Following Jesus, the Great Sower, Eulalie (Marie-Rose) and Melodie (Marie-Agnes) set out for Longueuil, where Henriette Céré (Marie-Madeleine) and her sister Émélie waited for them in the little parish school. Like Abraham, they set out in faith, not knowing what awaited them. They were responding to a call rooted in their pastoral and social commitment in Beloeil. Bishop Ignace Bourget, very sensitive to the urgent need to educate youth, solicited their physical strength as well as their ardent love for this work of the Church. Their entire lives would be transformed.
Nine months went by in this "Bethlehem" where they lacked almost everything. However, their joy seemed to increase daily through their total gift of self. There was much to do: the material organization and upkeep, religious formation and the acquisition of pedagogical skills. Gratitude was expressed to the Brothers of the Christian Schools who shared their expertise and to the Oblate priests who guided them in their first steps. Salome Martin (Thérèse-de-Jésus) and Hedwidge Davignon (Véronique-du-Crucifix), two multi-talented women, were warmly welcomed. The harvest looked promising and students flocked to them. They had to move into a larger convent.
But challenges and difficulties arose: scheming by Fr. Chiniquy who wanted to take the place of the Oblates; the naivety of their pastor, Fr. Brassard, who allowed himself to be fooled by his protégé; doubts and suspicions among the public and an uncertain future. As they suffered and prayed, Providence watched over them. God wanted this work. It was God’s work and it would survive!
Soon, under the happy gaze of Mother Marie-Rose, the first expansions were realized: Beloeil, Saint-Lin, Saint-Timothée. However, an immense trial was on the horizon: the beloved foundress would depart this life leaving her community this message of hope: God will take care of you.
The expansion would continue: parishes in Quebec were calling for religious teachers. The audacious Thérèse-de-Jésus would send the first missionaries to far-off Oregon. The pace was set. Over time, many foundations were established in the United States, Ontario, Manitoba, Japan, Africa, Haiti, and South America.
As time went by, in order to meet specific needs, a variety of specialized schools were established: nursery schools, teacher training colleges, home economics schools, commercial courses, music schools, classical colleges, art studios, etc. These women, open to transformation, were letting new possibilities emerge wherever they were.
“Those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as much as you have decided ... God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9: 6-7)
In this time of grace, let us be in touch with the deep roots of our being which connect us to our Congregation. For many years, we have lived according to its values and mission. We have found a home in the SNJM spirituality. We have advanced the spirit of Mother Marie-Rose through the sharing of our gifts and talents, wherever our nominations and the calls of God have led us.
One way for each of us TO REMEMBER as we approach the 175th anniversary of our founding is to take times of quiet to recall God’s blessings.
Praise to You, Lord,
for your constant presence along our paths.
Praise to You for the many seeds cast into the ground.
Praise to You for generous sowers throughout time.
Praise to You for the earth
which welcomed the seed and helped it grow.
Praise to You, Lord, for keeping us open
to the calls of today and the calls of tomorrow.
Simone Perras, in collaboration with the PLT