Soeurs de Marie Joseph et de la Miséricorde
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      The history of the Sisters of Misericorde

The history of the Sisters of Misericorde

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  • 23 October 2013
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1789 / 1793 A SIGN FROM PROVIDENCE

When the French Revolution of 1789 ended, Marie Thérèse de Lamourous was still living at her Hermitage in Le Pian Médoc, relishing solitude and contemplation.
Mlle de Pichon Longueville, a friend of Marie Thérèse, had opened a refuge for the victims of prostitution in 1774; the Revolution would close it. In July of 1800 at her own expense, she had taken up her plan again by placing one of these poor creatures as an apprentice dress-maker. Other women asked for the same help. A room was rented, then several, and in August, fifteen boarders were grouped together at the home of Mme Laplante.
Overburdened, Jeanne Pichon called to her friend for help…
But, Mlle de Lamourous was appalled at this proposal!... She felt such repugnance for these women that she made long detours in order not to meet them!... However, she agreed to visit the Laplante house. As soon as she was among the repentant women, her repugnance for them disappeared; a torrent of peace flooded her soul.
At each new visit, the poor women surrounded her with joy. However, Marie Thérèse still hesitated and returned to her Hermitage… Her spiritual director, Father Chaminade, left her free…

1801 / 1813 THE FOUNDATION A DIFFICULT BEGINNING

On January 1, 1801, she had a dream about the last judgment. Before falling into the abyss, the sinful women shouted this reproach at her:
“If you had come, we would have been saved!”
Marie Thérèse left immediately for Bordeaux. Sick and unable to make the journey on foot, she rode a donkey, which bucked her off several times. Would she be happy with just a simple visit?... When she reached Bordeaux, she went to see the repentant women with Jeanne de Pichon and Father Chaminade, and when it was time to leave, she took the lamp, accompanied her friends to the door and there said simply:
“Good night, I am staying!”

This was how, on January 1, 1801, she began her life among fifteen repentant women! She conquered these women, despised by all, by showing them – something unheard of! – respect for their persons, esteem, and friendship and doing it all with a simple gesture: she offered her hand! She established a refuge for them based on family life and freedom.
“The Miséricorde”

At the beginning, the work suffered many trials: lack of work and lack of resources for their daily bread. Several times, Mlle de Lamourous was on the point of abandoning everything. But unexpected help came to prove to her that she was doing the work of God!
On May 14, 1801, Ascension Day, Father Chaminade, named ecclesial superior, gave the boarders a costume and read the Rule; in this way, a community of 35 repentant women was born. All of them accepted the new Rule with docility, some of them with pleasure.
This same year, some collaborators joined: Jeanne Véronique Cordes, Rose Bidon, Jeanne Plessis, and then Laure de Labordère, the niece of Marie Thérèse de Lamourous. She would play an important role by succeeding her aunt.

1814 / 1836 MISSION

The work took shape: at the time, it was necessary to formulate Rules for the penitents and for the collaborators. The Constitutions of the Sœurs de la Miséricorde de Bordeaux are the personal work of Mlle de Lamourous, who drew them up little by little from 1814 on. They are the notes of the principal ideas the Servant of God taught her collaborators concerning the duties, obligations, practices, and usages she determined for them from time to time, from the day she decided to convert the Misericorde into a religious Congregation.
So, from 1814 to 1832, always attentive to any improvement experience might indicate to her for the repentant women, she studied, inquired about, consulted, observed, and read as wide a range of documentation as possible on the religious life led in similar or somewhat similar works.
From 1832 to 1836, the year of her death, she wrote or dictated the Rules she wished to leave the Miséricorde to be sure it would last.

1836 / 1855 THE RULE OF LIFE

When Marie Thérèse de Lamourous died, everything concerning the life of the penitents was definitely regulated by her writings. As for the Sisters, for several years their “Good Mother” had had them live, under her vigilant direction, the religious life she believed best adapted to their special vocation. Besides, she had left them numerous notes, which, perfected, put in order, and completed, would easily become the Constitutions proper.
Laure de Labordère was certainly the best person to bring this task to a good end, but the sickness of Father Chaminade, his death, and his successor at the head of the Society of Mary, would delay the final writing of the Constitutions. On September 1, 1847, the final text was presented to the ecclesiastical authority.

Was it a consequence of the revolution of 1848? Was it because of the modifications or changes demanded by the diocesan authority? Was it simply the effect of administrative slowness?

Only on April 20, 1855, was the final approbation given by Cardinal Bonnet, Archbishop of Bordeaux.

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