant from the Fathers’ Convent. After his thanksgiving, the Sisters came to greet him at the grille of the parlour, and the Superior, Mother Marie-Hyacinthe, asked his advice on the subject of a new foundation. Their hearts were still turned towards the frontiers of Germany.

The Very Rev. Father Provincial replied immediately and without any premeditation: “Ah well, my Mother, go to America. I promise you I will accompany you there in person.”

Great was the stupefaction of the Sisters in hearing such an unexpected reply, but it had been made in such an assured tone, and it seemed to indicate the will of God so clearly that their hearts soon recovered from their surprise, and soon the voice of the Most Reverend Father General Raus put an end to the few hesitations that had been produced. A foundation in the United States for the meantime seemed to be exposed to too many difficulties, but the Most Reverend Father Rau cut through the difficulties. In the month of February he wrote the following lines to the Most Rev. Father Meeuwissen: “A land that I think will be more favourable to religious contemplatives would be Canada. A Bishop from this country spoke to me about it not long ago. I am sure that our Visitor, Father Lemieux, if you ask him to examine the project, will be able to give you some good information and help you to find a suitable place for it.” This advice was decisive in the history of the foundation. The divine Redeemer wanted the successor of Saint Alphonsus to decide on the execution of the project, and himself determine the choice of the country in the New World in which the daughters of Saint Alphonsus were to be established. Thus obedience itself presided at this great act.

The Most Rev. Father Meeuwissen wrote in consequence to Rev. Father Lemieux, the Visitor and Vice-Provincial of Canada. He replied with entire devotion to this advance and referred him on to Mons Begin, the Archbishop of Quebec, who placed no other condition on the establishment of the Sisters than the obligation not to go begging, of which there was of course no question. This goodness of the Archbishop merits even more gratitude, because the Province of Quebec already included a good number of contemplative communities. Father Lemieux proposed to establish the new monastery in proximity to the famous shrine of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, served by the Redemptorists of the Belgian Province, and at the same time he invited the Father Provincial of Holland to come in person to Sainte-Anne with some Sisters from Marienthal, to arrange everything and be sure that it was all right. Two months later, on 19th August, the foundation of the first Monastery of the Redemptoristines in America was a fait accompli. Thus were realised the words of Rev. Father Lemieux: “Our glorious Father, Saint Alphonsus wishes his work in Canada to be complete; and it is without doubt a token of blessing for our Vice-Province.” Thus the wishes of the Most Rev. Father Raus were accomplished.

* * * * *

The Sisters chosen for the attempt at this great enterprise were: Sister Marie-Stanislas of the Blessed Sacrament in the position of Superior. She was from Aix-la-Chapelle and aged about fifty five. Then there was Sister Marie-Gabrielle of the Incarnation, from Amsterdam, aged thirty five. The Most Rev. Father Provincial was of the opinion that the Superior of Marienthal, Mother Marie-Hyacinthe of the Precious Blood, should join them in spite of being sixty three years old, in order to put her experience of affairs to the service of the new foundation. When the foundation was begun, she would return. Mons Drehmans, the Bishop of Roermond, and as such, the canonical Superior of Marienthal, willingly gave the necessary permissions. Finally, the Sovereign Pontiff, at the request of Very Rev. Father Oomen, the Procurator General of the Congregation, sent the Sisters his apostolic blessing.

* * * * *

Finally the 21st July arrived, the day of departure. It was the feast of Saint Alexis. The Introit to the Mass invited the founding Sisters to go forth from their native country and come into the place that God would show them: Egredere de terra tua et de domo patris tui, et veni in terram quam monstrabo tibi. Obliviscere populum tuum et domum patris tui, et concupiscent Rex decorem tuum. [Depart from thy land and from the house of thy father, and come into the land which I shall show you. Forget thy people and the house of thy father, and the King shall desire thy beauty]. All the rest of the Mass, the translation of which they took pains to give the travellers, applied in a very special and very touching manner to the departure of the Superior and the two other Sisters, and to the whole enterprise, and also the Epistle: Est quaestus magnus pietas cum sufficientia [But godliness with contentment is great gain] (1 Tim 6:6) – and the Gospel: Ecce nos reliquimus omnia [Behold we have left all things] (Matt. 19:27). Even the future return of Mother Marie-Hyacinthe found a mention in the Offertory: Revertere in terram tuam … et benefaciam tibi [Return to thy land … and I shall bless thee]. The Itinerarium was recited by the whole community before the open tabernacle, and then the Sisters took their travelling costume (brown habit with scapular and black mantles), and after farewells full of deep feelings, they left for Rotterdam, accompanied by Rev. Father Jansen, the confessor to the community. The train had to pass near Nijmegen, at Sambeek, the Monastery founded by Marienthal. The religious of Sambeek, the oldest ones of which had been the companions of the travellers, waved a great white sheet from the windows from afar off as a sign of joy, and sent some even more clear evidence of their feelings to the station. At Rotterdam, they went to the Convent of the Redemptorist Fathers, where the Very Rev. Provincial and the community received the foundresses with a very fraternal charity. In the evening, at about nine o’clock, two carriages conveyed them to the Potsdam, the greatest of the ships of the Holland-America Line. The following day, the anchor was weighed. It was on the Saturday in the octave of the Most Holy Redeemer, 22nd July, the fest of Saint Mary Magdalen, one of the patronesses of the Order, and the contemplative par excellence.

The crossing was a most happy one. The Most Rev. Father Provincial and the Sisters arrived at New York on Tuesday, 1st August, the vigil of the feast of the Founder and Father of the Order, Saint Alphonsus. The Redemptorist Fathers of New York received the travellers with all the refinements of charity. After the feast of Saint Alphonsus they continued their journey to Montreal, and after that, Rev. Father Lemieux accompanied them the following day to Quebec, to present them to Mons Begin. The worthy Archbishop received them with great kindness, and after he had received from the hands of Mother Marie-Hyacinthe a copy of the Rules and Constitutions in French, he favourably received the request they made, that the spiritual direction of the Sisters would be entrusted to the Redemptorist Fathers.

On 5th August, between the feast of Saint Dominic, one of the protectors of the Order, and the feast of the Transfiguration, the date on which the first Sisters had put on their holy habit in 1731, they arrived at the shrine of good Saint Anne, in the shadow of which they hoped to found their first home in which they would exercise their apostolate of love, prayer and suffering. It was still the time of the great pilgrimages. Thousands of strangers, brought there by their bishops and priests, crowded the feet of the miraculous statue. The new religious Order thus made itself known right away, and without wishing to do so, to great multitudes. The Bishop of Trois-Rivieres said, on this occasion, to the Dutch Provincial: “You have done a great work in bringing the Sisters here. It is prayer joined to action. It is a blessing for the missions. They will be the lightning conductors of America.”

The Sisters found a veritable father in the Rector of the Convent of Saint-Anne, Rev. Father Honore de Nys, and from the very beginning he put all his devotion and that of his confreres to the service of the new foundation. “Mother Marie-Hyacinthe,” says an account, “set herself at once to the work with her usual energy, diligence and experience. Aided by the good Fathers of Sainte-Anne, she soon had a charming little house which would serve as a Bethlehem for the first Sisters. A temporary chapel was arranged, what was strictly necessary was bought, and then the first Redemptoristines were established in Canada.”

On 19th August, the Most Rev. Father Provincial of Holland celebrated the holy Mass for the first time in the Sisters’ house. In a short homily he remarked on the points of resemblance of this house with the first Monastery of the Order at Scala, and exhorted the Sisters to the imitation of Jesus Christ, which is the spirit and essence of their holy Rules. Holy Communion, which the Sisters received, was like the divine seal on this very touching inauguration. A few days afterwards, on 21st August, the Archbishop of Quebec wrote the following letter to the future Superior, Reverend Mother Marie-Stanislas:

“My Reverend Mother,
“In these few last days I have received your letter of 14th of this month, in which you ask me for the authorisation to found a Monastery of the Redemptoristines at Sainte-Anne, in the Archdiocese of Quebec.

“The excellent Vice Provincial and Visitor of the Redemptorists, Rev. Father Lemieux, prepared the way for you by communicating your project of foundation to me before your arrival in America. He approved your plan and desired its realisation. The good Fathers of Sainte-Anne, who have worked with so much zeal and so much success in my diocese for many years, share his views. All that remains is for me to decide to accept your request, in spite of the great number of religious communities which I have had to welcome since the persecution broke out in France.

“Your admission has been rendered easier by the engagement you have undertaken of never being a charge to the diocese, and not going begging no matter for what, but to live solely on the dowries of your nuns.

“The life of prayer, contemplation and penance that you will live in your Monastery, in conformity with the Rules that your illustrious founder, Saint Alphonsus, drew up for you, will edify our people. It will turn the anger of God away from our heads, and it will attract the graces and blessings of heaven to the Archdiocese of Quebec.

“Be therefore welcome amongst us. Here you will enjoy the liberty of the children of God. You will not be strangers, but members of my great diocesan family, the flocks that will be ever more dear to me the more you distinguish yourselves by the holiness of your lives. I pray to God to extend His most precious blessings upon you, upon your Sisters and upon the wonderful work that you are about to undertake.

“Please receive, my Reverend Mother, this expression of my most devoted sentiments in Our Lord.

“† Louis Nazaire, Archbishop of Quebec.”

The plans for the new Monastery were approved by Mons Begin, and the work began right away. The land had been handed over by the Fathers of Sainte-Anne. It was a fairly extensive site, on the slopes of the hill that the Basilica of Sainte-Anne dominates, and it has a magnificent view over the St. Lawrence River, which is so majestic in its course. Even before their departure, it had been decided that the new convent, like that of Scala, would be dedicated to the Immaculate Virgin, and the church to Saint Gerard Majella.

* * * * *

Once the foundation was assured, they arranged everything at Marienthal for the departure of the six other Sisters who, with the first two, were to form the nucleus of the first community of the Order in the New World. The Sisters chosen were: Sister Marie-Therese of the Holy Spirit (50 yrs old); Sister Marie-Jeanne-Evangeliste of the Divine Love (40 yrs old); Sister Marie-Dominique of the Holy Rosary (44 yrs old); Sister Marie-Raphael of the Divine Providence (23 yrs old); Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Crucifix (25 yrs old), and lastly, Sister Felicia of Jesus and Mary, a converse (30 yrs old).

Friday, 29th September 1905, the feast of the Archangel Saint Michael, one of the Patrons of the Order, was fixed for the departure. They celebrated the holy Mass very early. Rev. Father Jansen, the ordinary confessor, who was to accompany the Sisters to America in accordance with the wishes of the Most Rev. Father General, gave the Sisters a special homily for the occasion, and then, once the Itinerarium was recited, the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given. A very special benediction from our Holy Father the Pope, Pius X, written in his own hand, came to give the travellers the last pledge of heavenly favours, and the Sisters said farewell to their dear companions at Wittem.

Like the first journey, they were received at Rotterdam with the most cordial charity. At nine o’clock in the evening, they embarked on the same steamship that had taken those before them, and had it not been for their black mantles, we would have seen them, on this little moving town of the Potsdam, in their complete Redemptoristine costume that they brought from the convent. It was thus a curious spectacle for the 2500 passengers to see a whole religious community, attended by their Chaplain, applying themselves to their exercises. Respect towards them was general. Sympathies were numerous and many prejudices fell before their frank and sincere piety, their great degree of cordiality and the charitable courtesy that distinguished these travellers.

Moreover, they observed the Rule of the convent as far as possible. Every morning, the Father who accompanied them celebrated the holy Mass in a cabin. The nuns took Communion, and many persons, including the missionary nuns from the Convent of Steyl in Holland, profited from the same happiness. On the Sundays of 1st and 8th October, the holy Mass was celebrated at ten o’clock in the great hall of the second class, which included a good number of Catholics. Sometimes too, in their cabins, Father addressed to them a short instruction appropriate to the feast of the day, or the circumstances of the times.

After a fairly calm crossing, the Sisters arrived at New York on Monday, 9th October, towards evening. Rev. Father Speydel, Rector of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, and Rev. Father Englet, received them with the greatest cordiality and brought them by carriage to the Franciscan Sisters, with whom they stayed and rested all the following day. On the Wednesday they left for Montreal, where the Most Rev. Father Lemieux received them, and the next day at about four o’clock, they were brought into the venerable sanctuary of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré. There they kneeled down and prayed fervently to the divine Redeemer, the Immaculate Virgin and good Saint Anne. Some moments later, Reverend Mother Marie-Hyacinthe and the two Sisters Marie-Stanislas and Marie-Gabriel entered by a side door, and while the organ made the place reverberate with its sweetest harmonies, the church was suddenly lit up with electricity as on the great feast days, and the two groups of religious embraced each other silently under the eyes of Saint Anne.

It is useless to tell of the joy and gratitude which flowed from the hearts of the daughters of Saint Alphonsus. Soon they were seated at the table of hospitality to which the Rev. Father Rector of the Convent had invited them. The Fathers and Brothers made it their duty to give their best welcome to their Sisters in religion. Finally, when they were brought to their little provisional convent, the nuns found all the lamps lit up in the modest sanctuary, the greeting of the Blessed Sacrament was sung, and Rev. Father Allard, in a touching homily, gave his welcome to the Sisters whom the Most Holy Redeemer had just brought together to work for the salvation of souls.

The mission of the Reverend Mother Marie-Hyacinthe had now been achieved. When she had left Marienthal, the worthy Bishop of Roermond, Mons Drehmans, told her: “And you, my Mother, when you have accomplished your task, you will return to us, as you are necessary for this house.” On 16th October, the feast of Saint Gerard and the first day of the solemn Triduum of the canonisation of the great miracle-worker, she took the road to Quebec, after attending the first solemnities. On 18th October she left New York on the same Potsdam that had brought her. On Saturday evening, 28th October, she arrived back at Marienthal. We can well imagine that she was received with open arms. “We were proud of our Mother,” wrote one of the Sisters in the convent, “because she had let herself be led like a child through obedience and the divine Providence, and God blessed her devotion. She took her rest only very late that night, and the following day at four o’clock, she was in choir with us to recite Matins.” [2]

On the third day of the Triduum of Saint Gerard, Mons the Archbishop of Quebec officiated pontifically at Sainte-Anne. He then visited the provisional convent of the Sisters and conversed paternally with them, and confirmed the election of Reverend Mother Marie-Stanislas as Superior for three years.

The building of the new Monastery advanced rapidly. On 8th December 1906, the Sisters took solemn possession of their permanent home. On the same day, through a delicate attention of Providence, the first American postulant presented herself to the Monastery. Thus the favours of heaven were united to the favours of the first Pastor of the diocese, the unanimous voices of the faithful, and the apostolic desires of the daughters of Saint Alphonsus. May the holy Doctor extend his greatest blessings over a Monastery that will be, we do not doubt, the faithful heiress of his spirit and his apostolic zeal.

[1] His Life has been translated from Dutch into French: Vie du Rév. P. Bernard, priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and doctor of theology, by Mons M. J. A. Lans (1 vol. in 8o. Casterman, Paris-Tournai).
[2] This venerable religious was soon to go to receive the reward for her numerous works. Struck down by apoplexy on Friday, 10th May 1907, she died later on the Saturday at about 10.30 in the evening. Here is the notice that was communicated to us concerning this worthy daughter of Saint Alphonsus. “Sister Marie-Hyacinthe was born at Montjoie in 1842. Right up to her last days, in recreation she would happily recall the rustic and innocent joys that she had enjoyed in that beautiful countryside. Later on, her father, Mr. Pascal Massion went to live at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he was the proprietor of a large factory. He gave his daughters a distinguished education and a very Christian one especially. Adele, his oldest daughter, was soon capable of helping her mother with the cares of the household. Rev. Father Heilig, the Rector of the Convent of Saint Alphonsus at Aix, soon recognized a religious vocation in her, and after testing her out thoroughly, he had her enter Marienthal (1865). Right from her entry, she showed a great fervour and a serious desire for perfection. Her nature pushed her rather towards austerity, and she had to combat a certain impetuosity in order to become meek and good. She had an aptitude for everything, and was named Housekeeper after the fire of 1877, which was no small thing. The heavy burden of Superior was laid upon her on several occasions. Endowed with the most beautiful qualities of heart, spirit and many talents, with an exquisite taste for the arts, as well as being very capable in business matters, she was well able to give good advice to her daughters in all things. She also devoted herself entirely, and was always found ready to render service. All her life she showed herself as zealous for the exact and painstaking observance of the Rule, and when anything was lacking she showed herself inflexible. Her motto in practice was: “Duty before all, duty always.” Her greatest pleasure was to work for the ornamentation of the altar. She had an extraordinary skill, and our sacristy is rich in the works of her hands – so many souvenirs that are so precious to us. Her last trienniat was greatly disturbed by the foundation in Canada and her great journey, but in the greatest difficulties she never lost her courage and confidence in God. Our revered Mother made a good impression everywhere by her dignity and religious simplicity. She said: “In all these events I have let myself be led by Providence like a child.” “When she returned to Marienthal, where she continued her life hidden in Jesus Christ, whom she cherished above everything else, she helped the Sisters in America with all her power. But soon her task was finished, and she fell in the line of duty. Until her short illness she followed the common life in spite of her infirmities, which she bore in silence and with a great deal of courage. She still went on serving every week at table and washed the dishes, observed the fasts and abstinences, and gave herself the discipline with the others, etc. Finally, she was always our valiant Mother, who through her examples and her exhortations excited her daughters to virtue. Struck down by a mild attack on 29th April while coming to recreation that evening, she told Mother Vicar: “If I have to die of this, I shall yet be happy”, but she did not believe, however, that she was as ill as she was, and after a few days she wanted to get up very early for Holy Communion and the holy Mass, which she did until Friday, 10th May, when an attack of apoplexy in her brain threw her upon her bed, and soon made an end of her days. She lay unconscious, without a look of farewell, after Extreme Unction was administered, until Saturday evening about 10.30. Then the Blessed Virgin came to seek her faithful servant to bring her into the arms of her divine Spouse, who, we hope, would have given her the fine crown that she merited so well by a life of abnegation and fidelity to the Rule of Saint Alphonsus. It is the consolation of our community in mourning that she will not forget us in heaven.”

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.

The Foundation of Maffles

The Monastery of the Sacred Heart at Maffles draws its origin from Saint-Amand. On 18th September 1899, two religious, one of whom was Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonse, left the convent of the Holy Family to come and found a new house of the Order at Maffles. They were soon joined by a third Sister, and they saw vocations flood into the provisional house that they occupied at 122, rue Seche. Their numbers increased rapidly when persecution chased them from their home. After 28th September 1901, to avoid any trouble to their proprietors, they left Armentieres and installed themselves at Maffles, a little village in Hainault, a few kilometres from Ath. Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonse, three religious, a novice and eight postulants then formed the community, whose number has increased now to twenty four. Through the manifest protection of the Sacred Heart, exile has not hindered the rapid extension of this nascent house, but obtained for it the blessing of complete destitution. Living from day today, entirely abandoned to a Providence which has never failed them, these daughters of Saint Alphonsus are making every effort to attract the divine mercy upon their country, by imitating the hidden virtues of the Most Holy Redeemer. May their prayers hasten the conversion of France, and obtain the return of the numerous religious that it has chased from its territory!

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.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Foundation of Madrid

For several years the Redemptorist Fathers in Spain desired to establish a Monastery of Redemptoristines in this kingdom, but several requests made to the Monastery of Saint Amand (Nord) were unfruitful and they were forced to wait for the hour of Providence. In 1904, when Spain was in negotiation with Rome for the arrangement of a concordat on the subject of the religious question, the Most Rev. Father Runner, the Provincial, judged the moment propitious, seeing that in this concordat the existing religious Orders were by this very fact approved by the government, and so he made new requests to the Monastery of Grenoble (Isere), but he obtained only a refusal.

After he turned to the Monastery of Kain in Belgium, the community granted the foundation on the condition of obtaining a Superior from the Monastery of Grenoble. After many difficulties it consented, forced, we might say, by our good God, to give the religious requested.

This religious left to see if, following the offer by our Fathers in Grenada, their convent, which they were obliged to leave in order to take up possession of another church, would be suitable for the foundation, but as neither the Monastery nor the location turned out to be suitable for contemplative religious, she went back to Madrid where, against all hope, His Excellency, Mons the Bishop of this city joyfully gave his authorisation for an establishment in his diocese, on 15th May, the feast of Saint Isidore, the patron of the city of Madrid. The will of God having thus been manifested, it was there that we were called to establish ourselves, and it was there that the religious of Kain came to join their Superior, who had received a hospitality as cordial as it was fraternal, among the nuns of the Sacred Heart.

They began by renting a villa at the edge of the city, but the location was not a suitable one, and Rev. Father Runner, after much deliberation, advised them to say a novena to Saint Alphonsus, in order to find a suitable house and land. On the eighth day of this novena, a lady came to offer them a house and garden situated at Carabanchel Alto, near Madrid. His Reverence went out to the place and was able to say that it was truly the reply of their good Father. Full of gratitude, he announced the good news to the Mothers who joined with him in thanking their holy founder.

A remarkable thing – with a magnificent site, complete solitude, a superb view and very pure air, this house possessed a lovely little chapel. On the frontispiece of the door there was a medallion of the Sacred Heart similar to the one the nuns wear on their breast, and on the roof there was a great iron cross.

Being thus directed there by Providence, the little community took possession of this house on 1st September. The following 27th April, after dedicating the Monastery to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, they established the enclosure, into which six Spanish postulants entered.

With the aid and the constant and disinterested devotion of our Fathers and Brothers, we began the construction of the Monastery on 16th September of this year 1905.

May divine Providence permit its prompt completion, so that we, like our first Mothers at Scala, shall be allowed to enjoy the inappreciable advantages of solemn vows authorised in Spain.

Sister Marie-Philomene, Redemptoristine.

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.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Foundation of Lauterach near Bregenz (Austria)

“Our foundation,” Reverend Mother Marie-Rose of the Child Jesus wrote to us on 3rd May 1906, “is under the patronage of Saint Joseph. Of all our houses, this is the only one that bears this blessed name.”

“For several years, our Monastery in Vienna desired to make a foundation, and Salzburg was proposed. The Cardinal Archbishop, Mons Haller, offered the Sisters a little church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, but the buildings were not suitable, and we had to refuse them. In the meantime, the Cardinal died. The Sisters designated for the new foundation left Vienna on 19th April 1900. A remarkable thing – from this time on, it was always a Wednesday or the 19th March or the 19th of another month that Saint Joseph granted our convent some particular grace.

“However, the new foundation was not to be made without difficulties of every kind. Our poverty was great, and to crown it all, there was no chapel where we could put the Blessed Sacrament, because of the small number of the Sisters. From 19th April to the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer, we had to go to Mass with the Reverend Fathers Missionary at Liefering, a quarter of an hour away from the convent, and receive the sacrament of penance in the town. Not possessing Our Lord amongst us was a subject of inexpressible grief to us. Finally Mons Kaltner, the Vicar General of Salzburg (today the Bishop) put himself to every possible trouble to obtain for us the grace of having the Sanctissimum in our little house. Several Sisters from Vienna arrived the night preceding the third Sunday of July. It was another Christmas night for us. We worked almost all night to prepare our little chapel, where Jesus, our love and our all, was to descend for the first time. Mons Kaltner blessed the chapel, and before giving us Holy Communion, he gave us a short sermon full of unction and piety. It was a day of graces and also a day of indescribable joy, although we had not yet been permitted to wear the habit of our Order, and all we had were just black vestments and black veils.

* * * * *

“We had to remain like this until the nomination of the new Archbishop, Mons Katschthaler, to the seat of Salzburg. Finally this great grace reached us at the very moment we were to begin our first retreat. An hour beforehand, the hand that had blessed our chapel also blessed our enclosure. What a joy it was for us then, on Christmas night, to renew our holy vows! In our little chapel, a true Bethlehem because of its poverty, a solemn Te Deum burst out in thanksgiving, for the first retreat preached in the little Monastery of Saint Joseph! What a joy it was also for Rev. Father Dilgskron, our confessor in Vienna, who had preached our holy exercises!

“”The cross,” I told him, “is not lacking in this foundation, but divine Providence is watching over its children. When we were at the point of having to leave everything because of our poverty, an unexpected help came to save us, and to great cares, great joy succeeded.

“However, a more serious reason than the lack of resources finally decided us to look elsewhere. The lack of spiritual help was all to evident, and so we prayed to find a new refuge which could provide us with what Saint Jeanne Francoise de Chantal sought before everything else for her foundations – the assurance of spiritual help. After many prayers, vigils and fasts, we learnt that a boarding house formerly run by the Dominican Sisters was vacant at Lauterach. It was the Reverend Father Rector of Dornbirn (Vorarlberg) who gave us this good news. On 19th April 1904, some of the Sisters went there with the counsellor of His Eminence the Cardinal of Salzburg, and at the first Vespers of the feast of the patronage of Saint Joseph, the contract for the purchase of the Dominican convent was signed, on the condition that our Superiors in Vienna gave their consent. On 2nd August, the feast of our Father, Saint Alphonsus, the daughters of this great Saint took possession of the Monastery of the daughters of Saint Dominic, and on 19th November, I arrived at Lauterach with the first group of my dear Sisters to remain there permanently.

“We now had a beautiful little church, some cells, and a cemetery at the bottom of the garden. The Redemptorist Fathers are our confessors. Our Chaplain, an excellent priest, helps us with everything by his advice and his talents. Having been on mission in Africa for the space of a dozen years, there is hardly any subject he does not know something about.

* * * * *

“A few words now about our three dear deceased Sisters.

“Sister Marie-Celestine came from Vienna with Sister Marie-Francoise and Sister Marie-Michel on the vigil of the feast of the Most holy Redeemer, to make up the number of Sisters required by the Archbishop of Salzburg, and to thus ensure us the happiness of possessing the Blessed Sacrament.

“She was a very fervent Sister who observed the Rule to the letter, but her health had been weakened long ago. We noticed one day that her spirit had weakened in its turn. She was suffering a great deal, and she was an enigma for us. Sometimes she felt so feeble that she would go and ask the Superior for some dispensation or some relief. A quarter of an hour afterwards, she wanted to know nothing about it and tried to observe the Rule in all its rigour. She continued thus until 24th October 1902. On that day she made her monthly retreat. On Saturday, the 25th, she could not get out of bed, and as the doctor told me that she could die any day quite unexpectedly, I told her all this. “That’s nothing,” she replied, “We all have to die.” On Sunday, the 26th, I was next to her right up to the moment of Holy Communion, and when I left her, she told me urgently: “My Reverend Mother, I thank you for everything you have done for me.” I did not for a moment think that she would die so soon, and I then went to see our good Sister Marie-Gerard, who had been ill for months and was suffering horribly. At 9 o’clock, I was called in all haste. Sister Marie-Celestine had just died! She had been struck by apoplexy in her heart and brain. On her death-bed, she still had the smiling face she had during her life. She was only thirty two years of age. We remember her as a good and charitable Sister, ardent for her perfection and zealous for observance. She had recommended her death to the Good Thief. – It was a very hard thing for us to leave her body in Salzburg. We have erected a modest monument to her in our little cemetery, and also to our dear Sister Marie-Francoise.

“This Sister died in our Monastery of Vienna on 13th February 1906. She was very young too. She was our companion at Salzburg for more than three years, and edified us greatly by her virtue, her spirit of prayer and her filial obedience. A stomach complaint was what had her recalled to Vienna. They soon discovered that it was a cancer. She suffered a great deal and had to undergo several operations. The doctors were edified by her patience. She suffered like this for more than two years, but we always saw her happy and resigned to the holy will of God and very attached to the Rule. She always had the desire to see her God, and she applied herself greatly to the interior life. And her death was that of a saint.

“Some words too about our dear Sister Marie-Alphonse, who died at the age of twenty six. The poor child had lost her parents, and for fifteen years she was left alone with her little sister. The blow was a terrible one. But divine Providence watched over this pure soul and brought her to our foundation. The weakness of our good Sister’s health soon became evident, and with it her unalterable patience. She had a placid soul of an angelic purity, and indeed she was not made for this world. The cough that wasted her away soon brought her to an extremity, but she was quite happy to die. After having received Extreme Unction, she radiated joy at the thought of going to see Jesus and Mary in heaven, and when I spoke to her about it, she laughed with all her heart, and was not able to contain the happiness that flooded her. Her long sufferings had altered her features, but after her death they took on a quite heavenly serenity.

“In the boarding house, we always called her an angel of peace. Now she rests in our little cemetery as the first Redemptoristine there and is the standard bearer for the Convent of Saint Joseph at Lauterach. An angel of peace and purity during her life, she will always be so in our memories.”

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.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Foundation of Clapham (London)

Reverend Mother Marie-Gertrude of the Incarnation, who had succeeded Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix in the direction of the Monastery of Dublin, was destined by God to bring a project of foundation in England to a good end.

Having submitted her project to the Most Reverend Father Raus, the Rector Major of the Redemptorist Fathers, to the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, and to Mons Bourne, then the Bishop of Southwark, [1] she had the joy of receiving a favourable response from all of them. Rev. Father Bridgett was enchanted to learn that the Monastery whose foundation he had always ardently desired, was finally to be established.

It was ruled by the Diocesan authority that the foundation would take place at Clapham, in the very parish served by the Redemptorist Fathers. All the necessary permissions were granted, and then Father Stevens, the Rector of the house at Clapham, took possession of the house at Rectory-Grove in the name of Reverend Mother Marie-Gertrude, and placed in it the pictures of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Saint Alphonsus. This was on 23rd January 1897. On the following 7th May, Reverend Mother was elected Superior of the new foundation by the community of Dublin, assembled in chapter. The same evening, she left for London, accompanied by Sister Marie-Alphonsine. The last arrangements were made to give the house at Rectory Grove a truly conventual appearance, and Rev. Father Vaughan, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers, ruled everything concerning spiritual help.

On 28th May, Mother Marie-Gertrude returned to Dublin for several days and resigned her superiority into the hands of the Archbishop. He greatly praised the charity, prudence and all the virtues which had shone there so brightly during her government, and then the Reverend Mother prepared herself to say farewell to her dear daughters in Dublin and take in hand the new charge that had been confided to her. Her departure then took place on 4th July. That morning the Archbishop was kind enough to celebrate the holy Mass in the Monastery, and once again bless and encourage Reverend Mother and the Sisters who were to accompany her. For everyone the separation was the occasion of a great sacrifice, but every pain faded away before the great thought that the Sisters about to depart for England were soon to commence their work of prayer and reparation in the very place where their divine Spouse had been so outraged, and where the fruits of His abundant Redemption were still being denied to so many souls through heresy and cold indifference.

* * * * *

On 18th July, the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer, the holy red and blue habit of the Redemptoristines was brought into the pretty and devout church of iron, which had been blessed the day before by the Very Rev. Father Vaughan. At seven o’clock in the morning, the holy Mass was celebrated there for the first time by the venerable Father Provincial, and Our Lord was placed in His new tabernacle, the gift of the dear community of Bruges. The convent was thus to undergo a complete transformation, sanctified as it was by the presence of the divine Host that was now to be the object of the love of every heart. The ceremony of installation took place at four o’clock in the afternoon. The Most Rev. Father Vaughan preached a fine sermon on the contemplative life, and then Rev. Father Stevens intoned a solemn greeting. The service was well attended by the relatives and friends of the Sisters and a sympathetic crowd who afterwards visited the Monastery.

On Tuesday 20th, at the meeting of the ladies of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Family, Rev. Father Stevens in his turn preached in eloquent terms about the contemplative life, and invited all those attending the meeting to go and see the Sisters. On 21st, the vigil of the feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, Vespers were chanted in choir, and they began the public recitation of the Divine Office, to the great joy of the religious.

Finally on Sunday, 25th July, the ceremony of the establishment of the enclosure took place. His Lordship Mons Bourne arrived a little before four o’clock. The church was already full. It was the Rev. Father Bridgett who preached his admirable sermon on the contemplative life. We shall quote only the conclusion.

“It is now thirty-eight years since the monastery was established in Dublin of which this house at Clapham is an offshoot. It has been with us a long cherished wish to see a community of these zealous and holy sisters in England, and I thank God that I have lived to see it begun. May He grant this house a long and prosperous life. May it quickly grow in numbers, as well as in fervour and in the abundance of God’s gifts, and may it send out, in God’s good time, its daughters to other parts of the kingdom and of the empire.

“Our hopes for the return of England to the unity of the Church are greatly based on the number of communities of fervent nuns everywhere engaged in prayer and works of mercy. Several houses of nuns devoted to a contemplative life have been long established in England – Bridgettines, Benedictines, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Augustinians, Trappestines, and others, varying in austerity and divers points of religious discipline, but rivalling with each other in the service and love of God. Yet there is room and work for the daughters of St. Alphonsus. They will be welcomed from heaven by the Hildas, the Ediths, Eadburgas, and Ethelredas, who were the glories of the contemplative life in the England of earlier days; and on earth they will also receive a cordial welcome from those who have preceded them, whether in the contemplative or active life.

“May our dear Immaculate Mother, to whom this diocese of Southward is specially dedicated, set firmly this foundation as a gem in her ancient Dowry. [2]

* * * * *

“After the sermon,” says an eye-witness, “Mons the Bishop, followed by the clergy and the crowd, entered the Church by the side entrance, and the procession was formed. His Lordship had manifested the desire for Reverend Mother to go first and indicate the route to be followed. Then the bishop and the priests and the other Sisters proceeded out, singing the Miserere. Next came the ladies.

“After the Bishop had gone through the whole convent, sprinkling each room with holy water, he stopped at the door of the enclosure, waiting for the end of the procession.

“When everyone had come out, His Lordship closed the door and spoke with great goodness to our dear Reverend Mother and the Sisters. He said that he welcomed them very cordially into his diocese, that he would do everything he could to help the community, and that Reverend Mother had only to seek His Lordship whenever she was in need, because he would always want to show the Sisters the same care and attention that Saint Alphonsus himself would have shown them. His Lordship also said that as at this moment they were the only religious contemplatives in this part of London, he would rely on them in a very special manner.”

[1] Today the Archbishop of Westminster.
[2] Allusion to the beautiful work by Rev. Father Bridgett called: England, the Dowry of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Foundation of Gagny-Namur

The Religious of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer came from Austria to Belgium in 1841, but only installed themselves in France in 1875. In 1890, they still only possessed two houses there: one at Saint-Amand in the North, and the other at Grenoble in Central France. However, numerous aspirants to the life of our holy Order urged the Redemptorist Fathers to facilitate the means for them to become daughters of Saint Alphonsus, through the foundation of a new community, at Paris or in its suburbs. In 1890, the Reverend Fathers made frequent requests to the Mother Superior of Grenoble to send forth a swarm of her religious. The parents of several of Sisters from Paris joined with them, and to this effect the Reverend Mother asked the opinion of Mons Fava, the Bishop of Grenoble, the Most Rev. Father Raus, the General of the Redemptorists, and Rev. Father Gavillet, the Provincial. They were all in support of the realisation of the wishes so frequently expressed and the reiterated requests. Divine Providence seemed to encourage the project of foundation by permitting Madame Hello, the mother of our dear Sister Marie-Aloyse, to spontaneously offer a sum large enough to cover the first expenses. Believing they saw in all this a new expression of the divine will, they accepted the foundation. On 16th June 1893, Reverend Mother Marie-Augustine of the divine Providence set off en route for the capital, in order to seek out in the suburbs of Paris a site that could shelter the little colony. After having visited a number of localities, she stopped at Gagny (Seine et Oise), a little town in the Diocese of Versailles. Mons Goux, then the Bishop, accepted the request for admission made by Mons Fava himself, and on 3rd August of the same year, Reverend Mother Marie-Augustine and several religious from the Convent of Grenoble came to take possession of the new nest prepared by divine Providence. First of all they stayed in Gagny itself, and then several months later they were able to transfer the community into a more spacious and better situated house in the suburbs of Gagny.

Many vocations presented themselves, and everything presaged happy beginnings, but following malevolence on the one hand, and imprudence on the other, in less than two years the foundation was about to founder following some exceptional trials. But God, who had willed its existence, brought it out of these unfortunate circumstances. The vocations became numerous and after ten years the community already numbered thirty members. Then came the wicked law of 1901, against religious Congregations. The communities emigrated en masse, and that of the Redemptoristines of Gagny decided to find shelter where they could take refuge during the torment that was coming. Mons Heylen, the Bishop of Namur, agreed to receive them into his episcopal city, so they went there in the month of May 1903. His Lordship ameliorated the sacrifice of the exiles by surrounding them with a truly paternal solicitude, and our good God blessed their fidelity by sending them some new companions. Praise and thanksgiving to J. M. J. A.

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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