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

The history of the Sisters of Mary Joseph

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  • 23 October 2013
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1789 / 1793 TRIALS

During the Reign of Terror, a priest of the parish of Ainay in Lyons was imprisoned and at the same time, his servant, Charlotte Dupin.
“If I get out of here some day, I will devote myself to the service of poor prisoners.” She was freed in a short time and thought only of visiting those with whom she had shared captivity.
Charlotte Dupin brought them food and clothing, for which she begged. She often served as intermediary between the prisoners and their families. Unable to do all the work alone, she recruited her sister; then other women soon came to offer their help. This was how the little charitable society grew amidst the Reign of Terror.

1805 / 1816 FIRST VISITS

At the death of Charlotte Dupin on April 15, 1805, one of her collaborators, Jeanne-Louise Juliand, succeeded her and in order to assure the existence of this society, gave it a rule, approved by ecclesiastical authorities on July 15, 1805.
That year the visits became regular.
Soon, in order to make their work easier, the civil administration asked them to lodge in the prison. Some were affected there in order to be closer to the prisoners. They were led by Elisabeth Duplex (1780-1849).

1817 / 1824 A.M. QUINON

In 1817, Anne-Marie Quinon was received like Charlotte.
In 1819, the diocesan authority had the group of Charlottes affiliate themselves with a religious congregation. The Congrégation de Saint-Joseph de Lyon was chosen. That year, Elisabeth Duplex took the habit and received the name of Soeur Saint Polycarpe.
In 1824, Mère Saint-Augustin (Anne-Marie Quinon) was named superior of the community residing in the Saint-Joseph prison.

1825 / 1834 A MISSION

It is certain that the service rendered and the influence exercised by the Charlottes contributed to the transformation of the prisons.
In 1825, a general counselor in the department of the Rhone wrote a memoir; he asked that the Sisters who were working in the prisons be authorized to take up service in all the prisons in France.
In 1825, Sœur Saint-Polycarpe became provincial of the Sisters of Saint-Joseph of Lyon, Prison Section.

1835 / 1840 PRISON REFORM

In 1835, Mère Saint-Augustin succeeded Sœur Saint-Polycarpe and had the responsibility of this young society.
In 1838, the surveillance commission of the prisons in Lyons wrote a report addressed to the minister of the Interior. This report spelled out the work of religious (men and women) in the prisons and would give the necessary impulse to this new work. A prison reform was deemed necessary.
In 1839, an Inspector General of the prisons of the Kingdom asked the provincial of the Sœurs de Saint-Joseph Prison Section if she would accept the service in all the prisons of France.

1840 / 1841 THE FOUNDATION

In 1837, at the request of Abbé Petit, Superior of the Minor Seminary in Le Dorat, a community of four Sisters was installed there.
In 1841, Cardinal de Bonald, Bishop of Lyons, authorized the separation of the two sections – Sœurs de Saint-Joseph and Prison Section. Mère Saint-Augustin, responsible for the Prison Section, prepared for the departure.
On March 23, 1841, Mère Saint-Augustin arrived at Le Dorat with 81 professed Sisters and novices. The new Congregation was officially constituted and took the name of Sœurs de Marie Joseph.


“We still have the most difficult part to do for our permanent installation. Important work must be undertaken, but with the help of Providence we will accomplish everything.”

The future opened up; at the request of the government, she multiplied the foundations of communities in prison (35 in 18 years) with untiring activity despite worries of every kind, many of which affected her health: financial trials, cholera epidemics, political events, and the rise of anticlericalism.
In 1857, she asked to be discharged of her responsibility, and two years later, she died at Montbrison, in Loire, on August 4, 1859, a few hours before the Curé of Ars.

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