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Origins of the Assumption Family

Founders and Foundresses
Foundations and Intuitions
Relations and Disagreements

Acts of the Inter-Assumption Colloquium
Paris, January 6–10, 2004

French edition
Edited by Bernard Holzer, A.A.

English edition
Edited by Robert J. Fortin, A.A.


Original Intuitions: Spirit and Spirituality of the Assumption Family

The Religious of the Assumption

Original Intuitions

Thérèse-Maylis Toujouse

We already explained the role of Father Combalot, his intuition and his goal, and we have seen how he was incapable of seeing through the project he had started. It was Mother Marie-Eugénie who, over time and in her flesh, so to speak, gave form and life to our spirit.

Spirit is the aggregate of ideas and priorities that express the deep meaning of the institute and guide its action. It is this that we believe we have in common with the entire Assumption family: the central place of Jesus Christ and of the Kingdom, a love for the Church, a doctrinal spirituality, a social perspective in what we do, and a sense of what it is to be Catholic.

Spirituality is the spirit, plus the attitudes and practices that incarnate this spirit. It is a lived experience that is shared and that constitutes a school of thought or a path that is mapped out and offered to successive generations. Spirituality is strongly marked by the personality and the experience of the founder/dress and by the first members of a congregation (the lived experience of the community).

To tell the truth, we have always found our spirituality to be very complex and difficult to express. It has as many explanations as there are sisters. Fundamentally, there is deep agreement, but there is such an abundance of texts and expressions of Mother Marie-Eugénie that one or another chooses this or that text, giving it at times a different interpretation.305 Nevertheless, we all find ourselves in some key quotations of Mother Marie-Eugénie. One of them is: “Our spirit is to be rich with the spirit of the Church ...”306 Our monastic and apostolic lifestyle unites us beyond words and explanations.

In this document, I will insist on a few particular traits of the spirituality of Mother Marie-Eugénie and of the Congregation, and on the manner in which the Religious of the Assumption live certain aspects of our shared spirit.

The apostolate was the dominant idea behind the foundation of the first Congregation within the Assumption family.307 The Congregation had an apostolic aim and followed the Rule of St. Augustine. Realizing how the rich and influential class308 was alienated from Jesus Christ and the Church and how it was seeking a broad and modern education, Mother Marie-Eugénie wanted to offer young girls the type of education they were looking for, but one imbued with the spirit of the Gospel. Her own experience of this liberal aristocracy made her feel its sad religious situation and inspired her to bring about a change in society through the intervention of women. It was a question of bringing about a real revolution in people’s minds and in society, a colossal task to which she gave herself.309

This work had to be carried out not only through an extensive intellectual education, but also through a transformation of persons, minds, and hearts. This implied a similar transformation of educators and the educational milieu. For the sisters, their particular form of education flowed from a spiritual life and a Christianized intelligence.

In fact, Mother Marie-Eugénie had a vision of the world transfigured by Christ through the Church. She was aware of creating something new. But, at the same time, she wanted to link up her work to the ancient Orders and to the great Tradition of the Church. She had difficulty expressing her vision and in getting our style of contemplative and apostolic life accepted by the ecclesiastical Superiors. The big stumbling block was the choral recitation of the entire Divine Office combined with teaching. (This lifestyle also implied a semi-enclosure.)

So, four years after the foundation, Mother Marie-Eugénie was able to write to Father d’Alzon about the drafting of what became the 1844 edition of the Constitutions:

We are not yet well enough established for me to dare express our aim, as I understand it, in [sic] the contemplative life enriched by religious studies and the source of an active life of faith, of apostolic involvement (zeal), and of freedom of spirit.310

She continued:

For me, the real aim, the real character of a work, is found in its interior dedication to this or that divine mystery to which it remains a living homage. I believe that we are called to honor the mystery of the Incarnation and the sacred person of Jesus Christ, and to be united with the Blessed Virgin and to Jesus Christ. This also governs our views on education. And regardless of what you might think, Mary seems to be very much our Mother, inasmuch as she is the purely human soul most clothed with the life of Jesus Christ. But how do you expect me to dare express anything of the sort, even with all of the circumspection I would have to observe and with all of the explanations I would have to give, if I were not writing to you.

Finally, almost fifty years later, she arrived at the following formulation for the Constitutions, one that satisfied Rome and followed the appropriate style for a Rule:

Aim of the Institute

... to imitate the most holy Virgin in her love for Our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and (to) work through education and works of apostolate (zeal), to make Jesus Christ and his Church known and loved. (Constitutions of 1888311)

The desire to combine action and contemplation312 in a congregation with an apostolic aim goes contrary to the Jesuit lifestyle. Tim is what distinguishes us from the Jesuits. Mother Marie-Eugénie wanted to keep what Ignatius rejected, viz., the monastic forms: the Office in Choir, a strong community life, the role of the Superior along with the Chapter and spiritual accompaniment, silence, and studies that nourish one’s prayer, life, and teaching.

An attraction to the contemplative life expresses a very marked characteristic of Mother Marie-Eugénie’s spirituality: a sense of God who is above all things and who deserves the total gift of his creature—what she would call the spirit of adoration. At her first Communion, at the age of 12, she experienced being seized by God and by his fullness, which Christ enabled her to adore.313 Towards the end of her life, Mother Marie-Eugénie wrote as a last entry in her spiritual diary: “Follow my inclination to adore through him and to give through him all that is due to God.”314

She liked to talk about the adoration of the rights of God: his right to our love, his right to our faith. In her teaching, the Virgin Mary is the perfect adorer.

In 1855, Nîmes was the first house to be called a “house of adoration,” with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Progressively, adoration became part of the life of the communities, depending on the number of sisters and the permission of the Local Ordinary. This devotion was officially written into the Constitutions of 1866. In her talk to the Chapter on the spirit of the Assumption (1878), Mother Marie-Eugénie affirmed that devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is the full flowering of our spirit.’’315

The Incarnation

In the above-mentioned quotation on the aim of the Congregation, Mother Marie-Eugénie placed the mystical dimension of her work within the context of a consecration to the mystery of the Incarnation. She was certainly influenced by the French School of spirituality during her stay with the Visitation Order, and at the beginning of the foundation the sisters prayed the Office of the Grandeur of Jesus. The spiritual life of the first sisters was shaped by this current, which was centered on the mystical Incarnation:

“The Incarnation is the mystery to which they must have a special devotion because it is in this mystery that everything human is divinized and finds its end.”316

For Mother Marie-Eugénie, the desire to imitate Jesus, to allow him to live out his mysteries in us, translated itself into a consecration to the Incarnation she made on the feast of the Annunciation in 1843.317 Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel sanctified herself by adhering to this spirituality, whereas Mother Marie-Eugénie was swept along by the great theological current of St. Augustine and the Tradition of the Church. Nevertheless, the Incarnation remained central to the spirituality of the Congregation and to her philosophy of education.

The Reign of God

is at the heart of the first intuition of Mother Marie-Eugénie. Her conversion led her to understand Christ as Liberator and King. His Kingdom is the goal and meaning of the world.318 The Reign of God / of Jesus Christ is the raison d’être of the Congregation: to know and love Christ, to make him and his Church known and loved; to extend the Reign of Christ in society. The first sisters made the vow “to extend by their whole life the Reign of Jesus Christ”; later, this implied being sent to far-off missions. The Reign must be extended more and more “in us, around us,” and in the world.319

It should be noted, however, that the Reign does not play the same role in the spirituality of the Religious of the Assumption as it does in that of the Assumptionists and the Oblates. Mother Marie-Eugénie had taken the motto Adveniat Regnum Tuum (Thy Kingdom Come) upon the suggestion of Father d’Alzon, but for her, the expression did not have the same importance as it did for him. For example, on her letterhead, she did not write ART. [Adveniat Regnum tuum], but D.S., Dieu seul! (God alone!) In her talk to the Chapter of May 12, 1878, Mother Marie-Eugénie referred to Adveniat Regnum Tuum as “our motto for the active life,” but in her talk of May 5, 1878 she referred to it as “the motto of the Assumption Fathers.”320 Unfortunately, the Chapters do not speak much of the Kingdom. They explain for the sisters the theology of St. Thomas as found in the liturgy and in the great Tradition of Western spirituality. Perhaps the fact that there was no developed theology of the Kingdom at that time explains this absence. Her ideas of the social Reign of God were surely inspired by Lamennais and his school of thought.

Her great preoccupation was personal prayer and the quality of life of the sisters, from which all action flows. The theme Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere (Contemplate and communicate to others what has been contemplated), received from the Dominicans,321 better reflects her daily instructions.

Doctrinal Spirituality

– This expression of Father d’Alzon is not found in the writings of Mother Marie-Eugénie. For the Religious of the Assumption, love of the truth, of which Augustine is the great model, expresses the same reality. This love is concretized largely through studies and spiritual reading. Spirituality is well nourished doctrinally not only through study but also by praying the Divine Office.322 During the time of Mother Marie-Eugénie, praying the Office took about three hours a day. (All of the spiritual exercises took more than five hours a day.) Our contemplative life was to lead to a transformation of one’s intelligence (an “alteration,” she would say in the Chapters of 1878) or to the “Christianization of the intelligence” by truth. It should make us live in faith, which becomes “the climate of our souls.”323

Augustinian Roots

– As an apostolic congregation, we have had, since the beginning, the Rule of St. Augustine as the basis of our Constitutions.324 Augustine is “our Father.” The Rule of St. Augustine was faithfully read in the refectory every Sunday. We could smile at the expressions: “never go out less than two together” and “hair stylishly arranged,” but the lessons on interiority and authenticity, poverty and pardon were assimilated. Mother Marie-Eugénie commented the Rule in her Chapters of August 13, 1876 and July 13, 1879. Many times she made reference to the Prologue because of her insistence on charity, love of God, and love of neighbor.325

In the Chapters on the Spirit of the Assumption (1878), St. Augustine appears as an example of all major points: his great heart, his love for the truth, his love for the Church, humility ... (February 24; March 3; March 10; April 7; May 5; May 12; May 19). Above all, Mother Marie-Eugénie resembled St. Augustine in her search for God in everything and through everything.

Today, I would like to speak to you about St. Augustine and tell you something that seems practical for us. With this great mind, endowed with such great wisdom, enlightened with such great light, consider how much good he saw. The greatness of his soul lies precisely in having followed through with the light he had to the very end.326

Her spirituality is Augustinian because her theology is Augustinian: God, Jesus Christ, the Church, love for the Truth and the study of doctrine, contemplation, and the absence of other “little” devotions. The Congregation is Christocentric because Jesus Christ is God’s great mediator.

The sisters also became Augustinians by adopting the prayer of the Church, the Breviary, not only the psalms, but also the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church. Among them, the writings of Augustine are more numerous than those of any others.

Concerning penance, Mother Marie-Eugénie stressed interior mortification, especially of our thoughts, which is more in the Augustinian tradition and in keeping with our particular vocation.

In the City of God that Father d’Alzon considered as “a second revelation,” Mother Marie-Eugénie was struck by the idea of the two loves.327 Back in 1842, in her “Advice on Education,” she referred to this work:

St. Augustine said that there are only two cities in this world ... that is to say, egoism and self-sacrifice; you have there in a nutshell all of the mystery, all of the principle of good and evil in the things here below ... Since “the aim of education is to prepare a child to face all the duties of life,” it is important to have him enter into the city of self-sacrifice.328

Her preoccupation with the contemplative life of the sisters made her come back often to this idea.

We know these words of St. Augustine: There are two cities in this world, one built on the love of God leading to the contempt of self, the other built on self-love leading to the contempt of God ... Obviously, we are in the city built on the love of Jesus Christ that leads to contempt of self. This is where an examination of conscience must begin. Are we living according to this principle? Do we accept its consequences?329

We have already seen how the Congregation received from the Father Combalot the name of Assumption, with the Blessed Virgin as our patroness. With the same logic that made her deepen our Augustinian roots through the Rule of St. Augustine, Mother Marie-Eugénie took the title of the Congregation seriously and developed a spirituality of the mystery of the Assumption. She suggested that we imitate Mary by rising above the difficulties, annoyances, and miseries of daily life through a Sursum corda (Lift up your hearts), that we allow ourselves to be attracted on high by God as Mary was when she went up to heaven, and that we live in joyful detachment from all that is not of God,330 as Mary did in this mystery.

You are daughters of the Assumption. This mystery, which is more about heaven than about earth, is a mystery of adoration ... In Mary, everything was adoration.331


Jesus Christ, the King of Eternity, living in souls and in his Church, the extension of his Reign within us and in others, a strong spirit of prayer supported, on the one hand, by the Divine Office in which we find the traces of the saints and the devotions of the Church, and, on the other hand, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where we enter with Our Lord into the four purposes of his divine Sacrifice ... a certain freedom of spirit that respects each one’s particular grace ... this family spirit full of respect and simplicity, this little something which creates closer bonds with the Ancient Orders, the type of education that flows from it all  ...

And also the joy!

This is one of the last formulations of the spirit of the Assumption, given on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation.332

Sister Thérèse-Maylis Toujouse
Archivist of the Religious
of the Assumption

17, rue de l’Assomption
75016 Paris

The Augustinians of the Assumption

Original Intuitions

Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet

Praying 15 Days with Emmanuel d’Alzon is a book based on interrelated aspects of the Assumptionist spirituality. From beginning to end, it takes up the important theme of Trinitarian and Christological love (chap. 1, 2, 3, and 15). It then touches upon the Augustinian and Marian dimensions of this spirituality (chap. 4, 6) which is accessed through prayer, after which it discusses the characteristics and preferential options of the Assumptionist apostolate: unity (chap. 7), the Church (chap. 9), and foreign missions (chap. 10). Father d’Alzon’s concrete life inspires and illustrates this spiritual journey. He responded in faith as he fought to carry his daily cross (chap. 8), concerned as he was to concretize that faith, all the while maintaining earnest friendships (chap. 12). History also records his conviction that the mission must be shared with the laity (chap. 13) as well as his preoccupation to supply the Church with “permanent defenders of the Gospel” (chap. 14). Also, this spirituality, which is deeply rooted in the love of a triune God but which expresses itself in a Christocentric manner, is lived on a daily basis in and through a vocation completely dedicated to the mission of the Church.

Father Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet
Archivist of the Augustinians
of the Assumption

Via San Pio V, 55
00165 Rome

The Oblates of the Assumption

Original Intuitions and Spirituality

Claire de la Croix Rabitz

Our spirituality flows from that of the Assumptionists: we have the same founder and we were created to work together for the Near Eastern Mission.

For us Oblates of the Assumption, the spirit of Assumption was expressed by Father d’Alzon himself in the closing statement of the Assumptionist General Chapter on September 17, 1868:

Our spiritual life ... is found in our motto Adveniat Regnum Tuum. The coming of the Reign of God in our souls ... the coming of the Reign of God in the world ... And if to this basic love you add the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Blessed Virgin, his Mother, and of the Church his Spouse, you will have in a nutshell the spirit of Assumption.’’333

The Triple Love

Our spirituality is before all else Christ-centered, witness the numerous texts addressed by Father d’Alzon to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson or to the first Oblates of the Assumption.

You love Our Lord very much as your spouse, but maybe not enough as your king ... You want him for yourself ... The Foundress of the Oblates must want him for her daughters, for all the souls that her daughters will convert, for the whole Church, for all sinners.334

The Oblate must renew as often as possible the gift of herself to Jesus Christ her spouse ... and ask unceasingly for his most ardent love in all of the concrete details of life.335

This unconditional love of Jesus Christ entails an untiring apostolic zeal expressed in our first two mottos: Propter amorem Domini Nostri Jesu Christi and Adveniat Regnum Tuum.

1 – Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ

especially in the Eucharist, not so much as a devotion but as an instinctive frame of reference. A particular link exists between our foundation and the Eucharist. Father d’Alzon wrote:

Pray ardently for a work which preoccupies me a great deal here. It is the foundation of a House of Adoration entrusted to poor women who would consecrate themselves to manual work, penance, and prayer.336

As soon as he arrived in Rochebelle, Father d’Alzon set up a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament and organized nocturnal adoration.

He had noticed that there was little devotion to the Eucharist in the East when he traveled there. He mentioned this in his very first explanation of the purpose of the Oblates:

  1. An ardent love of Our Lord sacrificed on the altar.
  1. The desire to repair the insults he endures, by prayer, penance, zealous works, and [he added a little further on] perpetual adoration which is to be established in these countries.337

The veneration of the Eucharist, which he intended to give to the Oblates of the Assumption, was immediately geared to unity in order to serve his concept of unity.

Think everyday, while making your visit to the Blessed Sacrament, about the distance which separates you from Our Lord. If from one communion to the other, if from one adoration to the other, you try to reduce this distance, it will become impossible for you not to make considerable progress on this or that point.338

The love of Our Lord naturally applies to what Jesus Christ loved most, viz., his Mother and the Church.

2 – Mary,

loved as our Mother, is first and foremost for us a model to be imitated, a model of availability: “from the ‘yes’ of the Annunciation to the ‘yes’ of Compassion.”339

Do not let the month of Mary elapse without having made a special gift of yourself, as the Blessed Virgin used to do constantly.340

Father d’Alzon loved to call Mary the “Queen of the Apostles”:

“Be the Mother of the little apostolic family which is entrusted to you, just as the Blessed Virgin was the Mother of the Apostles before becoming their Queen.”341

In his spiritual testament to the Oblates of the Assumption, Father d’Alzon wrote:

I am trying to stress more energetically the particular trait which must characterize you and by which others will be able to recognize you as real daughters of the Blessed Virgin, Queen of the Apostles.342

3 – Love of the Church

(Jesus Christ continued in time) flows naturally from the love Father d’Alzon had for Christ: we are born from this love,

“a supernatural, daring, and disinterested love.”343

A little later, in speaking about the Oblates, he said to his brothers:

“Like us, they want to sanctify themselves by having an immense apostolic love for the Church. From this point of view, their special characteristic helps us deepen our own.”344

In summary, our life as Oblates of the Assumption is energized by Christ who is loved above all else, who lives in the Church, and who is present in the Eucharist. This essentially apostolic life has the Virgin Mary as its model.

Apostolic contemplation

Our apostolic congregation is not “contemplative” in the sense that the main activity of the Sisters would be to spend their time in prayer. Father d’Alzon insisted on this point in various letters he sent to Father Galabert.

He wanted the Oblates to have

the hearts of seraphim and of apostles.345

The seraphim represent the type of love which consumes an entire life in praising God. For the Oblates, contemplation and apostolate are so intertwined that they are one and the same reality.

Father d’Alzon explained to Father Picard the big difference he saw between the Ladies of the Assumption and the Oblates of the Assumption:

“Semi-cloistered religious and missionary religious.”346

For Father d’Alzon and Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, the members of both congregations were indeed “religious.”

In a letter to Eulalie de Régis, Father d’Alzon explained the purpose for which the Oblates were founded:

“Work, penance and prayer: work to live, penance to obtain the conversion of heretics, and prayer to adore the Blessed Sacrament.”347

The enthusiasm Father d’Alzon wanted to give the Oblates was stimulated by the needs of the Church and of the world.

On the one hand, the notion of apostolic mission calls to mind the idea of contemplation: working to bring about the Reign of Christ prompts us to pray to the Father in order to become better workers and to increase the number of these workers so that he can accomplish himself what we cannot do. Father d’Alzon suggested prayer intentions that were directly linked to the people the Sisters were encountering on a daily basis,348 all the while broadening these intentions to the dimensions of the Church.349

On the other hand, contemplation develops itself in the apostolate, as it is said in the last chapter of the Directory entitled “The Interior Life”:

“I cannot love Jesus Christ without wanting everyone to love him, and that is what gives my life its apostolic character.”350

The entire Directory must be read in the light of this small sentence:

“Oh! How I wish that, in the midst of your work, your hearts might always be united to your divine Master.”351

Action and contemplation are forever called to come together in our lives whose occupations are diverse. Everything—prayer and work—converges towards the same goal.

A few weeks later, he again wrote to the Oblates of the Assumption:

“ ... everywhere, constantly bear this thought in mind: I must be an apostolic religious.”352

“As long as you are apostolic women, I will be happy.”353

What is the Mission of the Oblates of the Assumption?

Together with the Assumptionists

We were founded to work with the Assumptionists in the Near Eastern Mission:

“You were founded to be our assistants in the Missions.”354

This means that we were founded not only to render service to the religious, but especially to serve the Church along the same lines and in a complementary fashion.355

As he did for his brothers, Father d’Alzon gave us as a basic rule, the Rule of St. Augustine. And in the spiritual testament he left the Oblates he wrote:

Keep the framework of these instructions as the basis of your spiritual life. I have already given you the Constitutions and a Directory. These two works are just about the same for you as for the men religious.356

In an ecumenical perspective

The name which Father d’Alzon gave to the first novitiate is self-explanatory: Our Lady of Bulgaria. We were founded to work for the rapprochement of the Eastern Churches. What Father d’Alzon called the “conversion of schismatics,” we have translated over the years by “ecumenism,” and now by “inter-religious dialogue.” What counts is the spirit in which it is done. We cannot understand unity today in the way Father d’Alzon did in the 19th century in an ultramontane perspective.

If the three great causes which bring the Assumption together are the proclamation of Truth, the manifestation of Charity, and the restoration of Unity,357 all three are found in our Rule of Life, nos. 2 and 56. For us Oblates, the cause of Unity seems to have been in the forefront at the time of our foundation: “What foolishness to want to work at overturning the Greek, Eastern, and Russian schisms with a handful of poor girls! ... God uses all sorts of means and will use even you,”

said Father d’Alzon in giving the habit to Sister Thérèse-Augustine on September 25, 1878.358

This ecumenical thrust is also found in the inscription inside the bell of the chapel on rue Séguier in Nîmes which he baptized in the name of the foundress of the Oblates:

I, Emmanuel-Marie, praise God,
I gather apostolic virgins,
I call those who err far from the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ
So that there can be only one flock and one shepherd.359

“Beyond the seas”

The ecumenical goal was not exclusive. From the beginning, the missionary perspective encompassed the whole world. The texts are unambiguous in this regard. The mission began in the Near East, but Father d’Alzon did not exclude other countries. The bell in Nîmes gathered together “the apostolic virgins” without any other details.

At the Chapter of 1868 held six months after the departure of the first Oblates for the Near East, Father d’Alzon spoke of us and of our “apostolic love,” using a formula which set no boundaries:

“My daughters, you will go beyond the seas.”360

The 60 million schismatics were cited only as an example of this enormous field, of which we will never see the end: “the foreign missions.”

In the same letter, after having mentioned the presence at the Vatican Council of bishops from North America, South America, Chaldea, Asia, Syria, Egypt, and Central Africa, Father d’Alzon added:

“These are almost all mission countries where the Oblates can work.”361

On May 1, 1873, Father d’Alzon asked Father Picard to inquire about a proposal he received:

“They are asking for six Oblates for Iquique, a city in Peru ... I would be tempted to let them go, but only with one of our religious.”362

There was no follow-up to this request, but it corresponded perfectly to the Oblate vocation which Father d’Alzon had in mind.

As a matter of fact, the missionary aspect marks the person of an Oblate:

The vow to consecrate themselves to the foreign missions will cause many difficulties, in the sense that people will consider them to be like in a novitiate in the houses of education, except for those who must remain there to form the others ... This vow will be a stumbling block for many, but will distinguish the work in a very precise manner.363

Seven years later in writing to Mother Eugénie, he said:

“The big difference, besides the name Oblates, is that they are missionary religious, and I can assure you that they hold dearly to this difference.”364

In 1878, Father d’Alzon wrote to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson:

... We must do everything possible to increase the number of Oblates. I need some for Odessa in the near future. Father Galabert is gaining influence in the Near East, especially through the charity and devotion of your Sisters. And so, I am convinced that they are destined to open the doors to Russia, first of all with a hospital, then with a boarding school.365

The activities of the Sisters in France were clearly intended by our Founder to be a preparation for the missions, for example:

You will see that we will set up at Le Vigan a work of nursing sisters who will be able to prepare themselves to care for the sick in Bulgaria and in the foreign missions.366

This is how the orphanage in Arras and the foundation in the Esperou region came about.

In summary, we can say that an Oblate Sister must be attentive to and ready to serve the needs of the Church and of the world. In this discernment lies its specific mission:

“Apply yourselves to the study of everything that can make you better appreciate what the Church needs most.”367

4 – At the service of the poor

Our missionary and ecumenical aim does not limit us to any particular social class. We are at the disposal of all.

Nevertheless, there is a marked affinity between the Oblates of the Assumption and the poor.

Founded to be sent to a country where “the good to be done must be accomplished through schools for the working people,”368 the first Oblates were destined to work in this poor environment.

The modest background of our first Sisters made them well-suited for their mission, although Father d’Alzon wished from the very beginning that there be candidates from all walks of life: “shepherds and magi.”369

He wanted them to live together without privileges, without lay sisters. It was an audacious project for the times.

In the Near East, the Oblates of the Assumption helped all classes of society.

In Nîmes, the first school run by the Oblates was for pupils who came from a simple milieu.

In speaking of “his weakness for the Oblates because of this more humble spirit which was more apt to reach a certain part of the world that Our Lord loves especially,”370 Father d’Alzon conveyed very well the intimate link between our Congregation and the world of the poor.

Ecumenism, Foreign Missions, and Predilection for the Poor, in collaboration with the Assumptionists as much as possible, are the characteristics that Father d’Alzon wanted to give the Oblates of the Assumption when he founded them. These three traits include love of Jesus Christ and availability at the service of the Church.


Father d’Alzon wanted his “daughters” to be as broadminded as he was and to have a heart in keeping with the mission. He wrote from Rome to Mother Emmanuel Marie Correnson:

“We must have not only a catholic heart but also catholic ideas. And when we speak about broad ideas, I do not think that we can find any that are broader than this one.”371

In writing to the Oblates in Nîmes on April 3, 1870, he said:

“I would like you to have a heart as immense as the ocean.”372

On the other hand, Father d’Alzon had great respect for the freedom of each person in his/her way of going to God. He did not want to impose any particular devotion or method of prayer. However, he often said to the Sisters and to his own novices:

“Let us seek the Kingdom of God, let us proclaim it with all the fullness of our freedom and love, for God does not want to rule over slaves, but over free men.”373

The spirit Father d’Alzon wanted to give the Oblates of the Assumption is summed up in a letter he sent to them on February 28, 1870. Its main points are the following:

The more I reflect on the purpose of your foundation, the more I find that it has all it takes to do a lot of good ... But for that to happen, there are several conditions:

1. Great selflessness

2. A spirit of prayer

3. Frank and loyal obedience

4. Fraternal charity

5. Love of the Church

6. Love of Our Lord. One has to begin and finish with this. What is an Oblate for whom Jesus is not her life?374

The spirit of Assumption

For me, the spirit of Assumption is not linked to the glorious mystery of the Virgin Mary, but to the lifestyle and to the way of being and of relating to others which characterize us and which Father d’Alzon wanted for us. In short, it is:

  • a passion for the Kingdom (cf. Note below) based on a Christ-centered life and on apostolic contemplation,
  • an Augustinian community life,

all of this lived in great openness, freedom and a family spirit.

This spirit is undoubtedly the result of various influences experienced by Father d’Alzon: Augustine, Dom Guéranger, Lamennais, and Mother Eugénie ... a spirit that is sui generis, as he explained to Mother Eugénie on July 10, 1865.375

We know also that Father d’Alzon chose the name Assumption not because he knew and was friendly with the Ladies of the Assumption, but because it was the name inscribed on the College, which his friend Goubier bought for him without his knowledge:

We did not choose the mystery of the Assumption; it was somewhat imposed on us. The stone above the entrance door of our house had been engraved many years before we came to take possession of the birthplace of our religious family. We can say that it was not us who chose Mary triumphant in the heavens to be our protectress; it was Mary, from heaven, who seems to have said: this house was given to me and I, in turn, give it to you ... 376

Note: Our motto “Thy Kingdom Come” comes directly from Father d’Alzon and from nobody else. He said so himself in a letter addressed to the Ladies of the Assumption in 1871:

I recall when, at Impasse des Vignes, we were talking with your Mother General about the beginnings, I suggested the motto Adveniat Regnum Tuum. It had struck me by its beauty and its depth at the Sisters of Marie-Thérèse ... Will we always do less than what is needed to obtain this glory for God? I believe that, if understood, this motto can be applied to the present time.377

Sister Claire de la Croix Rabitz
Superior General of the Oblates
of the Assumption

203, rue Lecourbe
75015 Paris

The Little Sisters of the Assumption

Spirituality and Spirit

Gisèle Marchand

Father Pernet considered it essential to be inspired by the spirit of one’s congregation. It is that which invigorates and sustains us.

The source of Etienne Pernet’s inspiration was first of all his religious family.

He accepted as his own the Assumptionist spirit and was imbued with it. At the same time, he interiorized his personal grace as a Founder. And from that, our spirit was born.

Most of the writings of our Founders were occasional. Father Pernet did not leave any spiritual treatise. He never organized his thought or his spiritual principles into a logical whole.

Nevertheless, before 1870, he wrote for the Little Sisters of the Assumption the first Rule which was approved in 1875. Then, in 1896, he made this Rule more specific by writing the Constitutions (approved in 1901) and the Directory.

The Directory was inspired by that of the Augustinians of the Assumption. Father Pernet borrowed the structure of the chapters but came up with a new text reflecting the specific grace he had received as a Founder and containing our original character among the families of the Assumption. This Directory was the fruit of thirty years of reflection, prayer, and discussions with the Sisters.

The Spirit of the Assumption

Father Pernet followed Father d’Alzon and the spirit of the Assumption “which I wish I could breathe into the depths of your hearts and into the marrow of your bones ...”378

For “the Little Sister who is the least in the family of the Assumption,”379 the Founder wished that the Congregation be grafted onto this “trunk,” as he said, with its own specific characteristics:

The order of the Assumption is a trunk that has several branches. Let us remain united to the trunk and be content with the place we occupy. In a flower-bed, the daisy does not want to be a rose; each flower retains its own specific character.380

From the beginning in 1864, he gave the Sisters the Rule of Saint Augustine.

The aim of our life: the extension of the Reign of God

For the Little Sisters of the Assumption, as for the Assumption itself,

“the glory of God and the extension of his Reign should be the aim of our life,”381

but for the Little Sisters of the Assumption, this takes place

“in the midst of the poor.” “Their motto will be: Adveniat regnum tuum [ ...]. They will contribute to the extension of this Reign by charitably dedicating themselves to the poor and the working classes.”382

The extension of the Reign of God in us and around us. This presupposes a personal conversion and a transformation of the society in which we live.

The “threefold love”: Christ—Mary—the Church

The Little Sister of the Assumption must convince herself more and more everyday that her spirit must be that of the Assumption. This spirit consists chiefly in the love of Our Lord, of His Blessed Mother, and of His Church, with the duty to spread this threefold love throughout the world.383

For Father Pernet, Jesus Christ is at the center of everything. In Him, “our sole Savior and unique Mediator,” we love the Church, Mary, and the poor. Father Pernet’s words were clear:

May Our Lord be your all.384
May Jesus Christ be the center of your life.385
May Jesus be your all in everything and in everyone.386

Everything begins with Christ; He is the one who leads us to the Triune God. The purpose of our life is to be configured to Christ, to be transformed in Him:

“Clothe yourselves in Our Lord. May your actions speak Jesus Christ. If you are not another Jesus Christ, you cannot be a Little Sister of the Assumption.”387

For the Little Sister, her relationship with Christ is primary. It prompts her to work for the Glory of God and the salvation of souls:

To glorify God and save souls, that encapsulates Our Lord388 We have told you and we constantly repeat that the Little Sister of the Assumption is destined in a very special way to bring about the glory of God through the salvation of the poor and the little ones [ ...] That is a view you must never lose sight of [ ...]. A Little Sister who would not have a passion for all that pertains to the Glory of God would not be a Little Sister.389

Father Pernet constantly emphasized the bond that exists between the fruitfulness of the apostolic life and the union of the apostle with Christ. The life of the Little Sister has a contemplative dimension. She encounters God in prayer as well as in her “dedication to her neighbor.” She also grows in freedom as she lives in harmony with God and shares in his very life:

“Yes, my daughter, complete freedom, but within obedience, You must stifle neither persons nor their initiatives.”390

The Word of Cod and the Eucharist

It is through the Word of God that we come in contact with “the spirit of Our Lord.” Father Pernet said that it is like an “abundant spring gushing forth into eternal life.”391 The Word of God must be read every day and have an effect on the way we live.392

The Eucharist is at the center of our lives and of our communities:

“The Eucharist transforms us in Jesus Christ.”393

It is an invitation to surrender our life and to offer ourselves with Christ.394 It is a source of unity:

“Having only one life with Him, and loving with Him and like Him, our minds and our hearts are united in truth and charity.”395

It is in Jesus Christ that we love Mary, the Church, and the poor.

Mary: Contemplate her, imitate her, love her, and make her loved

because, “without Mary we cannot have Jesus, and love for Mary is the surest guarantee of our love for Jesus.”396

He presents her for our contemplation principally in her “immaculate purity,” in the mystery of the Visitation where she is “the model that you should imitate,”397 and in “her compassion at the Cross” where she became the “mother of the Elect.”

Associated with the redeeming work of Christ, she has a special place in God’s plan and in the life of the Church.

The Church

After Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, the Little Sister must love the Church her Mother more than anything else on earth [ ...]. The Little Sister, while always remembering to love the Church as her Mother, must never forget that in the Kingdom of God she must cherish as her own special inheritance the poor, the sick, the ignorant, and those of least account.398

For Etienne Pernet, as for his contemporaries, the Church was strongly institutional. Nevertheless, he underlined especially the mystery of the Church.

For him, it is a matter of “re-fashioning a people for God.” The Reign of God establishes new filial relations with God and fraternal relations among people, into which we enter through baptism. For Father Pernet, the aim is really unity through communion: union of minds and union of hearts, with everyone living in harmony with God (truth) and sharing his very life (charity). It is the Holy Spirit who renews us. Indeed, that is how he sees the community life of the Little Sisters

“where unity reigns despite the diversity of persons.”399 “Any community that does not reproduce the Blessed Trinity is not a true community.”400

A Few Essential Points for the Little Sisters of the Assumption

Among these various dimensions, there are some intertwined and inseparable aspects to which Father Pernet constantly and insistently referred, asking us to live by them because he considered them to be essential for the Little Sister.

The “Mission” is constitutive of the Congregation

The Little Sister is sent to a clearly-defined people:

“Her place is with the poor—the working man and his family. She must have a preferential love for this mission.”401

Father Pernet directly linked the “sending” of the Little Sifter to that of the Apostles. In his talks, he often commented on the apostles and disciples being sent on a mission.

Today, my daughters, you are continuing the work entrusted to the Apostles because Our Lord sends you as He sent them: “Et misit Mas praedicare Regnum Dei.” Go and preach the Kingdom of God.402

As followers of the apostles who were sent to the whole world, the Little Sisters of the Assumption in the Church are intended for the whole world.

You will go everywhere, because everywhere there are sick people, poor people, and souls to be saved [ ...]. The Little Sister is a missionary, all the more so that she must live in the midst of the poor.403

Sent to those “who are [spiritually] far away”

By our vocation, we are sent to those who are “far away.” We are called to meet people where they are and to proclaim Jesus Christ in a way they can understand. We are called, as the Founder said, to “prepare the way.”

You have by your vocation the responsibility of carrying the Child Jesus into Egypt, and, by Egypt, I mean the country where God does not reign [ ...], the desolate country where people die of spiritual thirst. My daughters, Jesus comes to you and says: I entrust myself to you, and you will carry me to such and such a garret, or neighborhood, or city, or country, or province, where I am neither known nor served.404 ... . You put oil in the lock so that the key can turn more easily, in other words, you prepare the way.405

In the directory, Father Pernet highlights the person of John the Baptist:

“The Little Sister, like St. John the Baptist, does her utmost to announce Salvation to the sick and the poor.”406

Women have a very special mission to accomplish [ ...]. They must be the “John the Baptist” of modern times, preparing the way for the renewal and salvation of Society.407

Everything starts with charity, with the love poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit. Since the apostolic purpose of the Assumption is to “work for the coming of the Reign of God in the world by spreading truth and charity,” for Father Pernet the apostolic work of the Little Sisters was always first and foremost one of charity:

It is through the tenderness and the charity of the Good Samaritan that the Little Sister must present herself to the world.408

Charity is disappearing from the world. For that reason, faith is in jeopardy. The day charity is re-born, faith will be revived.409

The Little Sisters bear witness by their actions:

It is not enough to preach and to speak. You must bear witness to God by your actions.410

I can well imagine that when you go into a house where there is poverty and you begin sweeping up and doing the cooking, I can well imagine that you might find all of that uninteresting and, at the same time, not very stimulating for your zeal, and that you might be tempted at first not to see the link between that sort of work and the sublime purpose of your apostolate. However, my daughters, you must accept to use the broom and wash the dishes, and you must serve the poor, not as servants but as apostles.411

Following Christ the Servant

In presenting for our contemplation all of the mysteries of the life of Christ, Father Pernet naturally emphasized the mystery of Jesus who made his own the mission of the Servant: the obedient, humble and poor Christ who came to serve.

He suggested that, out of love for Jesus Christ and following his example, the Little Sister must become “the humble servant of the poor,” to the point of making a total gift of herself and of offering her life for the salvation of the poor and those considered unimportant:

Being a Little Sister of the Assumption and being the very humble servant of the abandoned poor is one and the same thing.412

Your cross is the gift of yourself. Use all the life you have to throw yourself into the fray so as to make Our Lord known.413

Remember that the Little Sister must be an apostle, a prophet and a martyr. An apostle by teaching the truth, a prophet by proclaiming it with courage, and a martyr by affirming it even to the point of shedding her blood.414

Father Pernet refers in many ways to “Jesus the poor man, the friend, the Father, and the King of the poor.”415

He offers for our contemplation Jesus, “meek and humble of heart,” who lived poor among the poor, refusing powerful means and identifying himself with the poor.

He proposed to the Little Sister a poor and humble life among the poor, her brothers and sisters whom she respects and loves.

Poverty is your cloak, and humility your diadem. That is how you must preach Jesus Christ.416

Poverty unites us to Our Lord just as humility brines us closer to Him.417

At the sight of such misfortunes, we can understand better the tenderness and the feelings of Our Lord for the simple people. Oh! Let us love the poor, the deprived, those without instruction. Let us respect them, and may this always be one of the characteristics of our family spirit.418

At the beginning, the Little Sisters were known as the “visiting nurses of the poor” (Garde-malades des pauvres à domicile). In the directory, Father Pernet specified what he meant by the poor, viz.,

“the poor, the ignorant, the outcast, the sick, the suffering, the forsaken, the friendless, the sick and the dying ...”419

In 1876, Father Pernet said:

“You will be the eye of the blind, the feet of the lame, the ear of the deaf; you will be the mothers of the poor.”420

He often emphasized the dignity of the poor:

There is a royal dignity in the poor. The more destitute they are, the more worthy they are of the attention of the Son of God and consequently of your own. 421

In each of them, the Little Sister must see Jesus Christ Himself, demeaned, destitute, suffering, sick, and buried in misery and humiliations.422

Refashioning a people for God

As a matter of fact, Father Pernet began the foundation by caring for the neglected sick in their own homes. The Sisters met both the patient and those close to the patient: the family and their neighbors. As they gained experience, the Little Sisters became more aware of this entourage and of the neighborhood environment (e.g. the foundations in Levallois, Belleville, and Creil).

In the context of the 19th century, Father Pernet understood the special place of the family in society and in God’s plan. He explained his thinking in the Directory:

Refashion a people for God by converting the poor, the workers and their families, and by giving them a Christian education.423

On earthy the human family is like a living reproduction of the Blessed Trinity.424

He asked that the Little Sisters carry out an apostolate that “aims” and, in fact, “makes a special effort” to advance God’s plan for humanity by promoting the family, “as the Good Lord wishes it to be.”

In your dedication and in the work you carry out, you should make a special effort to refashion the families of workers, as the Good Lord wishes them to be. [ ...] By rebuilding the family, you will create a people for Jesus Christ. [ ...] By rebuilding the family, you will refashion populations, and through them, society. (10.12.1891 – VIII, 495)

Your sole aim must be to work for the salvation of souls by the Christian renewal of the family. [ ...] Salvation lies in that.

1 don’t think that society can be refashioned by arrangements and concessions coming from above. We must address fundamentals, work with the family, refashion a people for Jesus Christ, prevent divorce, and rehabilitate marriages. May fathers be fathers, may mothers be mothers, and may children learn to respect their parents and obey them.

Congresses and committees can help to do good, but they will never achieve much if they move away from that. [ ...]425

Refashion society according to the spirit of Our Lord426

Attentive to the daily experience of the first sisters, Etienne Pernet reflected deeply and sought to respond to the apostolic needs they perceived. That was how he came to found three associations of lay people from all classes of society who shared the Congregation’s apostolic work of evangelizing the working-class. All of them wished to be animated by the same spirit and were in contact with the communities of the Little Sisters:

  • 1876 – The Lady Servants of the Poor
  • 1881 – The Fraternity of Our Lady of Salvation, which became the Fraternity of Our Lady of the Assumption.
  • 1884 – The Daughters of Saint Monica, the feminine branch of the Fraternity.

Relations with laypeople

The Lady Servants of the Poor

It was the exhausting work being done by the Little Sisters that led them in 1876, after reflection, to call on the benefactresses of the nascent Congregation to assist them by “personally” sharing in the work, and not simply by contributing their money.

They committed themselves by annual promises to

“dedicate themselves alongside the Little Sisters of the Assumption, and in the same spirit and under the same guidance, to the care of the sick poor in their homes and to the renewal of the working-class family through the Catholic religion” (affiliation promise).

The commitments made by the Lady Servants were in keeping with the lifestyle of the upper classes.

Father Pernet called them to live authentic Christian lives, to live in a spirit of poverty, and to be apostles, exercising their influence in their families and over their domestic staff:

Always speak the word of God. [ ...] In your living rooms, you will often have the opportunity to speak the language of truth. Be apostles at all times, even at the risk of being taken for crazy women. [ ...] Don’t let a day go by without doing an act of charity. You who are accustomed to giving orders, 1 would ask you to forget at times that you are in charge in order to give of your person when you are among the poor.427

According to our registers, there were 273 affiliated Lady Servants in Father Pernet’s lifetime. He met with these new collaborators every fortnight.

The Fraternity of Our Lady of Salvation

The Association changed its name to Fraternity of Our Lady of the Assumption after it had been established in England where the word “salvation” recalled the Salvation Army.

While they were present in the families, the Little Sisters occasionally witnessed an openness to the Christian faith, which sometimes came to an end after they had left the families.428

The Fraternity of Our Lady of Salvation and its feminine branch, the Daughters of Saint Monica, brought together the fathers and mothers of working-class families.

It was after prolonged discussions with the community (their account has been preserved) that Father Pernet began to bring the Fraternities together, thus broadening the Sisters’ apostolate and ensuring its deepening and continuity.

“We must bring the men together,” said Father Pernet, and “see them and talk with them. The beginning will be difficult, but with the grace of God we will succeed.”429

He added:

“This is perhaps the real solution to the Christian and Catholic renewal of the working-class family.”430

At the first meeting on July 31, 1881, Father Pernet brought together at rue Violet a carpenter, two rag-pickers, two workers, a foreman, and an architect. The statutes he wrote that same year stated the Fraternity’s aim and conditions:

The Fraternity of Our Lady of Salvation is not a mutual-aid society. It undertakes to work for the Christian renewal of the families of the working-class through the Association of the Fathers of families.

The Brothers are all workers; the majority of them are married.

[ ...] They must have a good reputation, be intelligent, upright, frank, and energetic.

The members of the Fraternity of Our Lady of the Assumption committed themselves to:

Love one another as true brothers, helping one another according to the needs of each one and according to their means.431

The Fraternity is based on this word of Our Lord: My command is that you love one another. Put this into practice.432

It is not enough for you to work for your own welfare and that of your family. You must also, according to your strength and means, extend the Reign of God around you in society.433

Etienne Pernet presented them with the demands of an authentic Christian life, without uprooting them from their human milieu. Their commitments were related to the concrete lives of the worker-families of the 19th century:

“Not to belong to a secret society, not to frequent bars and taverns, and to bring home at the end of the week one’s entire salary.”434

By bringing the Fraternities together, he showed confidence in men who had not received much education, who were not given to much religious practice, who had a simple and unpolished faith “like that of the Apostles in olden times,” and whom he simply placed “face to face with their baptism” and with their responsibilities as parents. Father Pernet would say to them:

My friends, I have not come to promise you anything or to wave temporal advantages before your eyes. I have nothing to give you. On the contrary, I have a lot to ask of you. But I speak in the name of the Good Lord to whom you owe everything. He wishes that you renew here your commitment to live as faithful Christians. And since you are weak, He asks you to come together to help one another mutually and to help his law reign in your families.435

The meetings were held every fortnight. Every month, there was a meeting by area and a general meeting at the Mother House of the Little Sisters of the Assumption (Statutes 1881). The Fathers of the Assumption were often the chaplains of the Fraternities.

These meetings were meant to be first of all a place where people could enjoy a fraternal atmosphere, but they were also meant to be a time of human and spiritual formation.

The first year, the workers met among themselves with Father Pernet, then later, a few men belonging to a different social class began to appear among the participants. Father Pernet felt the need to be helped by competent facilitators.

He recruited collaborators from among his own friends and the people who frequented rue François Ier. These were mostly lawyers, legal advisers, journalists, members of parliament, a few doctors, not many industrialists, and a few army officers. They were called Decurions because each of them was to be in close contact with ten families (in fact, the plan was never implemented). Father Pernet envisaged their activity as one of service and charity. In his 1896 report on this work, he defined them as “men of a certain rank who come to place their words and dedication at the service of their brothers.” According to the registers, there were one hundred and nineteen affiliated Decurions during his lifetime. Their affiliation to the Fraternity took place at the same time as that of the Brothers.

From that time on, the meetings took the form of talks/lectures. The workers’ major problems were discussed. The information dealt also with the life of the Church itself, with the objections of the period, with the scientific discoveries of the time, as well as with contemporary events and social advancements. The then-current political situation was behind everyone’s mind, but was only alluded to.

All this information was meant to train people for action. All of the religious, family, and social input attempted to form Christians to be witnesses to their faith in their family and among those around them, witnesses in everyday life, at work, and in society.

If you were the type of workers we would like you to be, you who are in daily contact with other workers, you would eventually reform labor practices as they exist today and transform the workshops. And you would solve that great question of the relationship between the employers the foremen, and the workers in our industrial establishments.436

There are good things about our century, we don’t deny that, but it would be a truly great century if the great progress that is being made in science were also Christian. Let us react against the trend that draws society away from God. Good has never been done except by a small number of people. Our Lord had only twelve apostles, and He often said to those around Him: “You are a little flock.” And with this little flock, He invaded the whole world. What prodigious things are done by the infinitely little people! Leaven causes the dough to rise, and the Fraternity of Our Lady of Salvation can become good leaven that will raise the masses.437

The Fraternity developed quickly. In 1890, there were 810 affiliated Brothers. In 1930, they numbered 9,000, and the women’s branch eventually became even bigger.

The women’s branch: the Daughters of Saint Monica

The mothers of families whose husbands were members of the Fraternity demanded a similar association for themselves. This came into existence in 1884 under the name of the Association of the Daughters of Saint Monica.

Its aim was the Christian renewal of working-class families.438

The first meeting was held at Sèvres on February 24, 1884. It sought to make of these women good family mothers. At a meeting on August 16, 1885, Father Pernet reminded them:

“Work for your own good, be women of faith: Christian mothers, model spouses, and strong women.”

Like for the Fraternity, over and beyond the convivial aspect, the meetings were times of formation conducted by the Lady Servants. But, at the heart of this formation given to help renew families, there was also a missionary dimension that looked forward to the renewal of all of society.

The Fraternities as well as the Daughters of Saint Monica therefore had as their aim to renew the families of workers and, through them, to remake society in line with the intuition of Father Pernet who, in turn, was inspired by the spirit of the Assumption.

What was the path proposed by Father Pernet in creating associations of laypeople?

Without uprooting people from their ordinary human milieu, Etienne Pernet presented to everyone the demands of an authentic Christian life.

Because of their baptism, all are Apostles, and all are called to fidelity. Every Christian, as a member of the People of God, has a role to play in the Church.

You cannot sanctify yourselves just for your own sake, not even just for your sisters. You must be in the Church instruments of salvation for everyone. This applies to the Little Sister, to the Lady Servant, to the Brother of Our Lady of Salvation, and to all those who are working with us for the renewal of working-class families.439

The Gospel can inspire social transformations

The conversion of each person, but everyone together, is the foundation of a society that is renewed in Christ and of a society that is regenerated and re-focused on God’s plan.

Etienne Pernet believed in the universal fraternity of Christians:

If only we lived in this way (with charity, truth, and true fraternity), it would cause an upheaval in the order of nature because it would mean placing ourselves in the supernatural order of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’’440

From the point-of-view of the Reign of God, he thought of bringing the social classes together in mutual acceptance, in person-to-person relations, and in relations founded on faith and on the love of God:

In this order of faith and charity, the classes must be drawn together. May the man of the world fraternize with the worker, may he support him. May the woman of the world draw close to the worker’s wife. [ ...] In this way, we will be able to bring together all the various segments of society, marvelously combining them in the unity of faith, fraternal charity, and submission to God and to his Christ. And the happy result of all this will be a new people of children of God.441

The above quotation is taken from a note dictated by Father Pernet in 1890 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation. He explained the foundation in the reverse order of history. The care of the sick and the foundation of the Little Sisters came last, after he had acquired an overall view of the society of his time and had devised an apostolic program to “bring about the Reign of God.”

It was in “this perspective of faith and charity” that he set about trying to bring the social classes together. In actual fact, men and women of different social backgrounds were brought together, and human bonds were created among them.

For Father Pernet, the Lady Servants, the Decurions, and the Brothers and their families, regrouped and committed to live authentic Christian lives, were a Christianizing leaven in society and his response to the realities he was facing:

The Little Sisters, the Lady Servants, the Decurions, and the Brothers of Our Lady of Salvation succeeded each other by force of circumstances. We counted for nothing in all of this. The Good Lord did everything. The work was like that of a plant that sprouts, grows, and bears flowers in its own time.442

Sister Gisèle Marchand,
Little Sister of the Assumption

57, rue Violet
75015 Paris

Appendix: Sources

  • First rule of the Little Sisters of the Assumption
  • Directory of the Little Sisters of the Assumption
  • Talks given by Father Pernet
  • Reports of the Meetings of the Fraternity and of the Lady Servants
  • From the human family to the People of God, Sister Humberte Mol-liere (1967)
  • Father Pernet and the Family, Sister Humberte Molltere (1975)
  • The Origins of L.S.A. Spirituality, Sister Gisèle Marchand (1991)

The Orants of the Assumption

Original intuitions and the Assumptionist spirit

Anne Huyghebaert

Why Orants ...

In December 1897, one year after the foundation, Father Picard and Mother Isabelle, each separately, thought of the same name of Orant but reacted very differently to it. On December 16 for the first time, Father Picard suggested to the Sisters the name of “Orants of the Assumption.” They took exception to the suggestion, finding it pretentious. This word was not well-known: it was used only in archaeology. The Sisters noticed, however, that it corresponded exactly to their vocation. Mother Isabelle also was not inclined to accept it. Father Picard did not insist. But since Mother Isabelle had thought of it that same night, no other name was sought and it was finally adopted. In suggesting to the Sisters this name which he liked very much, Father Picard associated it with the life of prayer and self-giving for which they were founded at a time when religious life was being persecuted and was obliged to go into hiding like at the time of the catacombs. The same applied to the white habit which he suggested but which could not be worn for a long time.

... of the Assumption?

We were born from the Assumption, for the Assumption, and throughout a long process carried by the Assumption, which leads us to believe that we were wanted or were at least well received by our four elder branches in the Assumption family.

Part of the Fabric of the Assumption Family

Circumstances surrounding the foundation


Immediate preparation

In 1894, the foundation began to be prepared in earnest. A first companion, Madame de l’Epinois, seemed determined, and Miss Dienne, a young elementary school teacher in the d’Ursel Family, was about to become the second. Caroline’s wedding was being planned. So Father Picard took the initiative.444

In early July 1895, the first meeting of the future Orants took place in Livry. Father Picard stated its purpose:

To provide his religious family, his ardent missionaries spread throughout the world to extend the Reign of Our Lord, with the permanent assistance of the prayers and sacrifices of contemplative religious souls.

And he outlined the main characteristics of the project: total gift-of-self, in silent adoration and in union with the liturgical prayer of the Church.

During the summer of 1896, Father Picard chose Mother Marie of the Compassion (Marie Dubron), Superior of the Oblate convent in Nîmes, and entrusted her with the initiation of the first Orants to the practices of religious life. He knew that he could count on her spirit of prayer and on her affectionate dedication. A second meeting of the future Orants was planned, but finally a series of meetings took place in Livry. They discussed the practical questions of the foundation. The “questionnaire” sent by Mother Isabelle to Father Picard was probably written at this time.445 Only Madame de l’Epinois made one or two minor comments.

After Caroline’s wedding to Count Henri de Virieu on May 21, 1896 in Brussels, Isabelle arrived on July 13 at the Oblate novitiate on rue Berton in Passy. She was ready to begin her religious life immediately, but Madame de l’Epinois asked for an extension until December 8. This additional time was needed to prepare accommodations for the future Orants.

At Lourdes during the National Pilgrimage, Father Picard asked the pilgrims to pray for a “work of prayer” that he wanted to found. Only Madame d’Ursel and Madame de l’Epinois knew that he was talking about the Orants:

The Hail Mary came out of these hundreds of mouths recommending us to God. We were there ... lost in the crowd that did not suspect who were the poor instruments God was counting on to serve him ... .446

On September 28, while Isabelle was finishing her round of farewells in her family, and Madame de l’Epinois was prevented from leaving hers, Father Picard confirmed the date of the foundation:

“It is not advisable to delay the opening of our house ... You can count on my being there well before the feast of the Immaculate Conception.”447

The foundation was publicly announced to the Oblates on November 22.448

The foundation supported by the Oblates

For the foundation on December 8, 1896, Mother Marie of Christ generously offered hospitality to the first Orants at the Oblate novitiate on rue Berton.449 She had had installed against the chapel a little house made of wood and metal which looked like a shed on a construction site. Everything there was poor, even miserable.

Father Picard was radiant. After the Gospel, in a short talk to the Oblates and Orants gathered together, he expressed his joy at placing the new work under the protection of the Immaculate Virgin Mary: “Let us rejoice, sons and daughters of the Assumption ...” Then followed the blessing of the “small monastery.” As Mother Isabelle repeated at the end of her life,

“Father Picard was happy!  ... . He did not say: this is a wooden house. It will be cold; it will be hot!  ... . No, he was happy! It reminded him of Nazareth ...”450

For her part, Mother Isabelle was in tears but had no hesitations:

“The burden is very heavy. It weighs on me, and nothing attracts me except the desire to do the will of God.”

Years earlier, she had asked Father Picard to put someone else in charge of “the work.” It was now time for that to happen, so she completely withdrew under the direction of Mother Marie of the Compassion, considering herself to be a simple novice on the same footing as the other sisters (soon reduced to one!). The definitive departure of Madame de l’Epinois in January 1897 grieved Sister Isabelle who wrote:

“This isolates me morally and puts me more in the forefront. But I feel only one thing, the immense need to remain in the background and to be nothing at all.”451

Seemingly, no one was fooled by this. Around her, the Orants were unmistakably seen as “the work of Madame d’Ursel.” The biography of Mother Marie of the Compassion says it clearly:

On December 8, 1896, Father gathered a small group that had been meeting for a long time, a group he had chosen for the dual purpose of contemplation and of uninterrupted prayer for the fruitfulness of his works. The Countess of Ursel, foundress and first Superior General of the Orants was there with her first daughters to be trained in the monastic practices. Father Picard had entrusted this care to Mother Marie of the Compassion.

We can only admire the reciprocal simplicity and humility with which Mother Marie of the Compassion and the future Mother Isabelle accepted and carried out this collaboration in an unfailing mutual esteem, to which our chronicles often bear witness.

It is said that, when the first postulant, Sister Anna, became discouraged, it was in Mother Isabelle that she confided, despite the solicitude of Mother Marie of the Compassion. Admitting that she listened too much to Sister Anna, Mother Isabelle recognized that she felt “she was something other than a novice.”452 Nevertheless, Mother Marie of the Compassion was in charge of the organization and of the day-to-day running of the religious life. The Orants will always be very grateful to her for having done this.

Apart from his responsibility as founder, Father Picard had promised that he himself would be the master of novices. Beginning on December 9, by means of a series of sometimes daily instructions, he sought to transmit the spirit of Assumption and regularly assumed the spiritual formation of each sister. His health and his responsibility as superior general eventually obliged him to break with this initial regularity, but he never failed to follow the sisters and to give them a lot of his time whenever he was in Paris or in Livry. However, his absences became even more numerous after the Laws on Exile were enacted in 1901.

The support of the Oblates was constant: the presence and loan of Marie of the Compassion, accommodations in a separate house connected to the chapel and to the community, daily participation in the Liturgy for Mass and vespers, mutual feasts and attentiveness, the possibility of benefiting from the instructions given to the novices, concrete material support with full meals, heating, etc. Hence, lasting ties were established which withstood all trials. However, as we will see, these various supports eventually decreased one after the other.

Formation of the Assumption spirit

The notes of Mother Isabelle’s personal retreats, beginning with the one she made in 1875, only two months after her husband’s death, until the one of 1904, allow us to follow the evolution of her spiritual life. They also tell us something about her spirituality which was characterized by four main elements: the liturgy, St. Augustine, Father d’Alzon, and St. Ignatius.453

Deepening her spiritual roots

Retreats based on the scriptural readings found in the Missal or the Office of the time reveal the real impact the liturgy had on her. There is no lack of Latin quotations in her writings—and even less of a lack in those of Father Picard.

As a young woman, Isabelle had discovered St. Augustine through The Confessions which she read in Latin with her husband at the beginning of their marriage. Later on, she became acquainted with the complete works of St. Augustine which she read extensively. Four of her retreats were based on the writings of Augustine: his Commentaries on the Psalms, his Treatise on St. John, and his Sermons. After she left Brussels in 1896, her library, which served the needs of the future Orants, contained not only the complete works of St. Augustine but also numerous commentaries on the Holy Bible, the complete works of St. John Chrysostom, St. Bernard, St. Francis de Sales, St. Chantal, etc.

At that time, the text of the Exercises of St. Ignatius was not directly usable, but great Jesuit preachers throughout 19th century gave and published retreats inspired from them. Five of Isabelle’s retreats followed themes given by Jesuit Fathers Olivaint and Ravignan.

In 1888, Isabelle began meditating on the Retreats of Father d’Alzon, the manuscript copy of which she probably received from Father Picard.454 Five of her retreats took up these meditations again in various ways. But there were also other ways in which Mother Isabelle greatly profited from Father d’Alzon’s formation.

Disciple of Father d’Alzon

Steeped in the teaching of Father d’Alzon which he made his own, Father Picard remained faithful to the Assumptionist mission just as he had received it from the founder. Regardless of his own expression of it, he enunciated clearly the teaching and mission left by Father d’Alzon. Through the ongoing direction and correspondence Mother Isabelle had with him from 1872 to 1902, as well as through his talks to the Oblates and then to the Orants, his preaching and retreats, and, of course, through the example of his life, she in turn became steeped in d’Alzonian and Assumptionist ideas. The sermons and visits of other Assumptionists also contributed. Later on, when after the death of Father Hyppolyte (June 1905) Father d’Alzon’s letters to the Adorers were sent to them, the Orants were very comfortable with the spirit of these texts.

Close to the Religious of the Assumption

At first a member of the Third Order of St. Augustine, then welcomed into the community in Auteuil and especially in Cannes for eight years (one of them in the novitiate), Isabelle received there a solid religious formation. Through a teaching in which the spirit of Father d’Alzon and of Mother Marie-Eugénie could not be separated, d’Alzonian and Assumptionist concepts were passed on to her. Father d’Alzon had given a series of conferences to the novices of the Religious of the Assumption in 1870–71. We do not know if their texts or contents were taken up again during the formation at the novitiate in Cannes, but we note that their spirit was very present in the spirituality of Mother Isabelle.

With the Oblates

As we have already pointed out, during the crisis of 1886, a third source of formation was added to the two previous ones, viz., the Oblates of Paris who warmly welcomed Madame d’Ursel and whose novitiate welcomed the first Orants at the time of their foundation.

They were instructed at the novitiate with the Oblates and by Oblates (Mother Marie of the Compassion, Mother Marie of Christ ... )455

Mutual contacts and support in the Assumption

In addition to the proximity stemming from living in the same community and to the formation received from these three “elders” in the Assumption, many other contacts and gestures of mutual support marked the history of the Orants of the Assumption. Without going into detail, we cannot overlook them because they greatly contributed to shaping the Assumptionist family spirit that characterized our origins.

With the Little Sisters of the Assumption

In reading the background material, we found a number of indications of the friendly relationship that existed between the Orants and the Little Sisters.

In 1872, when Father Picard had just become her spiritual director, Isabelle still a young girl visited the poor in Grenelle with her cousin and went to the convent of the Little Sisters to make a novena of prayers with them.456 Therefore, Isabelle knew the Little Sisters and visited them, though we do not know how often or what impact this had on her. It undoubtedly rekindled her desire to serve the poor  ...

Much later, in October 1901, as she was preparing to move into her first autonomous “small monastery,” the Orant community paid a visit to the Superior General of the Little Sisters who had expressed the desire to meet her. The simple bravery of Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament as she faced the developments surrounding the persecution deeply touched Mother Isabelle and her community. This meeting sealed the communion between the Orants and the Little Sisters.457 There must have been other contacts between them because the study of our First Constitutions shows that the lat ter relied heavily on those of the Little Sisters, repeating exactly the same text in many paragraphs.

In 1918, when the Orant community was decimated by the Spanish Flu, a Little Sister (a nurse) was sent to care for them. The Orants have transmitted to each other the touching memory of this gesture from one generation to the next.

With our three “elders” in the Assumption

After taking a certain distance in 1886 from the “Ladies of the Assumption,” Isabelle nevertheless kept a real affection for them and continued to be grateful. They remained on good terms with each other and there are no traces of any negative criticism between them. After she left Cannes in 1888, Isabelle rarely went back to Auteuil, except with Caroline whom she did not want to cut off from the Assumption. She corresponded especially with Florence Dilllon458 whom she continued to support with her friendship and to whom she extended financial and spiritual help.

Before our foundation, Mother Isabelle already knew a certain number of priests whom she had met in various apostolates, retreats, etc. In the first years of our foundation, the circle continued to get bigger with those who came to preach to the Orants or who helped with their formation, as well as with those whom she met on rue Berton, in Livry, or on rue François Ier.459

Throughout the events of 1899–1901, the Orants, who had become a little more numerous, felt that they were very much part of what was happening to the Church and the Assumption family. Our chronicles of that time reflect the strong links that united us to the entire family as it endured the trials in a missionary spirit. In addition to the doctrinal and spiritual formation given by Father Andre Jaujou and others, the chronicles mention Assumptionists who came to preach sermons or recollections, or who, on home-visits from abroad—Bulgaria, Chile, England, etc.—gave conferences and spoke about their missions. Father Vincent de Paul Bailly460 frequently visited the Orants.

Starting in 1888, during her stays with the Oblates at Cours-la-Reine, Isabelle became friendly not only with Mother Marie of Christ (Esther de Mauvise) but also with other sisters in the community whose generosity she appreciated. From 1896 to 1901, the first Orants would spend some time during the summer in Clichy-sous-Bois at the Oblates’ country residence from where they could easily go to see Father Picard in Livry, as they had previously done in 1895 when they were preparing the foundation.

Isabelle’s generosity

Marked as a young girl by the poverty she had experienced at Feugerolles, Isabelle exhibited a concrete and committed love for the poor. Throughout her life, she generously gave them of what she had and of herself. She did this on a rather large scale during her widowhood by making large and numerous donations to a wide variety of persons and works, and by directly visiting and actively helping the poor of the neighborhood or by getting involved in various welfare organizations.

From 1872 until her death in 1921, she was particularly keen on contributing to the work and needs of the Assumptionists. There are many traces of these very diverse donations, the most important ones having been noted in her reports to Father Picard—and later to Father André. For our purposes here, we will mention only the three most significant ones. As one of the pillars of the charity bazaar for vocations, Isabelle prepared this event and actively participated in it every year, sometimes in several places.461

Because the Nativity affair (1886) entailed important financial consequences for the Ladies of the Assumption, Isabelle contributed as much as she could to lighten their burden. In 1882, at the request of Father Picard and in order to save this heritage, she bought the house where Father d’Alzon was born in Le Vigan462 on condition that it not be sold to anyone except to the Assumptionists, which her daughter did in 1933. After the foundation in 1896, Mother Isabelle continued to make numerous and significant donations, but on a smaller scale.

In all this, Isabelle was not simply a charitable person. She got involved personally and gave much more than her surplus. After Father Andre had criticized her, she wrote to him:

God has the treasures of the world at his disposal.—Had I reasoned differently, instead of giving a large amount, I could have simply given a smaller one and donated to others according to circumstances. But I did not look at things in this way, no more than did Father d’Alzon who could have left you some money but who threw both interest and capital to the four winds of charity.463

The “small monastery” of the Orants

In 1902, the Orants residing on rue Desbordes-Valmore became autonomous. The ties they had with the Oblates and the support they received from them had been strong over the years. Intense especially until 1905, these ties also continued thereafter. The convent of the Orants was often a place of transit between Belgium and the Near East. Despite the risks of being discovered and denounced, they did not hesitate to welcome with joyful hospitality the Assumptionists who were passing through town, in transit, and especially their Oblate Sisters. Many of the latter sometimes ran into each other in this small house where the monastic rules and schedules were often disrupted by the accommodations and meals that had to be prepared, and by the precautions that had to be taken, often unexpectedly. The Council of the Oblates held its meetings there with superiors from foreign countries. Other Oblates came from “la Bonne Presse” or from their houses in Paris in order to find a place for prayer and silence,464 or to meet Father André.

Later on, as our enclosure became more and more strictly established, the ties became less visible but remained good as did the solidarity between us, e.g., at the time of the departure for Lourdes in 1914, of the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918, and of the installation of the Orants in Sceaux in 1920–21 ... .

Born for the Assumption

In 1886, the Orants began to develop their own spirit

Contrary to what she had envisioned previously when she was emerging from the crisis of 1886 which we described earlier, Isabelle decided that she would not join the Ladies of the Assumption. In her mind, this was both painful and certain. But why? Where did this certitude come from? We have very little information about it because she only gave an oral account of it.465

To be sure and for a long time, Isabelle really thought of joining the Ladies of the Assumption. Then finally, almost by “surprise,” she decided that her path was not there. When she spoke about it, she justified her decision by the circumstances she had encountered.466 As we explained, these circumstances included the illness of Caroline, followed by Isabelle’s rebellion over the extension of her vow of obedience to include Caroline’s education; the Nativity affair and its consequent disenchantment with religious life; and the crisis between the Ladies of the Assumption and Father Picard which ended with the withdrawal of the person in whose hands she had made a vow. She came out of these trials with the conviction that she should become a prayerful soul “purified by the fire of atonement.” But where and how?

I understand that it is very good for me to be detached from everything and to attach myself only to the Master who will do with me as he pleases. I express only one thought at Communion: My God I come to obey.467

While Isabelle placed herself entirely in God’s hands, he used the circumstances she referred to in order to make her understand something which she was not ready to accept spontaneously. In fact, in the same letter of May 2, 1886, Mother Isabelle said to Father Picard that she regretted the idea of leaving Auteuil, which she was about to do: “How dreadful it would be!” She then mentioned the qualities of the Ladies of the Assumption beneath which she also saw dangers he could spare them: that they not become women who are more gracious than religious, practicing a piety that is too sugary and a poverty that is not always lived out  ...

From this we can conclude that she wanted something poorer and more entirely given to God. Although she had not yet formulated anything, this already foreshadowed the poor and hidden life completely devoted to atonement and self-abasement toward which she was moving. Though she was not yet aware of it, a spirit proper to the future Orants was already taking shape, as she recaptured aspects of the vocation she felt as a young girl:

“to belong entirely to Our Lord. The more I will belong to God, the more I will be completely given over to him, and the happier I will be.”

But, in all of this, where was her “interest in the poor”?468

I was in a very painful state of ignorance about God’s will for me when, suddenly, Our Lord made me understand that he destined me for a new work. He told me that he would give me a place, a mission in the Church. [ ...] He added that there is no life more exposed to suffering, humiliation, etc. than that of a foundress, which he seemed to be talking about. This was probably nothing more than an illusion ... 469

She had a premonition that a foundation would be made, but she did not see herself as its foundress, nor did she talk about it or outline its main features until 1887–88.470 What she had in mind was a contemplative order centered on Jesus Christ, who is the life and strength of all undertakings, and focused first of all on prayer, and secondarily on religious studies. The Sisters would be apostles by their prayer and also, to a lesser degree, by their apostolate on the outside  ... . She added:

“I did not insist enough on the confraternity of works. The works of the Fathers must be reflected in our prayer and, when it becomes possible, in the work of the Sisters.”

For his part, as we have seen, Father Picard accompanied and welcomed Isabelle’s personal evolution and the beginning of a project which, he said, corresponded totally to what he had in mind. He did not put his own project in writing, but he clearly wanted to support the Assumptionists by means of an apostolate of prayer for its members and their works, in other words, a contemplative foundation within the Assumption family.

However, almost ten years of caring for the needs of young Caroline still kept Mother Isabelle from pursuing some type of project of religious life. A spiritual deepening and personal resistances complicated matters, but she remarked:

“Despite whatever doubts and fears I had, I was never able to seriously look for a path that was not new, for one that did not yet exist.”471

Evolution in her thinking

Over the years, until 1912 and even later, there was an evolution in the way Mother Isabelle envisioned the Orants. She was aware of it and was not concerned about it because she thought it was normal to only progressively understand and adjust to the ways of God. Besides, Father Picard would say:

A work is never completely done in the way it was originally conceived. And this is understandable because, after God’s real but rapid call, creatures necessarily throw in their own thinking and imagination. The human mind naturally wants to scrutinize the word of God to find out exactly what it means. This is not forbidden, quite to the contrary. But what we think is not always what God wants. Very often, it is only little by little that he manifests his will through human circum stances, personal reflection, the wisdom of spiritual direction, the faithfulness of souls, and the type of vocations  ... .472

On May 5, 1905, during a council meeting with her first two daughters, Mother Isabelle told them that,

“contrary to what she had planned at the beginning of the foundation, the Good Lord brought [them] very humble vocations that had neither material resources nor talents,”

and she asked them whether they would accept the new candidate:

Personally, she added, I do not consider the work of the Orants to be mine; it belongs to God. I had not foreseen it in the way he is shaping it, but I am letting him do as he wishes, and I am trying to respond to his desires as he manifests them to me on a daily basis. It seems as though God wants us to be a very poor and humble congregation, completely hidden from the eyes of the world.

Founding intuitions: three basic characteristics476

In spite of the evolution that took place, three basic characteristics, all of them d’Alzonian in tone, structure us even today: gift-of-self through adoration and prayer, transmission of spiritual paths, and presence to the materially and spiritually poor.

Gift-of-self and adoration

The ideal of our Christocentric spirituality is the prayer of adoration accompanied by a generous offering of self to God and by a love of the Church. This has been the central point of our life throughout the years.

Gift-of-self, generosity, love of Christ, love of the Church ... these are part and parcel of Assumptionist spirituality. In fact, in Father d’Alzon’s footsteps, Mother Isabelle understood adoration as the recognition of the rights of God and of our nothingness before him. As a result of the many family and moral trials she went through, she easily fell into a certain “dolorism,” the then-current theory about the usefulness, need and excellence of pain. Regardless, the self-giving, reparation, atonement, and self-effacement which she talked about were themes that closely resembled Father d’Alzon’s own idea of adoration. This life of adoration was clearly offered for the Assumptionists and their works. It was not meant to remain in a chapel but to move beyond it into the middle of the Church in a spirit of love for this Church whose head is Jesus Christ.

In his instructions which were often practical, Father Picard underlined that, in order to focus her life on Christ, an Orant had to look for solitude and silence. The Eucharist was one of those privileged moments because

“it is the center toward which everything converges in the Church.”

In the same way, time spent before the tabernacle must be encouraged because “it is there that one learns how to become real daughters of prayer.”

Constantly called upon because of the events that were taking place, he underlined the importance, urgency, and power of prayer with a conviction that he himself drew from prayer. How to pray? He did not suggest any particular method, but he reminded people of the attitude that prayer requires: perseverance, humility, fervor, a spirit of faith, etc.

On several occasions, Father Picard reminded others of the Assumptionist motto: Adveniat Regnum Tuum.

“We exist only to obtain the extension of his Kingdom.”

The life of an Orant was inconceivable if it did not have an apostolic dimension:

“In religious life, you must be apostles, that is to say, you must make Jesus Christ known  ...”

By making the apostolate part of our lives, we avoid self-centeredness in our prayer:

“I don’t like devotions that turn souls in upon themselves ... Forget yourselves  ... . Don’t lose your time thinking about yourselves  ... .”

Prayer is where one develops an apostolic soul:

“Pray, recollect yourselves, humbly prepare yourselves for the apostolate to which you might be called later on  ...” Be apostles and avoid turning in upon ourselves: for our two founders, those were the indispensable corollaries of adoration.

To be an apostle

Mother Isabelle also wanted her sisters to be apostles,

“apostles especially by their prayer, as understood by St. Theresa, and apostles by their external work, but these external works will be limited ... so that prayer always remains their first work.”473

Both emphasized liturgical prayer, the prayer of the Church without any marginal devotions, which Mother Isabelle particularly wanted to share with others. To encourage prayer and to transmit the faith and the ways of the spiritual life were yearnings she passed on to the Orants, knowing full well that these aspects made the contemplative life more difficult:

The other day I attended Mass at the Poor Clares. Communion was brought to them behind the altar. I thought we should practice this same type of immolation, but with the following difference which would make it more difficult. In our case, the immolation would not take place behind the altar or in the oblivion of a hidden life. Quite to the contrary, it would be carried out with the desire to implant in the souls of the world the love of the hidden life, of mortification, and of the cross.474

When Mother Isabelle “expressed the idea of a secondary work of charity to be joined to our contemplative life,” Father Picard did not exclude it for “later on” but privileged the time of the novitiate and the initial formation, after which some of the sisters could exercise an apostolate. At any rate, and especially during this initial period, it was prayer itself that had to be apostolic. Since the purpose of the apostolate was “to bring souls to Christ,” this had to be done first of all by prayer. In all of his talks, Father Picard entrusted to the Orants the major intentions of the Church, including those of the Assumptionists.

Poverty without turning in on oneself

Sustained by a great trust in divine Providence, the poor and simple life lived by Father Picard was joyful and communicative. He bequeathed this to the Orants.

Isabelle always exhibited a concrete and committed love for the poor. Since 1886, she thought that religious should live like servants and be poor. Combining a search for personal poverty and humility with a concrete communion with the poor characterizes our life.

The decision not to have lay sisters corresponded to this desire for a humble and poor religious life and, at the same time, concretely put the community in communion with the lifestyle of simple people. Father André Jaujou underlined this particularity of the Orants’ contemplative life.475 This same concern for the poor was possibly what prompted Mother Isabelle to put so few restrictions on accepting candidates who had no money and little personality.

Besides her concern for the poor, Mother Isabelle like Father Picard tried to avoid favoring a contemplative life that fostered egoism, sought comfort, and encouraged a turning in on oneself. From the beginning, she foresaw a secondary work that permitted us, according to circumstances and needs, to help the poor and to respond, according to our possibilities, to certain social or pastoral needs that others could not meet:

“I ask you to study so that, later on, you will be able to enlighten souls with doctrine.”

What was “The Assumption” for our Founders?

When Mother Isabelle or Father Picard spoke of the Assumption in the context of the foundation and of the life of the Orants, they presented it as a family and a spirit.

A family

I am preparing a small foundation ( ... ) I believe that God wants Assumption to grow and that, after including persons who educate the rich, care for the poor, and become missionaries, it is time that it in elude some who dedicate themselves to prayer and study. In this way, we can support each other ( ... ).477

It was with these words that Father Picard announced our foundation and, as we have already described, it is in this way that we have lived, supporting each other.

Given the Assumption context in which the Orants were born as well as the mission they received, it is not surprising that, in the footsteps of Mother Isabelle, they are very conscious of the fact that the Assumption is a family.

From the very beginning of the “work” in 1887, Mother Isabelle wanted it to be the contemplative branch of the Assumptionists. She saw it as having very strong ties to them, almost as a dependency. It was thus that in 1906, when the First Constitutions were being drawn up, she foresaw:

Since the purpose of the Orants of the Assumption is to pray for the works of the Assumptionists and the sanctification of their members, it is important that the Sisters remain imbued with the spirit of their founder and united under the direction of the Father of their religious family. For that reason: for serious matters, the Superior General of the Orants is to consult with the Superior General of the Augustinians of the Assumption.478

The archbishop of Paris did not accept this provision, which Mother Isabelle regretted more than once.

A spirit

In the talks he gave to the Orants during the first months following the foundation,479 Father Picard chose to comment first on the motto Adveniat regnum tuum, then on all of Part 1 of Father d’Alzon’s Directory. In these pages we discover what the Assumptionist spirit meant for Father Picard and, at the same time, how he applied it to the Orants.

His comments were exhortations rather than an organized systematic teaching, but their spirituality focused on a few main points: Jesus Christ at the center, prayer, the apostolate, formation, and a certain number of Assumptionist traits such as courage, broadmind-edness, simplicity (poor life and moderate asceticism), joy and a spirit of faith which seems to be the dominant characteristic of the “spirit of the Orants.”

Besides underlining the standard themes of the time (mortification, atonement, etc.), Father Picard exhorted the Sisters to live an intense faith totally dedicated to the service of the Kingdom. In keeping with the longstanding Assumptionist tradition, he directed their spirituality toward its one and only center, Christ: at the center of an Orant’s life, prayer nourished with the Word of God; at the heart of her prayer, an encounter with Jesus; in this encounter, a single preoccupation: the coming of the Kingdom. Such a spirituality leads to a permanent decentering of oneself.480

“The last to arrive of the large Assumption family,” the Orants were formed and encouraged by Mother Isabelle to pray and adore for all the works and members “of the family.” For them, the Fathers are the pillars inasmuch as they are the direct heirs of Father d’Alzon’s spirituality. Accordingly, she referred to “the doctrine of our Fathers” and never tired of coming back to the texts of the big retreat’’ and especially of Father d’Alzon’s Directory which she commented to the Sisters during the retreat of 1904 and at her chapters. She mentioned her gratitude to the Ladies of the Assumption for having trained her in religious life and in the spirit of Father d’Alzon, but she did not quote Mother Marie-Eugénie. For her, the spirit of Assumption was clearly the spirit given by Father d’Alzon, which Father Picard inherited, then by Father Emmanuel Bailly and the elders (Fathers Saugrain, Vincent de Paul, etc.), and which is lived by the family in brotherly friendship and mutual support, according to the complementary nature of each one’s mission and of their different charisms.

Sister Anne Huyghebaert
Orant of the Assumption

62, rue de Normandie
1081 Brussels


Answers to the Questions

How did Father Pernet, the Founder of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, relate to his own Congregation?

Gisele Marchand, L.S.A.:

Father Pernet was the only Founder who was not a superior.

  • What was his situation in terms of obedience?

From 1865 to 1899, he was an active member of his Congregation and participated in all of its General Chapters. In 1898, he was elected Assistant General.

He held dearly to the relation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption with the Assumptionists. At the same time, he interiorized the grace he received as a Founder. To achieve “the difficult balance between the initiative he took as a Founder and his dependence as a Religious, he opted in favor of obedience” (Such was his soul p. 51).

As a Founder, he conducted his affairs by seeking the opinion of his Superior, and he collaborated with the two Superiors General of the Sisters without substituting himself for them. He never interposed himself between the Sisters and their Superiors. With them, he studied the situation, for example the foundation of the Fraternity of Our Lady of Salvation, but always in obedience. His local Superior was kept up to date and, through him, his Superior General. His letters testify to the fact that he was just as obedient with Father Picard as he had been with Father d’Alzon.

For example, the foundation in New York City in 1891. Father Picard wanted to found a community of priests at the same time as a community of Little Sisters of the Assumption. The archbishop did not want the priests. Finally, after a long and difficult dialogue, Father Brun went to become the chaplain of the Little Sisters.

  • Father Pernet’s 14 years of suffering: 1850–1864

It was indeed a very important period in father Pernet’s life, a period during which he matured psychologically and spiritually.

On December 25, 1850, he pronounced his first vows and was ordained a priest on April 3, 1858 by Bishop Nanquette,481 Bishop of Le Mans.

From 1849 to 1863, he was involved in teaching. He admitted himself that “he had to suffer, indeed severely, for 14 years, in order to be sure of what God wanted of him.” Lacking in self-confidence, lively, and impressionable, he had to master his sensitivity. He was a modest man, more of a profound thinker than a brilliant one. He would reflect, assimilate, and interiorize as he adjusted to life, responding in faith under the guidance of Father d’Alzon.

Though his health was precarious, he spared nothing to live the life of the community. During this period, he was grappling with reality and facing problems in his work as treasurer of the college, in his duties as an educator, for which he thought he was not suited, and in his family life. He was really walking in darkness. When his mother who supported the family fell sick, misery fell upon the Pernets. In 1856, he wondered if he should leave religious life in order to help his family. 47 am walking in deep darkness which is making me lose my common sense.’’ He did not give up prayer and asked his brothers for help. He also noted changes in himself and asked for the grace of conversion. All of this is what gave Father Pernet the heart of a poor man. He experienced the tenderness and mercy of Christ. At the same time, he was cleansed and purified by events. He was recognized as Venerable on May 14, 1983.

The community in Cannes and its Superior with respect to the history of the Orants and Father Picard.

Thérèse-Maylis Toujouse, R.A.:

Cannes was founded in 1879. The Superior was Mother Marie of the Nativity, Florence Dillon.

She was the one around whom revolved the so-called “Nativity affair.” In Cannes, there was a school and a boarding house for women, among whom was an Armenian, Marie de Savalan, age 27, who came from a very complicated family. Her mother had said that she was capable of deceiving the devil himself! This young woman had been led from heresy to the faith by Mother Marie of the Nativity. At one point, Marie de Savalan spoke about a vocation, on condition that she could always stay with Mother Marie of the Nativity. Their attachment to each other was mutual.

At the same time, Madame d’Ursel, who would visit Cannes for long periods of time with her granddaughter, participated in the life of the novitiate. She was a tertiary. Father Picard, Superior General of the Assumptionists since 1880, was recuperating there from a leg injury. At that time, he was the spiritual director of Mother Marie of the Nativity.

On October 16, 1885, Mother Marie of the Nativity left the Assumption convent in Cannes, under the pretext that she was going to rest in Auteuil. In fact, she had left with Marie de Savalan. In the days that followed, Mother Marie-Eugénie noticed letters arriving for Mother Marie of the Nativity. Some time later, she received letters from Mother Marie of the Nativity who now went by the name of Florence. Florence was in Belgium. She begged Mother Marie-Eugénie to come and fetch her. She returned to Auteuil at the end of October. Mother Marie-Eugénie asked her to be her secretary. During the month of November, Mother Marie of the Nativity left a second time, undoubtedly to rejoin Marie. 1885 was the period during which the Congregation was questioning itself about its government and direction by the Assumptionists. Father Picard had a strong tendency to govern.

Faced with these difficulties with the Assumptionists and with Mother Marie of the Nativity, Marie-Eugénie fell sick. She went to Cannes to rest. Mother Marie of the Nativity was left in the care of Mother Marie of Christ (in the Monastery) in Auteuil and of Mother Louise-Eugénie, Superior of the Little Convent. Efforts were made to keep peace and remain discrete. Marie de Savalan was often there and created dramatic scene*. Nearly every day, she sent letters to Marie-Eugénie.

Florence began speaking of leaving the Congregation in December 1885. Father Picard was the confessor of the community, and Bishop d’Hulst was the Ecclesiastical Superior. On December 28, 1885, Florence finally decided to leave. On the doorstep, Mother Louise-Eugénie gave her, with the consent of the Ecclesiastical Superior, the letters from Marie de Savalan which she had kept until then on orders from Father Picard. It must be said that in the Rule of Saint Augustine, in the chapter on obedience, it is said: “They shall obey their Superior as a mother, and even more their Superior General who has care of you all” (women’s translation published by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd). In the men’s translation, it is said: “They shall obey the Superior as a father, and even more the priest.” According to this translation, it was clear to Father Picard that Mother Louise Marie had disobeyed the Priest. Father Picard imposed an interdict on the Little Convent, which meant removing the Blessed Sacrament. The interdict remained for two months. In Cannes, Mother Marie-Eugénie suffered from all of this. Father Picard did not blame Marie-Eugénie personally, but rather the spirit of the Congregation “which no longer exists in Auteuil.”

The problem of relations and of government became so acute that Marie-Eugénie thought that she should convoke a special General Chapter to discuss the question of government and to study the Congregation’s relations with the Assumptionists. The conclusion: most of the Congregation opted for the Superior General of the Sisters; only a small number opted for the Assumptionists. Father Picard was hurt. The suffering lasted a long time on both sides. Marie-Eugénie begged him to return as confessor. He refused. She went to speak to him at François Ier.

After that, Florence lived foolishly for 20 years: Cote d’Azur, etc. Madame d’Ursel helped to defray her expenses.

Previously, Florence had also been the Superior of Ramsgate in England. It was in England that she entered the Sisters of the Good Shepherd around 1906. She lived there for 26 years. She died returning from communion in April 1932. When she made perpetual profession in this Congregation, she asked for the parchment of her first vows in order to renew her offering to the Lord after her long break. Accounts of her speak about “a miracle of grace.” An article bearing that title was written about her by Sister Jeanne-Marie, my predecessor as archivist.

Clare-Teresa Tjader, R.A.:

On the subject of the letters and the obedience due a confessor, the authorities consulted did not support Father Picard. The Nuncio, who had ties with the family of Mother Louise-Eugénie, intervened. This put Mother Marie-Eugénie in a bind because she could not give in to Father Picard who wanted Louise-Eugénie to leave Auteuil.

Another subject of disagreement between Mother Marie-Eugénie and Father Picard was the refusal of Mother Marie-Eugénie (her Council) to appoint Mother Marie of the Nativity as Mistress of Novices.

Concerning the vocation of Mother Isabelle, it was influenced by both the Nativity Affair and Father Picard’s plans for Madame d’Ursel.482

Marie-Jacques Sevenet, Or.A.:

The Orants know nothing about Father Picard’s plans for Madame d’Ursel in 1882. We will need to re-examine this question in light of the documents we have just received.

From our point-of-view, if Mother Isabelle decided not to enter the Religious of the Assumption, it was the result of a personal evolution based on her own re-thinking of the education of her daughter, which was being unduly influenced by the strong dominating friendship of Mother Marie of the Nativity (Florence Dillon), as well as by her vow of obedience to Father Picard which, she realized, had been broadened to include even the education of her daughter. It was a very complex situation in which a number of factors came into play that cannot be summarized here. In the end, she began thinking of taking another direction in keeping with the ideas of reparation and of a greater presence to the poor. In 1881, at Fourviere, she heard: “I need you for something big  ... .” This is what we consider to be her first call to found the Congregation.

I also want to call attention to the fact that Isabelle, returning to Cannes after 1885, always stopped in Auteuil to see Marie-Eugénie and always faithfully helped her and prayed for her during the difficulties and episodes concerning Florence. I also want to underline Father Picard’s discretion when he spoke to Isabelle about the difficulties he was having as well as his wisdom regarding all that was happening.

Anne Huyghebaert, Or.A.:

Father Picard’s autocratic attitude was tied to his desire to protect the “rights of God” in all things. For him, it was therefore a matter of conscience.

In one of her letters to Father Picard, Isabelle says that she wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie telling her of her final decision not to enter the Congregation of the Religious, but this letter has not been found. She wanted something that would allow her to make a greater gift of herself and something poorer.

The history of Cape Town, South Africa
The first division in the history of the Assumption

Thérèse-Maylis Toujouse, R.A.:

The Religious of the Assumption were founded in 1839. In 1848, they received a first request to establish a mission in China. They could not accept despite their desire inspired by their “fourth vow.” In 1849, Bishop Devereux, Apostolic Vicar in South Africa, requested a foundation in Cape Town. He asked for three Sisters to direct a small school and to teach catechetics. The project was accepted after much deliberation and with enthusiasm “because of the fourth vow.” The bishop of Paris said that it was folly. At the time, the Congregation comprised only about twenty Sisters, most of whom were novices. Two of them, in their eagerness, managed to convince the bishop to let them go.

In August 1849, the first four missionaries left with their Superior, Marie-Gertrude. Before leaving, they made the fourth vow. It was well understood that there would be a contract between the bishop and the Congregation regarding a school, the number of Sisters, respect for the Rule, and no other apostolates.

The Sisters left with the full assurance that the bishop would never separate the Sisters from their Motherhouse. If there were permissions to be granted, given the slowness of the mail, the Superior could request them from the bishop and then inform Marie-Eugénie.

Added to this small group were two young Irish Sisters and a person from the Third Order, the bishop’s sister. The voyage was difficult. When they arrived in Africa, there was a war going on: battles, famine, dangers, etc. The Sisters were called upon to leave the convent more often than had been foreseen, to visit families, to receive many people in the house and in particular the bishop, which was something unheard of. Apparently, from the very beginning, the bishop wanted more than what he had asked for. The Sisters were confronted with a difficult situation. They would go out and not recite the Office. Later on, they would live like at Chaillot, but this was much later, much later ... . The bishop requested more Sisters and more money. When he was displeased with the Sisters, he would send them back and ask for others. Marie-Eugénie felt that those whom he requested were not ready to go, which was a matter of conscience for her. Two groups left Cape Town. Those rejected by the bishop were happy to come back to Auteuil. It would seem that both the bishop and Sister Gertrude were prompted by their apostolic zeal.

But if, from the outset, the Sisters were living something other than our Constitutions, this was another congregation.

The bishop did not have enough money. Marie-Eugénie sent him some, but the ship sank en route. But in Cape Town they concluded that she was not interested in the mission. For all practical purposes, the bishop had founded a new group with Irish Sisters whom he recruited on the spot.

Upon the suggestion of the bishop of Paris, Marie-Eugénie sent in 1852 a very moving letter to Sister Gertrude recalling her to Chaillot in the name of obedience. So that the mission would not be abandoned, Marie-Eugénie offered ``to pay the passage of an equal number of Sisters of another Order whose vocation it is to do all the works for which you have been successively responsible;1

Sister Gertrude did not answer and did not return. A few months later, she sent a letter addressed to Madame the Superior and to the bishop of Paris. She wanted to enter a “congregation that Bishop Devereux was thinking of founding.” There remained with Sister Gertrude another Sister who had not understood the implications of what was happening, Sister Marie-Marthe. Later on, this Sister realized the situation and came back under the name of Anna-Marta. Throughout the life of Marie-Eugénie, attempts at rapprochement were made.

The community in Cape Town continued to live under the name of the Religious of the Assumption with the same but modified Rule. In 1893, after Sister Gertrude had been Superior since 1849, a Chapter was held at the request of the Church. Sister Catherine Quirck was elected to replace Sister Gertrude. This was dramatic for Sister Gertrude. In 1896, Sister Catherine asked to come to Auteuil to learn about the original Congregation. Sister Gertrude accompanied her ... . Sister Catherine (Cape Town’s second Superior General) met Mother Marie-Celestine, the vicar of Mother Marie-Eugénie. She discovered the Congregation of the Religious of the Assumption and remained there as a novice. Sister Gertrude went back alone as a missionary, but the style of life begun in Cape Town was not that of the very recent foundation of the Religious of the Assumption.

In 1932–34, the Cape Town Congregation, present also in Ireland, changed its name and its Constitutions. It became the Missionary Sisters of the Assumption. Sister Marie-Philip, the former Superior General of these Sisters, came twice to Auteuil in 1982 to study the original documents. We have very good relations with the Missionary Sisters of the Assumption. We were the first Congregation to go to South Africa.

Disagreements and Difficulties at the Beginning

Problems of Government and of Relations between the Religious of the Assumption and the other Congregations of the Assumption

Clare-Teresa Tjader

The Constitutions of the Religious of the Assumption

From the beginning, the government of the Congregation was well established in the mind of Mother Marie-Eugénie and the first Sisters. It was expressed in a series of documents in which Mother Marie-Eugénie sought the official establishment and approval of the Institute: the Constitutions of 1840, 1844, the Statutes of 1854, the Constitutions of 1866 and of 1888. The Constitutions of 1888 marked the end of this search and the definitive approval of the Congregation by Rome.

On March 16, 1840, the Sisters received permission from Bishop Affre to follow the Constitutions, copied from those of the Visitation, ad experimentum. In Chapter 21 of this document it is said:

Because the Congregation of the Sisters of the Assumption has as its aim to educate young girls wherever Divine Providence will deign to favor the setting up of a school, it is under the immediate authority of a Superior General. So that all may tend towards perfect unity, the members of this little community must be attached to a common center, which will become their soul, heart and head.483

The Superior General was elected by all the Professed Sisters and could be re-elected indefinitely. She chose her councilors who needed the approval of two-thirds of the electors.

The Superior shall consult her council about all the important affairs of the Congregation, both spiritual and temporal, and shall listen to their advice with much deference and graciousness, taking decisions in accord with the majority of her council. However, she may postpone a vote in order to give the councilors enough time to consult the Spirit of God.484

This spirit and this system concerning the Superior General and her Council remained in force in all the successive Constitutions, with only minor changes in order to be more in line with the thinking of the Vatican485 and to take account of the growing number of Sisters. The Sisters lived under this regime for more than 30 years.

There was, however, a detail in the Constitutions of 1840 which was not repeated in later Constitutions:

“As long as the Founder (Father Combalot) is alive, he shall be a member of the General Council and shall have a vote.”486

There was also a remark written in the margin of a draft copy in the handwriting of Mother Marie-Eugénie on the subject of the chaplain. She was 25 years old and had only a few years experience!

I would like to be able to dispense with a titular chaplain, as this rule demands. I can only see very serious disadvantages stemming from their relationships with the religious houses. Some convents here have only a non-resident chaplain and confessor. I prefer this arrangement which keeps both of them further away from the house and leaves the sisters freer to change them.487

Here I must underline the immense prestige which Mother Foundress had in her Congregation from the beginning. Intellectually, she was considered exceptionally gifted for education and business matters of all kinds. She had a strong personality and was universally liked for her spirituality as well as for her great goodness. Her human and spiritual stature would only grow with the passage of time. One can well imagine that for these reasons the Sisters bowed readily before her opinions and directives.

For the Constitutions of 1844, Marie-Eugénie had recourse to Father d’Alzon.488 The correspondence bears witness to this. He had great experience because of his role as Vicar General of the Diocese of Nîmes and his connections with all the congregations of the Diocese. Marie-Eugénie consulted him, but it was she, along with her Sisters, who composed the Rule and who always had the last word. No letter attests that the Father wrote or edited any part whatsoever of the Constitutions of the Religious.489 For twenty years, Father d’Alzon did not intervene in the decision-making and showed no desire for power over the Congregation, quite to the contrary.

Father d’Alzon was the director and spiritual father of Marie-Eugénie. In 1845, he allowed Mother Marie-Eugénie to make a vow of obedience to him. And in 1846,490 he in turn made a vow to work for the perfection of his spiritual daughter. He seems to have had a lot of influence over Marie-Eugénie, and she cultivated an attitude of humility and respect towards him, always taking his opinions seriously and trying to make them her own. The two Founders were always frank and open with each other. But there was always a distinction between the obedience due to Father regarding matters that pertained to her personal life, and her freedom regarding all that concerned the Congregation. Indeed, it is to Father d’Alzon that the sisters owed much of their freedom. For years on end, he refused all authority over the Religious and preferred to “remain friends.”491

In 1858, strongly encouraged by Father d’Alzon, Marie-Eugénie agreed to be elected Superior General for life, as Foundress. They did not see the great risk that this posed and were only thinking of assuring the spirit of the Order.

In the successive drafts of the Constitutions, the authority of the Superior General became more strongly accentuated. The Congregation was governed by a Superior General aided by a Council. “All authority in the Congregation resides in the Superior General from whom derives the authority of the other superiors” (1866). Assistants and Councilors were elected by a simple majority of vote*. This phrase remained unchanged in the Constitutions of 1888 which received Rome’s definitive approval.492

Every congregation of women was under the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical superiors: the Ordinary of the place and the person more particularly responsible for religious sisters, and, of course, the Pope and the Roman authorities. In speaking about them, Marie-Eugénie could not have been clearer. The following quotation is certainly copied from other Constitutions:

Since their Lordships the Bishops are the Superiors of the different houses established in their dioceses, the Superior General will treat them with all the respect and veneration she must have for their high dignity, and she will see to it that no one is found wanting in giving them the respect, veneration and submission which is due to them.493

These Superiors were to be the cause of many difficulties, especially concerning the approval of the rules and customs. One way of escaping them was to come under a congregation of men. But subsequent history proved that there was no easy and problem-free solution.

A successful government is largely a question of clarity about roles and powers, but still more important are the relationships. Everyone knows that the relations between Mother Marie-Eugénie and Father d’Alzon were characterized by a deep understanding coupled with an equally great affection and mutual esteem. There were, nevertheless, moments of deep crisis and misunderstanding494 and, at the same time, a desire to be in communion with one another.

Mother Marie-Eugénie, anxious and hypersensitive by temperament, needed for a long while to be calmed and reassured by Father d’Alzon. During her years of insecurity and interior crisis, she really was his daughter. By the age of forty, however, Marie-Eugénie had overcome these psychological problems and was now fully in control of herself. It was noted that, in turn, she now became a mother to Emmanuel d’Alzon, particularly after his illness in 1854. She took a keen interest in the material affairs of Father d’Alzon and shared his pains as well as his joys. After a few years, about 1861, they wrote less to each other and their letters were full of business matters. Each of them was taken up with their respective Congregation and its concerns. They shared the latter and helped one another.

Throughout their correspondence, the history of the external and internal life of the Religious and of the Assumptionists emerges. Everything is there: money matters, purchases and constructions, the spiritual health of communities and individuals, and relations with bishops and other authorities. The founders advised one another and mutually rendered each other a thousand services. Father d’Alzon was the director of many of the sisters. Oftentimes, letters intended for one or another of the Sisters or for Father d’Alzon passed through his hands or those of Mother Marie-Eugénie. Father d’Alzon was the spiritual father of Mother Marie-Eugénie who gave him an account of her soul. Father d’Alzon gave her “direction,” while the Mother did not hesitate to offer a little direction to him. It was never a question of orders or imposed decisions. Nevertheless, Marie-Eugénie, disappointed by Father d’Alzon’s inability to be present at the Chapter of the Religious in 1864, wrote to him saying:

... many problems could arise from everything that could make this chapter incomplete, and it certainly will be incomplete without you, because there are many decisions which we cannot take without you.495

That same year began a series of letters of accusation, rather unclear, about dissatisfactions and reproaches, which left Marie-Eugénie perplexed. At the end, she said she no longer found the Father “good enough” for her,496 and she did not know why. In this same letter, she recognized Emmanuel d’Alzon “as a priest, as a father, and as her personal superior.”

The discomfort and hurt are imperceptible to today’s reader, but both of them admitted that something had changed. Nevertheless, nothing broke the relationship: they explained themselves to each other and declared that, whatever the cost, they wanted to maintain their friendship. And this friendship, this collaboration in government, despite misunderstandings and sufferings, continued intact right up to the death of Father d’Alzon.497

Problems of Government

Ever since the departure of Father Combalot in 1841, the Religious had lived without problems for 25 years from the point-of-view of the government of the Congregation. They had to struggle to get our style of contemplative and active life accepted by the ecclesiastical authorities but, in general, the Congregation and the Mother Foundress were held in esteem.

In 1866, at the time when the Institute was seeking Roman approval, there arose what has been called in the Congregation the “Veron Affair,” from the name of the Ecclesiastical Superior in Paris. Mother Marie-Eugénie prepared to go to Rome and took with her a first copy of the Constitutions.498 She was thinking of finishing the section on government in line with the advice she would receive from certain superiors and from the Vatican. Archbishop Darboy, the Archbishop of Paris, was in agreement and promised her a letter of attestation and recommendation. However, one clause in the attestation spoke of future supplementary information499 from him, which raised questions in the mind of Marie-Eugénie who returned to consult the Archbishop. He assured her that it was only a standard formula and that Father Veron would write a note along these lines. Marie-Eugénie left for Rome. In June, Rome asked Archbishop Darboy for the supplementary information.

On receiving from Rome a new request from Mother Marie-Eugénie, Father Veron got worked up into a “French fury” (furia francese) and turned violently against the Mother. From that moment on, he started making enquiries and visits, as if he knew nothing about the Congregation. Marie-Eugénie returned from Rome in July to be subjected to suspicions, interrogations and humiliations which clearly showed that the Priest was making it a test of his authority and that his judgments were unreasonable. Recourse to the Archbishop only increased the tensions. The Priest continued with a real persecution and threatened Auteuil with an Interdict. Marie-Eugénie, finding it impossible for her to govern under these conditions, offered to resign her position. After six months of this drama, the Priest was appointed parish priest and calmed down almost as suddenly as he had become inflamed.500 Marie-Eugénie received a kind letter from Archbishop Darboy. Four months later, Father Véron died.501

This was the first experience in which Marie-Eugénie was truly attacked because of her government of the Congregation. Father d’Alzon and Father Picard encouraged and supported her throughout this long trial which was both harsh and humiliating.502

It was not until 1865–67 that the correspondence between Mother Marie-Eugénie and Mother Marie-Gabrielle, the then-Superior of the Priory of Nîmes, allows us to see that Father d’Alzon enjoyed a very great authority over this house and that he was involved in many of the decisions and details of daily life. The authority of Father d’Alzon was strengthened by the fact that he was also the bc-clesiastical Superior. He expressed what he saw and made recommendations to Mother Marie-Eugénie, which she nearly always followed.503 Father d’Alzon was very much liked and respected by the Sisters who saw him very often in their house. He had an office in the Priory where he received the Sisters and the Ladies of Nîmes. He met with the Third Order and the “Adorers” for conferences and prayer, and it was there that he directed their works.

In the correspondence of the Sister Superior of Nîmes with Auteuil, there is mention of Father’s fatigue, his financial difficulties (and his hope of receiving help from Auteuil!).504

This began to grate when Father seemed so attached not only to the work of the Oblates but also to “the little mother.”505 (These handwritten letters, which cover the years 1866–79, are so numerous that I will not give you a list of quotations.) Reading them provides an interesting overview of the environment and daily life of the Assumption: Fathers, Religious, Oblates, communities, and schools. Mother Marie-Gabrielle seemed objective enough and knew how not to generalize passing events, how to listen to everybody without creating divisions, and how to be concerned about maintaining charity. There was Father d’Alzon’s project, which was to prepare the missionary Oblates to accompany the Assumptionists to the Near East and to help them materially and in the elementary schools. There was also Mother Emmanuel-Marie’s project, which was quite different. Mother Marie-Eugénie collaborated from the beginning in Father’s project to found the Oblates. She was interested in the choice of the first group of young women in Nîmes; she loaned Sister Madeleine for the formation of a group of young women at Le Vigan with Father Saugrain; and she took charge of the formation of Mother Emmanuel-Marie to the extent that Father d’Alzon asked for this.506 Progressively, Father d’Alzon, believing that Mother Marie-Eugénie had given up on the mission to the Near East and reacting to the tensions, consulted her less and less and took charge himself of all of the formation of the Oblates.

Progressively also, the project of Mother Emmanuel-Marie was clarified. She refused peasants from the Cévennes and did not want to take young women who had been “maid servants.” 507 Her mother bought her a piece of land next to the boarding school run by the Religious,508 and the young Superior made plans for a school. In fact, the Correnson family played an important role during this period.

When Mother Marie-Eugénie became anxious about the steps being taken by “the little mother,” Father d’Alzon reassured her and made promises to her that he would not be able to keep.509 Mother Emmanuel-Marie took advantage of Father’s absences and, without his knowledge, went on with her plan for opening a day-school.510 Everything got even more complicated when there were two “Superiors of the Assumption” and two Assumption schools with their respective pupils wearing nearly identical uniforms almost within the same enclosure.511 Sometimes Father d’Alzon confessed his powerlessness before the reactions of the Mother;512 sometimes he defended the young Superior.

These questions touched upon the government and upon the lack of authority of Father d’Alzon over Mother Emmanuel-Marie.513 The situation is succinctly summarized in an exchange of letters between Father Vincent de Paul Bailly and Father d’Alzon. In these four letters, we read about Father Vincent’s criticisms of Mother Emmanuel-Marie, the indignant reply of Father d’Alzon who asked for explanations, the reply of Father Vincent de Paul with the facts—deviation from the original project, competition with the Religious of the Assumption—and the reply of Father d’Alzon who was still dissatisfied but who did not deny the facts.514

But even this difference did not break the ties between Father d’Alzon and Marie-Eugénie who seemed to face the facts and continued to move ahead.515

Status of the Union

In August 1867, Father d’Alzon had asked Mother Marie-Eugénie: “Should we be more your fathers than your brothers, or more your brothers than your fathers?”516 Unfortunately for us, many subjects were discussed face to face between Father d’Alzon and Mother Marie-Eugénie, without any record of what was said. We can suppose that the question was being raised regarding the Religious Sisters either because the Fathers were asking it regarding the Oblates and the Little Sisters, or because Father d’Alzon was being pressured by his brothers and by the Sisters, or because he was foreseeing his own departure. Perhaps all these reasons were at play at the same time.

As was said earlier, Father d’Alzon himself always resisted the idea of having juridical authority over the Religious.517 In addition to his spontaneous and almost innate spirit of freedom, he knew of the difficulties caused in other congregations by such ties between congregations of women and men. His advice was always “Let us remain friends,”518 and the two founders worked at this.

Marie-Eugénie leaned towards the authority of the Fathers. At different moments, she expressed different and valid reasons: to avoid control by the bishops, to respect her deep affection and esteem for the Fathers, and to preserve the spirit which unites the two Congregations. In her reply to the letter quoted above, she mentioned the idea of “security” which, apparently, was tantamount to speaking of freedom vis-à-vis the bishops and of protection by a male congregation before the Roman authorities and elsewhere. She already knew that the Churchmen whom she esteemed were not in agreement with this opinion,519 but she nevertheless leaned in that direction. She replied on August 9:

For a long time now, I have thought that the question you asked me could be solved in the manner I described in a memo of which Father Picard surely has several copies. To assure the future and to strengthen the Congregation, I would like you to be our Fathers rather than our Brothers. You have always held a different opinion. I see that very learned and serious men like Father Vitte have generally been very opposed to this type of organization, for all congregations. 1 would like to hear your reasons and to give you mine.520

The Fathers, for their part, studied their relations with the women’s Congregations. At their Chapter of 1868, they asked the following questions:

  • Are relations between the communities of men and women desirable?
  • Can the Institute accept to govern a community of women?
  • If we lean towards the affirmative, who would have the right to exercise this authority?
  • Finally, what would be the extent of this authority?

Father d’Alzon brought up “two indisputable facts which ought to guide us in this matter”:

  • On the one hand, Rome and the Councils have tended to suppress or restrain such relations because of abuses.
  • On the other hand, the Church approves such relations when they are established at the time of the foundation of a women’s Congregation by a male religious or by the founder of a Congregation of men.

When the time came for a decision, these observations did not win over either the Religious of the Assumption or the Assumptionists. The Chapter of the Assumptionists decided:

While preferring the works of men to the works of women, the Augustinians of the Assumption recognize that most of the religious communities of women have been founded by religious men and that the spirit of the foundation has been maintained by these men. They also recognize that, today, the influence exercised by women on these works and on society can become in their hands a powerful source of good which they would be mistaken to neglect.

They shall therefore accept to direct and even govern communities of women. But before all else, they must remember that the best way to attain this objective is never to seek to persuade these communities to place themselves under their dependence but to wait until the communities spontaneously desire and request it. They must respect the freedom of each and must always be ready to give up the authority they have if this authority becomes an odious burden or simply difficult. For example, if it happened that, at a General Chapter of the communities they govern, one third of the members objected to living under their dependence, they must immediately withdraw.521

Applying these principles, the Chapter decided that the Oblates of the Assumption would depend on the Fathers, that the Little Sisters of the Assumption could also depend on them in the way the Daughters of Charity are connected to the Lazarists (Vincentians), and that these ties and relations were also desirable with the Religious of the Assumption “provided the Religious request them.” The Chapter recognized that such a union with the Religious would meet with more difficulties “because of their monastic lifestyle and their place in society.”

As for the authority of the Assumptionists over the Religious of the Assumption, we shall see that it was to be vested in the male Superior General who would exercise it by appointing a delegate who would be called a Vicar. From a list of male religious drawn up in consultation with their Superior General, the General Chapter of the women’s Congregation would choose three names or three lists of three names in view of the appointment by the Assumptionist Superior General of the religious delegated as his Vicar. The powers of the Vicar would extend from one General Chapter to the next of the women’s Congregation.

With respect to powers, the Chapter proposed that the Assumptionists would be responsible for spiritual direction but would respect the Sisters’ freedom of the confessional, and that they would make the canonical visitations and keep themselves informed about finances. No foundation would be made without their approval.

In their Chapter of 1873, the Fathers drew up directives “which the experience of the last five years has just confirmed”:522

The setting up of our relationships with women religious stems from the size and providential development of the different communities of women which have ties with our own. By their work among the upper classes, the Ladies of the Assumption exercise an undisputed influence in a world which can be of great help to our work. By the humble and disinterested character of their apostolate, the home-nurses of the poor, called the Little Sisters of the Assumption, touch the poor and working classes. Finally, by the Good they are doing in the works which are preparing them in France,523 the Oblates of the Assumption demonstrate an apostolic character likely to draw numerous vocations and to facilitate the fulfillment of the promises made to the Pope to attend to the missions in the Near East.

So, in 1876, at the General Chapter of the Religious, Mother Marie-Eugénie explained to the Sisters why she saw a more structured union with the Assumptionists as desirable:

After this reading, the Superior General explained the advantages which the Congregation will draw from continuing the relationship which, in fact, has existed from the beginning, and which, after contributing so greatly to the formation of the spirit of the Institute, seems necessary in order to maintain this spirit as well as to preserve the special character of our studies and of our teaching.524

Father Picard presented a document that had already been written in 1867 with this in mind. This document, “Relationships with the Religious of the Assumption,” amended at the Chapters of the Fathers in 1868 and 1873, was put to a vote of the Chapter of the Religious Sisters. This Chapter, presided by Father d’Alzon himself, accepted the work of Father Picard ad experimentum until the next General Chapter. After the vote, the delegates asked Father d’Alzon to appoint Father Picard as Delegate.

The duties of this director or delegate shall be first and foremost to direct and help the central government of the Congregation by assisting it with the knowledge that priests possess but that women do not have.

Father Picard had powers that were “very extensive in order to maintain the spirit of the Institute.” He made canonical visitations, attended certain meetings of the General Council, and had veto power over questions involving new foundations, contracting debts, and mortgaging houses. In particular, he had to keep an eye on the novitiate and the Motherhouse. The Sisters could have recourse to him “as to a Father” and a friend of the Institute. He gave instructions and offered advice. His right of oversight extended to nearly everything: boarding schools, the level of studies, finances, and relations of the Sisters with Superiors and confessors. Concerning things that needed to be changed, as noted in the reports he drew up after a visitation, he was to reach an agreement with the Superior General of the Sisters toward whom he had an important role of support, advice and encouragement.

When Father d’Alzon, on his return to Nîmes, received the Minutes of the Chapter, he was very surprised.525 The Minutes, which were a summary of the text which had been voted, did not in his eyes express what had been decided but mentioned only the union that existed already, accompanied by a few obligations: to be an “ambassador” to the bishops and to Rome, and to be “your spiritual-affairs agents,” to use his own expressions. Returning home with this document, Father Picard begged Father d’Alzon not to force him to accept the title of Delegate.526

Marie-Eugénie hastened to explain that Father Picard’s document should be appended, that it had been fully accepted, etc. Above all, she insisted on the fact that the text of the Minutes would be more acceptable in Rome.527 From these documents and the exchange of letters, it is difficult to discover the whole truth of the affair. However, one sentence seems to imply that the Sisters feared too much interference and perhaps were afraid of the authority of Father Picard compared to that of Father d’Alzon:

We do not have the least difficulty accepting the primary authority which, in a paragraph of this work, is vested in the (male) Superior General.

Of late, I think I have found the formula which fits the situation, viz., that neither the (male) Superior General nor his delegate will exercise ordinary jurisdiction, but will leave it to the women Superiors. The men will have a sort of higher jurisdiction.528

The role of Father Picard in this affair was not clear either. Marie-Eugénie protested that it was he who did not want his document to be put as an appendix, claiming that he had to make some corrections. Then he asked Father d’Alzon not to oblige him to accept the title of Delegate. Would he have felt some opposition toward him? Something displeased him, which came out in 1879 in a conversation between Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel and Father Pernet who stated that Father Picard had never even accepted to be Delegate for the Religious!529 But in 1876, the Religious were totally in the dark about this. And in 1886, Father Picard admitted himself that he had suffered “these last ten years”—since 1876—from a lack of trust on the part of the Religious.530

In any case, Sisters and Fathers began to live this new relationship under the Delegate or “Director” or Visitor, whom they thought was Father Picard. In fact, the scene had been set for many misunderstandings and problems because Father Picard’s document was just as complex on the subject of authority as he was himself. At the same time, the role of the confessors, priests and directors became muddled. In their various letters, it is difficult to understand clearly what was going on, despite the fact that, at the beginning, everybody thought they agreed on the rules of the game. Since there is no reference document and since no changes were ever made in the Rule of the Religious of the Assumption, even this agreement is not certain.531

It must also be remembered that the Sisters had been accustomed to a different regime for a long time! They had known only one major superior for over thirty-five years. The local superiors lived fairly independently under her sole control, which was broad and maternal. Above all, the Sisters were not accustomed to having several authorities and to distinguishing between their roles and areas of responsibility. Apparently, neither were the Fathers. (Father Picard allowed himself to be the confessor and director of certain Sisters, among them Mother Marie-Eugénie and Mother Marie of Christ, and at the same time the Visitor/Delegate.) Difficulties were quick in coming.

The authority of Father d’Alzon had been simple and straightforward, and he had had a very clear relationship with Mother Marie-Eugénie and the Sisters for a long time. But Father Picard was a very different person. Father d’Alzon had experienced this for himself and described his sorrow to Marie-Eugénie in October 1876:

... Father Picard and his despotism. You don’t want to be subjected to it and forced to go here or there. The men religious here are no longer disposed to accept him as an infallible oracle. I think this is most unfortunate. But also, why could he not be more flexible, and why must he be so categorical? You must go along with his way of thinking, otherwise he will submit his resignation which, he knows very well, I cannot accept at the present time. I put up with his demands, but in conscience I must remember them.532

But Father Picard had been the confessor of Marie-Eugénie since 1857. She must have known him and his authoritarian ways very well. But she liked him very much and held him in esteem. She always managed to dialogue and to resolve the misunderstandings. At least, that is the impression we get of the relations between them at this period. It is less certain that things were sorted out as easily from the point-of-view of the Sisters in the communities. Documents are lacking. But with the passing of years, there were many complaints from Father Picard about the attitude of the Sisters towards certain fathers. We can only suspect that there was a big gap between what the Sisters thought and said about the authority of the Fathers and the experience of Marie-Eugénie. Regardless, things developed into a crisis. There was a misunderstanding.

Nîmes and Paris

In 1879, the Religious of the Assumption had eighteen houses, but there were only a few Assumptionists.533 The difficulties between the two Congregations were centered in Nîmes with Father d’Alzon and his community and in Paris with Father Picard and his brothers. Hundreds of Sisters were not involved in what was happening, apparently unaware of the disagreements and complaints of both sides.

In a monograph, Father Wilfrid Dufault describes the history known as “The Priory Affair” and tries to untangle its threads. Mother Marie-Gabrielle534 was the Superior in Nîmes from 1866 to 1879.535 Of Irish origin in a community of sisters mostly from Nîmes itself, she replaced Mother Fran9oise Eugénie who was transferred to Paris as second Assistant to Mother Marie-Eugénie. In the beginning, everything went well. The Superior was good and capable, and was liked by children and parents. Father d’Alzon had nothing but praises for her.536 (The Statute of Union appears to have changed nothing in the government of the Priory.)

After ten years as Superior, Mother Marie-Gabrielle became a little too good, lacking authority, and Mother Marie-Eugénie wanted to change her.537 Father d’Alzon was against this because of the parents of the pupils, and Mother Marie-Eugénie left her there. A little later, Father d’Alzon faced the facts,538 but now Mother Marie-Eugénie felt obliged to respect the three-year mandate that Mother Gabrielle had just begun.

But then, a crisis which would change everything arose around Sister Marie-Paul and her nephew, an orphan and pupil at the College. Marie-Paul went to visit her nephew who was sick in the infirmary. She had misgivings about the former doctor (before Dr. Correnson) and made an impertinent remark.539 Father Laurent overheard her and repeated the story to Father d’Alzon who, in turn, demanded the departure of Marie-Paul. All of a sudden, Sister Marie-Paul became, in the eyes of Father d’Alzon, the instigator of criticisms against the College and the source of a thousand other wrongs.540 Mother Marie-Gabrielle found herself caught between the Fathers and the Sister who, she thought, was being treated unjustly.541 She resisted this brutal change. Marie-Eugénie tried to listen to everybody before deciding what to do, but this time Father d’Alzon said that the fathers would not go to the Priory again until Marie-Paul left. “The community did not respect the priests.”

These difficulties now led Father d’Alzon to see what Marie-Eugénie had seen for some time: the lack of order and discipline in the community, the too frequent number times the sisters went out, a religious life without vigor, and—for him—the superabundance of sisters from Nîmes!542 Marie-Eugénie complained that the Superior was not telling her about what was really happening in the house. The weakness of Marie-Gabrielle meant that Mother Marie-Eugénie always had to remove difficult sisters because the Superior did not know how to correct them on the spot.543 Marie-Paul was yet another example, but Marie-Gabrielle did not want to let her go. In the end, Marie-Paul and Mother Marie-Gabrielle both left Nîmes. Marie of Christ was appointed Superior; order and calm returned.

What emerges regarding the government of the Congregation, even before 1876, is confusion over the role of Father d’Alzon. He imagined that the relationship was one of friendship and advice, but in fact he got accustomed to exercising the great power Marie-Eugénie had given him. The Statute of Union of 1876 seems to have changed nothing in their way of doing things. It must be concluded that the relationship between Mother Marie-Eugénie and Father d’Alzon was unique and above all statutes. Neither of them seems to have thought about the Constitutions, or the structures, or the Statute in their mutual relations and in their government. Father d’Alzon expressed his thoughts and desires, which Mother Marie-Eugénie always took seriously and tried to respect. So she rarely disagreed with his decisions, which were sometimes absolute or rapid. But the decision was always referred to Madame the Superior, as the Assumptionists called her, and they worked together. Father d’Alzon might have insisted, got angry, and displayed his susceptibility, but they dialogued together, and the relationship of friendship, mutual respect, and freedom remained unbroken, even during the Priory Affair.

We must recognize that a situation like that of the Priory seems to have been calculated to create problems: approximately one hundred people living in a closed world due to the religious enclosure, and in a Provincial town where many of the families and friends of the Sisters lived. The Fathers were the confessors, teachers, col leagues, and spiritual directors of the Religious. It is easy to imagine the confidences and the complaints, the affections and the antipathies, as well as the power-plays between the internal and external authorities. The Sisters reacted, rejected certain confessors,544 and refused the authority when they judged it unjust or excessive. All this was all talked about during recreations.

In fact, the “Priory Affair” was not so much a single affair as a series of affairs, which were not all centered on the Priory. In turn, they involved the Religious, the Fathers, and the two schools, as well as, at times, Mother Emmanuel-Marie and her Sisters. In reading the correspondence between Mother Marie-Gabrielle and Mother Marie-Eugénie, one gets the impression that the refined Catholic world of Nîmes was watching and talking about the Assumption! Even the Bishop.545

Apart from his unique relationship with Marie-Eugénie, there was an evolution in the thought of Father d’Alzon on the question of government. In conversations and exchanges of letters with various people, Father d’Alzon had a feeling that would not go away. It was an uneasiness about Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel. For him, she was the bete-noir. He did not like her spirituality and her way of forming the novices.546 He believed that she was working against him. In 1866, this feeling was clearly expressed in a letter to Father Picard:

... Except for the Superior General, I am less interested in the Congregation of her daughters. When I try to analyze my feeling, I attribute it to the manner in which, I believe, my way of seeing things and that of Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel are opposed to each other. Maybe I am wrong, but I no longer feel at ease in the Congregation, except with the Superior General, Sister Marie-Gonzae, and the Superior of Nîmes in whom I have the greatest confidence.547

This malaise only got worse.548

It is true that these two had very different temperaments, spiritualities, and visions of Religious Life. It is equally true that Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel saw no reason why the Religious of the Assumption should be incapable of governing themselves. Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel was a Councilor, an Assistant to Mother Marie-Eugénie; she understood the Constitutions and the Statute of Union. It is very likely that she did not let herself be led by external views and pressures and that she kept an eye on the limits of everyone’s power. Her opinions show that she was informed and objective.

There are no criticisms of Father d’Alzon, either of his person or his spirituality, in the letters of Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel. What one does find is a strong defender of the authority of Mother Marie-Eugénie. Perhaps Father felt a certain resistance on the part of the Sisters to his authority and to that of the Fathers. In any case, if the Sisters talked about this in their communities, they left no traces of it in their letters.

Finally, the exchanges of letters that took place in 1879 between the members of the General Council of the Foundress549 enable us to understand that there was in Paris a great misunderstanding about the authority of the Fathers. If we can trust what Father Pernet said, Father Picard accepted without objections to deal with the Religious according to their understanding of the Delegate, all the while interiorly refusing the title. The Assumptionists had wanted the Statute of Union with the Religious because of their “work among the upper classes” and their influence “in a world which could be of great help to our works.” They had profited greatly from it. Now, they were expecting a great number of novices, but they were very few in Paris. Perhaps they had to measure their strength against the cost of helping the Religious. Or perhaps they were thinking that the differences of orientation between the two Congregations must be brought to an end. Whatever the case, the Statute of Union, which left the ordinary jurisdiction to the Superior General of the Sisters, was no longer satisfactory. Some Assumptionists now seemed to want to govern the Congregation of the Religious of the Assumption, or nothing at all. The pressure they brought to bear in this sense raised questions.

On May 11, 1879, Father d’Alzon wrote a letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie (who happened to be in Nîmes) in reply to the Sisters who were asking for details on the relationship between the two Congregations.550 This letter proposed going back to the relationship of advice and friendship as before because “ ... I thought that a Superior should govern. At the time, you seemed to be adopting the modern formula that the king rules but does not govern ...” In conversation, Marie-Eugénie pointed out that the Jesuits, the Dominicans, the Redemptorists, and the Capuchins were content to care for religious sisters without governing them, but for Father d’Alzon this formula was a waste of time.

The following day, he explained to Father Vincent de Paul:

... I say that we must either govern or not govern at all. However, at the present time, it is impossible for us to govern the Ladies, and it is too late to force them into it. As for direction, it can be effective only to the extent that we are perceived as not holding on to it, and the proof of that is the great fear of the Superior that one day there will be a separation ... But my conviction is that this indifference is the only thing that will convince the Council.551

To govern without seeming to do so.

From Paris, Father Vincent de Paul Bailly and Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel each wrote to their respective superiors about the conversations with Father Pernet. Father Pernet stated that the seed comes from the father, that the Religious need the Fathers in order to keep the spirit of the Assumption, that they ought to be governed by them, etc.552 On May 3, 1879, Father Pernet insisted that “the Delegate should be able to go into the houses with authority ... you have restrained his [Father Picard’s] powers. You have not wanted a Presbyter, someone placed above you all ... The Priest is above the Superior General ... The Delegate should be at the head of everything.” Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel gave the impression of being surprised and dismayed by these remarks. Perhaps Father Vincent de Paul was also. However, Father d’Alzon agreed with this doctrine and showed the letter of Father Vincent de Paul to Mother Marie-Eugénie who was “distraught” by it.553 By what? At any rate, “the conversation with Father Pernet displeased her [Marie-Eugénie].”554

At the end of the month, Father d’Alzon wrote to Father Vincent de Paul:

Father Picard is pushing to have authority. I fear that he may be taking a bad course. With women, one must make oneself wanted. That is essential if you want to lead them. I will not make a big issue of Father Picard’s ideas. If he wants to be the Delegate, I shall let him be, but I shall never push for our governing the Sisters. It would weaken us too much. We must keep all our strength for ourselves.555

In summary, three years after the Statute of Union, it was impossible to disentangle, even theoretically, the rights and limitations of the jurisdiction of the Assumptionists vis-a-vis the Religious and their monasteries. What Father d’Alzon said seemed to change from one situation to the next. Marie-Eugénie, for her part, wanted to assure a union with the Assumptionists, but she stepped back from being governed by them. She was ready to cede much to Father d’Alzon and, concretely, to Father Picard, but not on matters of principle. This way of acting must surely have confused the Sisters. In fact, the Fathers interfered in the life of the Sisters and in the boarding schools according to their understanding of the Union and their individual personalities. There were some who thought they were responsible for the spirit of the Assumption among the Religious. The General Council of the Religious continued to play its role, sometimes giving in, sometimes resisting. On the whole, the Religious could not adapt themselves to this new regime about which no one was clear. And “it was too late to force them into it.”

In addition, Father d’Alzon had his own Sisters, the Oblates, whom he had to care for. Over them, his authority was simple and complete. Basically, he seemed to attend to Mother Emmanuel-Marie but kept a greater distance with regard to the other Sisters. Nevertheless, history had created multiple connections between the Fathers and the Religious which, for him, became more and more complex.

So, in 1879, we find this situation: the Religious were pushing for independence from the Fathers, while the (some) Assumptionists wanted to govern rather than direct the Religious. Mother Marie-Eugénie in no way wanted a separation from the Fathers and showed herself ready to yield in many ways so as to keep strong links.556 Father d’Alzon wanted to govern without appearing to do so!

Relations got worse. Marie-Eugénie and Emmanuel d’Alzon never ceased to engage in dialogue. What was astonishing was that at the following General Chapter in 1882, the Religious neither evaluated nor stopped the experience! This had been foreseen by the Chapter of 1876. There is no trace of an evaluation or of a conversation about this matter. We must remember that in 1882 Father d’Alzon was no longer there and that it was the period of the expulsions of the Assumptionists. They might have thought it insensitive to talk about relationships of government under such circumstances. Perhaps Marie-Eugdnie feared a clarification, she who was always for a union—her way.

This Internal Crisis

In September 1877, we find this astonishing statement from Father d’Alzon addressed to Father Picard: “She [Sister Charlotte] has learned that they want to prepare Sister Marie of Christ as Superior General, and she is plotting against her.”557 This idea or intention to prepare the succession appears nowhere else but will crop up in 1 885 at the time of the Special Chapter of 1 886.

Marie of Christ, Esther de Mauvise, had been elected General Councilor in 1876 at the age of thirty-one. She was then Superior at Montpellier. In November 1879, she replaced Mother Marie-Gabrielle in Nîmes and restored discipline in the community.558 At the same time, she knew how to stand up to Father d’Alzon by defending the freedom of Mother Marie-Eugénie and the Sisters.559 Father d’Alzon respected her, feared her somewhat, and held her in high esteem. She was the spiritual daughter of Father Picard.

At the Chapter of 1882, Mother Marie of Christ was re-elected General Councilor. This young Superior had always shown herself faithful to the Congregation, to its spirit, and to the Superior General. While still very young, she had been given important responsibilities and Marie-Eugénie had complete confidence in her. The letters of Marie-Eugénie up to 1885 reflect nothing but this trust and a certain concern for the health of her Councilor which was always delicate.

In Council, Marie of Christ was told about the financial situation of the nephews of Marie-Eugénie and was scandalized by the help authorized by the Council.560 All this began to raise questions. In November 1884, after accusations from Mother Marie of Christ and reprimands from Father Picard, Mother Marie-Eugénie refused to treat these matters personally. At the time of the Chapter of 1886, Emmanuel was on the brink of ruin. The Chapter, under the Presidency of Bishop d’Hulst, set up a financial commission, in which Mother Marie-Eugénie had no part, to study and settle the question. Mother Marie-Eugénie asked for nothing better, but the situation was sad and humiliating for her. This came out later in letters to Father Picard and in a confrontation with Mother Marie-Eugénie. Also, Mother Marie of Christ had already had problems with Guitta, Marie-Eugénie’s niece, at the boarding school in Nîmes. And when she went to Paris, she saw how annoying was the presence of Marie-Eugénie’s nephews at Auteuil. We do not know if she had ever talked about these problems with the Superior General before the big crisis.

In the correspondence found in the archives in Auteuil, there is a letter that recounts a difficult moment in her relationship with Mother Marie-Eugénie. Marie of Christ took offense and seemed to have been ill at ease in her relationship with the Foundress. In a private conversation with the latter, she complained that Mother Marie-Eugénie did not trust her. Our documents tell us no more than that, but later letters suggest that the subject was money and the family of Marie-Eugénie. Once this difficulty was overcome, Marie of Christ increased her signs of affection in her letters to Marie-Eugénie: “This trust [in you], dear Mother, has remained so intact in me that to see you doubting it, has broken my heart perhaps more than you think. I have really and truly kept you in my heart.”561

However, the Archives of the Assumptionists reveal another point-of-view. Mother Marie of Christ wrote to Father Picard562 that her character had suddenly changed because of a difficulty with “Our Mother.” This letter is undated, but to judge by an event it recounts, we can presume that it is from 1883.563 In any case, a number of letters sent from Nîmes betray a sort of double-dealing vis-a-vis Marie-Eugénie and a passion for Father Picard and the Fathers:

I carry something in my heart that nothing will ever extinguish. I know that I owe no one in this world as much as I do to you. I also know that I want to act on my own and that you are not responsible for anything that upsets me ... What does not change and will never change is the unique confidence, affection and devotion that I have for you, without the shadow of a doubt.564

In September 1883, a critical letter about Mother Marie-Eugénie and Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel concluded in this way: “Basically, Father, they need to go away and rest, and a Mistress of Novices and a Superior should be appointed in Auteuil.”565

Nothing of this about-face appears in the correspondence between Mother Marie-Eugénie and the Sisters, or in that with Father Picard, which lets us suppose that nothing changed on the surface. We find nothing either in the archives of the Religious about the opposition of Mother Marie of Christ to the Superior General before 1885. However, the letters of Marie of Christ to Father Picard reveal a feeling which became a sort of aversion to and repudiation of her Congregation. She had declared her total devotion to the Assumptionists, to “all of you,” ever since she entered the convent. It was almost the beginning of her vocation.

Throughout this entire period, there were painful situations. The principal actors in Paris were Fathers Picard and Jean Lehec,566 and the two General Councilors, Sisters Marie of Christ and Seraphine. Jean Lehec was in charge of the pupils, the Ladies, and the Sisters in various areas. Intelligent and gifted, he acquired a lot of influence in the little world of the Assumption. From his correspondence with Father Picard, it seems that he considered himself the delegate of Father Picard for the Sisters, who had a lot of confidence in him. Mother Marie-Seraphine was very attached to him and some Sisters allowed themselves to be led by him.567 In 1885, the trio, Jean Lehec, Marie of Christ and Mother Marie-Seraphine, were joined by Sister Hélène de Castex and a few young Sisters in their opposition to the government of Mother Marie-Eugénie.568

Father Picard, friend and confessor of Mother Marie-Eugénie for almost thirty years, was also the confessor and director of Mother Marie of Christ. And of how many other sisters? His role with respect to Mother Marie-Eugénie was complex. Marie-Eugénie accorded him the same confidence, the same attachment, the same friendship and fidelity that she had given to Father d’Alzon. He was a support whom she seemed to need and who was completely devoted to her and to her Congregation. At one moment, he wa* blamed for taking more interest in the affairs of the Religious than of his own Congregation. The need of the Mother General to have the approval of her confessor could be a burden for the Father, so too her “impressionability.” From 1885, he supported her, but blamed her ceaselessly. Though he replied with great restraint to the flow of letters of Marie of Christ which reveal a sick mind, he seemed to believe what she reported about Marie-Eugénie, the Mothers, life at Auteuil, what was said against the Fathers, and above all her judgments on the quality of life of the Sisters. However, it seems clear that there was a serious distortion between what Mother Marie of Christ “understood” and reality. Mother Marie-Eugénie could not speak in the terms of modern psychology, but she was aware of the role played by Marie of Christ’s imagination, and she resented her opposition.569

It was above all to Father Jean, who left the Assumptionists in 1888570 after causing them as many problems as he had caused the Religious, that the “Mothers” attributed the division among the Sisters, for and against the Fathers. He allowed himself to write brazen letters to the Foundress and understood Canon Law in a way all his own.571

Father Pernet, in discussions with the Mothers in 1879, expressed the conviction that the priesthood confers something essential and superior to anything a sister can possess in terms of government. This exalted idea of the priesthood which makes men superior to others, especially to women, explains much of the attitude and behavior of the Fathers. On the one hand, they could claim particular rights with regard to the Sisters; on the other hand, they in terpreted reactions and divergent views as a lack of respect for the priest.

We believe that this way of looking at things was not altogether shared by Father Vincent de Paul Bailly who kept himself more at a distance from all these affairs.572 But these ideas were undoubtedly shared by Picard and the young religious, above all by Father Jean in Paris and Father Alexis573 in Nîmes. They gave hardly any thought to the fact that Rome was strongly advising against the government of women by men of the same religious family. They did not seem to be well-informed about the Church’s practice regarding men and women religious of a same spiritual family. They invoked instead an interpretation of the role of the priest as found in the Rule of Saint Augustine.

Two ideas were gaining ground in the minds of the sisters: the members “of the opposition” thought that Marie-Eugénie was no longer capable of directing the Congregation, and rumor had it that they wanted to put Marie-Seraphine in her place.574 They thought that formation was not what it should be and that the “Mothers,” the older sisters who surrounded Marie-Eugénie, were protecting her from the reality of the situation.575 According to Marie of Christ, Marie-Seraphine, the Mistress of Novices, could do nothing with the young sisters because of the presence at Auteuil of Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel. At Auteuil, the Sisters were becoming aware that there was a conflict.

The truth escapes us. Surely, Mother Marie-Eugénie and Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel were no longer “with it.” Marie-Eugénie certainly no longer had the energy of her younger years. In her Instructions to the Superiors, one senses that she was thinking of the future and taking a conservative stance, which is typical of someone at “the end of her career.” In addition, she was distracted from her everyday responsibilities by dramas like the difficulties with the Assumptionists and the Priory, and the trials with her family. (We will see further on that she had a heart-attack during the Nativity Affair.) The Archives of the Religious of the Assumption do not provide us with anything that allows us to conclude that the direction of the Congregation was beyond her or that the Sisters wanted a change of government. If there had been general discontent, the Congregation would not have survived another ten years under the authority of the Foundress, as it did in fact. If some Sisters were waiting for changes, they had the faith to wait for the hour of God.

Marie of Christ and Marie-Seraphine seem to have felt misunderstood and persecuted. The great majority of Sisters appear to have been totally in the dark about these misunderstandings. Mother Marie-Seraphine appears to have been a bit innocent and manipulated. She complained of her wounds after the Chapter of 1886. In June 1885, Mother Marie of Christ submitted her resignation576 as General Councilor for personal reasons. This was the beginning of the big drama which led to the need for a special Chapter.

The Nativity Affair

The breaking-point came with the Nativity affair, so called from the name of the Superior of Cannes, Marie of the Nativity (Florence Dillon). This Sister, who fell in love with a young Armenian woman, was shaken in her religious vocation. At first, Mother Marie-Eugénie called on Father Picard, the spiritual father of Mother Marie of the Nativity, and on Mothers Marie of Christ and Marie-Séraphine who helped her as best they could. “Nothing unites people as much as a common anguish,” wrote Marie-Eugénie.577

But everything ended badly when Father Picard decreed that the letters of the young woman should not be given to Mother Marie of the Nativity and when, pressured by this Sister, Mother Louise-Eugénie gave her the packet of letters after seeking the advice of Bishop Gay.




Father Picard saw this as an act of disobedience and as a lack of respect for the authority of the priest. Since Mother Louise-Eugénie was Superior of the Little Convent of Auteuil, he put the chapel under interdict! The Archbishop of Paris and the Ecclesiastical Superior578 did not agree with him, but Father Picard did not give in. Mother Louise insisted on the fact that she had no intention of disobeying and saw no reason for asking to be forgiven a fault she did not recognize. Her community, knowing nothing about what had happened and about the interdict, simply went to the Monastery of Auteuil next door for their daily Eucharist. Even after Mother Louise and Father had explained the situation to each other, there was no reconciliation. Father Picard always refused to go to Auteuil unless Mother Louise were sent elsewhere.579 With hindsight, we can understand that this was not the real cause of the rupture, but the climax of all of Father Picard’s complaints and hurts.580

What were the complaints?

Father Picard relayed to Marie-Eugénie what had been reported to him about what the Sisters were saying in community and about what she had said to undermine respect for the Fathers. According to the letters, Father Picard did not mention money matters to Marie-Eugénie until much later, even though they figured prominently in his correspondence with Marie of Christ. The same applies to the question of her family at Auteuil. But, since they saw each other frequently, it is highly possible that these matters were dealt with face to face.

As for the Fathers, the criticism that the spirit of the Assumption was being lost was often raised but without concrete explanations. What that meant was summed up in a letter written at the beginning of 1886 to Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel, who had questioned Father Picard about his dissatisfaction:

I feel torn to pieces everywhere in your Congregation, and I think the time has come for me to retire.

Minds are divided. (Example: the history of the letters returned to Marie of the Nativity).

This accidental disagreement reflects a painful state of affairs. Some set themselves up as judges regarding questions of confession and direction, others criticize and mock. And in the end, we get to the point where we do not understand one another as we did in the past. Fear of offending God which overlooks what people will say; zeal for souls which entails sacrifice-of-self and of earthly interests; goodness of heart which rejoices in the good accomplished by others and excludes the petty preoccupations of jealousy; ardent love of the cause of God and of his Church which sacrifices the creature and manifests itself in an absolute disinterestedness in the work one is doing; and frankness in pursuing and affirming the truth. These are all things we love according to the spirit of the Assumption and which, in my opinion, are no longer a priority for the Sisters.’’581

We can well imagine the effect of this on Mother Thérèse Emmanuel, who tried in vain to defend the Sisters and the Congregation by reminding Father of the favorable report he had made on the communities and of the collaboration of the Sisters in their apostolates.582

Finally, Mother Marie-Eugénie faced the facts. On the advice of Bishop d’Hulst, the Ecclesiastical Superior in Paris, she decided to convoke a special General Chapter, two years before the normal date, to settle once and for all the question of the authority of the Fathers. This was set for August 1886. At the Chapter, seven Sisters out of forty-four indicated their preference for the government by the Fathers.583 The Statute of Union of 1876 was annulled upon the adoption of a new plan of government for the Constitutions.584

In brief, we cannot claim to have access to the whole truth about this situation because of the absence of less-involved and less-passionate observers, and because of the nature of some of the documents—so many letters—and the absence of others. But we can note, I believe, that the Statute of Union with the Assumptionists was the greatest mistake of the long generalate of Mother Marie-Eugénie. It was an illusion to think that the Sisters, who had known no other authority than that of the Superior General and who deeply loved her as well as their own freedom, could put up with the “interference” of young priests who had very little experience585 like Fathers Jean and Alexis,586 to say nothing of the vision and style of government of a man like Father Picard. Nor could they accept to see their “Mother” called into question.

Basically, Marie-Eugénie loved the Congregation of the Fathers as part of “our dual Congregation;”587 their destinies were linked by history and in her heart. She was at its complete disposal and gave it her money and even her reputation. She could see and judge situations objectively enough, but her heart prompted her to follow the path of affection and fidelity. Her life was intertwined with two Assumptions as well as with her family. All this was expressed in her opening address to the Special Chapter of 1886. After ten years of quarrels, the question of Union with the Fathers was finally going to be resolved. Before the work began, she exonerated everybody.588 She never basically stopped trusting Father Picard, even after the decision against the Union in matters of government. It was even possible that she feared for the future, after she was gone.

But not all the Sisters shared her idea, nor followed it. Their experience and their interests, with few exceptions, went in another direction. Every encroachment on the freedom of the Sisters or of the Superior General was badly received. Marie-Eugénie, having been Superior for more than forty years, suffered certainly from short-sightedness and from the “infallibility”589 which nearly always accompanies long mandates. But the Sisters, “the Mothers” who should have been able to help her see things in a different light or to renew herself, through veneration for her holiness and attachment to her goodness, saw no more clearly than she did.

In fact, she complained little, and she defended herself objectively with the facts, but not without being troubled by them. From time to time, she tried to clarify things with her friends among the Sisters. It is there that we can sense some of her suffering.

In her papers, we find a note (for herself) which expresses her complaints. It was surely written in 1886 and refers to the Assumptionists:

  • Perpetual collections and sales [to support the works of the Fathers],
  • Absolutism in spiritual relationships, no compromises possible regarding the welfare of the children,
  • Filling minds with ideas which make them blame and turn away from their legitimate Superiors,
  • Attaching them to the works of the Fathers and detaching them from us,
  • Non-encouragement of vocations for us.590

Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel found it annoying that among the Fathers the criterion for appointing our Superiors should be their degree of union with them; that they found discontented sisters in the communities, as there are everywhere, and set them against their Superiors; and that Father Picard placed too much confidence in the young priests.591

At the time of the Special Chapter of 1886, Bishop d’Hulst had a private conversation with each capitulant. The Chapter confirmed the government of the Foundress, but she came out of it with a broken heart. Father Picard refused to return to Auteuil. The letters of Mother Marie-Eugénie begging him to return are sad. But Father was hurt. He felt that some of the Sisters had refused his authority; his interpretation of the role of the priest had not been upheld; and Mother Louise-Eugénie remained in Paris. Father Picard needed time before he could accept to go back. But he continued to be the confessor of Mother Marie-Eugénie. However, she was the one who went to see him. The help given by the Assumptionists to the Religious did not stop either, nor did that of the Sisters to the Assumptionists. Later on, Father Picard was at the bedside of Mother Marie-Eugénie to prepare her for death.

On March 12, 1898, he wrote to his brothers:

I recommend to your prayers, in a very special way, Madame Marie-Lugdnie of Jesus, the Superior General and Foundress of the Ladies of the Assumption.

Her life was intimately linked to that of our Founder, Father d’Alzon, and to the beginning of all our works. She loved our Assumption almost as ardently as her own, until the time when, after their foundation, both congregations were able to do the good Our Lord expected of each. For over forty years, I have been her confessor. Until the very end, her soul, so dear to Father d’Alzon, remained the object of my prayers and my solicitude. So I ask that, in each of our houses, the prayers which we customarily say at the death of one of our religious be said for her.

There is not a single work undertaken in our congregation until 1886 in which she did not participate, and to which she did not devote herself ... Our two congregations were united by the most intimate bonds, and the day I was called to give the Last Sacraments to this faithful handmaid of the Lord, it seemed to me that one of the earliest witnesses of our foundation was leaving us and was going to join our Founder.

The Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption weep for the most tender of Superiors and the most enlightened of guides. Our tears are mixed with theirs. We suffer with them and we pray for her who was the mother of so many of our works and of so many vocations.

This last testimony says as much about Father Picard as it does about “Our Mother Foundress.”

Sister Clare-Teresa Tjader
Religious of the Assumption

1001 South 47th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Appendices: Regarding the Special Chapter of 1886

N. 11705 – Auteuil, June 5, 1886

From Mother Marie-Eugénie to Mother Marie-Marguerite, Superior in London

I am very happy at the thought of seeing you all, my dear Mothers. I know what that will mean to Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel and me. After seeing you, no one will be able to think that we are taking a long time to give our place to others. However, you must also come with conciliatory ideas regarding our relations with the Assumptionists. Right now, I am getting on very well with Father Picard, and I wish you could help me change his idea about withdrawing his religious. This is more my opinion than that of Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel.

N. 11713 – Very confidential

From Mother Marie-Eugénie to a Superior

My dear Mother,

Father Picard is leaving and withdrawing his religious. He told me that one of the things he cannot accept at all is the antagonism that has been developing between him and me. I am writing to tell you what I told him: that I did not accept it either and that I would say so to the Mothers. I am telling you this right away, my dear Mother. No matter what happens, I will always remain devoted and attached to Father Picard who has always given me good advice and helped me throughout so many years in the work of the Good Lord. I cannot accept that, out of affection for me, the sisters would oppose him, no more than he himself would accept that, out of deference to him, they would oppose me. The circumstances are serious. Pray. Come with the desire to give glory to God in our Congregation. Very truly yours in Our Lord,

Sister Marie-Eugénie of Jesus

N. 11714-July 19, 1886

From Mother Marie-Eugénie to Mother Marie-Marguerite, Superior in London

More or less the same thoughts on the subject of the antagonism: “Father has always given mc good advice, I have affection and respect for him. He has helped me in many things, and I cannot accept anything that would establish the need to oppose one side in order to be loyal to the other. Before God, you must seek the good of the Congregation Wc must seek it together without human considerations. I hope God will bless us  ...”

From the Acts of the extraordinary General Chapter of 1886

Preparatory Session of August 4, 1886:

The Superior General distributed to the Chapter Members the Proposal on Government, asking that it be put into effect as soon as it is approved by the Chapter.

N.B. This proposal had been worked on since 1866 (approval of the Institute) and in the General Chapter of 1876 with all of its consequences  ...

Session of August 5, 1886

The President declared the Chapter officially open. He added that, having been invited to hear in private the opinion of the Capitulants on certain questions, he postponed to the following session the examination of the rules on government and all the other matters to be dealt with.

There follows a blank page for the 6th (Friday) and the 7th (Saturday). We can suppose that the individual encounters with Bishop d’Hulst took place on those days.

Session of August 8, 1886 (Sunday)

The President recalled that in a previous session the credentials of the Capitulants had been checked and accepted. He then submitted the questions that would be examined in the Chapter.

1.  The Proposal on Government. The President noted that the large number of representatives from all the houses of the Congregation in so many diverse countries seemed to indicate that the time had come to present to Rome a Project on Government in conformity with the animadversiones of 1867 and to ask for the approval of the Rules.

2.  The appointment of a finance commission, which the Chapter will empower to render an account of all temporal matters and to approve its management.

3.  The appointment of assistants or councilors that might seem necessary.

The President then asked one of the councilors to read aloud the Proposal on Government given to the Capitulants.

The reader paused after each article and the President reminded the Capitulants that they must, in total freedom, make all the remarks they judged appropriate regarding the plan that was just read to them. He indicated the articles in which the new draft differed from the old one, and he submitted them to the Chapter for approval.

1.  The animadversiones indicated that after the death of the Superior General who was appointed for life because she was the Foundress, future Superiors General will be elected for a period of 12 years and cannot be re-elected, either one or more times, except with the approval of the Holy See. The President declared that he believed this span of time was advisable and asked if there were any opposing opinions on this issue. There were none.

2.  Until now, the Council had been composed of only 1 Assistant General and 3 Councilors. The President pointed out that if one of the Councilors has been considered as a second Assistant General, the Minutes of the elections at the last Chapter made no mention of this. The new proposal requires 4 Councilors elected by the Chapter, plus an Assistant General designated by the Superior General and agreed upon by the Chapter in a vote taken with white and black voting-balls. The President asked if this point of the Constitutions was accepted. It won almost unanimous acceptance.

3.  In conformity with the animadversiones, the President asked that the entire General Chapter, composed of all the Superiors and of a delegate from each community, meet every six years and that the Bursar General and the Mistresses of Novices be included. This was unanimously accepted.

4.  The President thought it advisable to specify the composition of an interim Chapter which the Superior General, with the consent of her Council, may call at six-year intervals. This Chapter would be made up only of the General Council, the former Superiors General, all the Superiors of the Congregation, the Bursar General, and the Mistresses of Novices. Individual Superiors who would ask to be dispensed because of distance could be excused with the consent of the Council. This article was adopted.

5.  When the Superior General has herself replaced by a Visitor, she is asked to choose her from among the members of the interim Chapter, or, if this is not possible, to designate, with the consent of her Council, an experienced professed Sister. Adopted.

6.  The President noted the accuracy of the article that taxes the houses 20% of their revenues to help the Motherhouse with its many undertakings. Both charity and justice are maintained because a house that cannot afford this expense may have it canceled by requesting a subsidy.

After the reading of the Proposal on Government, the Chapter proceeded with the election of the members of the Finance Commission by secret ballot. Elected were: Mother Marie-Catherine, Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel, and Mother Marie-Marguerite.

The Superior General then asked the President to propose to the Chapter the election of a fourth Councilor in accord with the decision taken during the discussion on the Proposal on Government. After consenting to his proposal, the members of the Chapter proceeded to elect a fourth Councilor by secret ballot. Mother Marie-Catherine was declared the elected Councilor.

The Superior General explained that she, as well as her Assistant General, had been sick the past winter and invoked the article in the Rule that had just been adopted to propose to the Chapter a possible Assistant General to replace her or her Assistant General in the event that either one of them would be unable to carry out their duties because of illness. After the President agreed to the proposal, the Superior designated Mother Marie-Marguerite. She abstained from voting. Once all the beans had been placed in a box, Mother Marie-Marguerite was unanimously elected.

Having fully discussed all of the questions, the President suspended the Chapter until August 12 in order to have time to put the Constitutions in conformity with the points he had indicated and which had been adopted.

Session of August 12, 1886 at 2:30 P.M.

The President opened the session saying that a meeting of the Finance Commission had just taken place in his presence. A report was read to him by one of the Commission members in the presence of the Bursar General who provided the documents. The President stated that he made a few comments and that he was given satisfactory answers to his questions. Since the Commission represented the Chapter, it was not necessary to make the report known to the General Assembly. It remained in the Archives of the General Administration. Then the President noted that the time elapsed between the opening of the Chapter and its closing had been well used to determine the terms of the definitive edition of the Constitutions regarding Government. Completing the Constitutions now allowed the Superior General to present a Postulatum to Rome in view of obtaining their approval ad experimentum and, hopefully, their final approval in a few years. There was question of adding a special chapter on relations with the Ordinary, but the Archbishop who was consulted did not think it necessary. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction was sufficiently established in Article I on government, which placed each house under the authority of the Diocesan Bishop, since the rights and powers of the Ordinary are already determined by canon law.

The President asked if any member of the Chapter wished to submit other questions. There being none, he declared the session ended and the Chapter closed.

N. 11712—Undated but probably around August 1886

Letter of Marie-Eugénie to Father Picard

My dear Father,

Bishop d’Hulst wants to see you. Please be good to him. Your return would be a joy for everyone. I don’t understand how he could tell me that there was a 3A majority after telling me that there were only 7 against on a total of 44. And of these 7, were there not Superiors from other houses, and, to my knowledge, 2 who had not spoken to me beforehand and who did not understand since they were incapable of doing so? Did he deduct those who told him they desired the return because I wanted it and because I knew best? That is surely not your thinking. But these numbers are only for you; do not say anything to him. I attach herewith the old rules of government proposed to Rome that I neglected to give him. Please do not forget to give them to him. I would like to see you tonight. Please suggest a time.

With all my affection and a thousand best wishes in Our Lord.

Sister Marie-Eugénie

From Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel to Mother Marie-Eugénie, January 6, 1887 (HS IV4)

... I am telling the Lord about your suffering, my dear Mother, begging him to help you carry and to relieve the pain you feel in your heart as a result of this decision  ...

It is for Him, for the freedom of His Work that you accepted him, and you certainly did everything you could to distance him as well as to improve the situation and maintain peace. But how can one have this peace with someone who does not want to come to an agreement with others, who does not want to give up an iota of his views, despite the advice of those in authority over him and over us and who are capable of judging the situation. When we think about this, we cannot help seeing a divine will that gave you, dear Mother, the freedom to be fully a foundress and to exercise your authority without hindrance ... I hope that Our Lord will allow you to find peace and happiness in the ideas that decided you and convinced you to sacrifice everything for your work—this work that He gave you—namely, the mission of founding and completing the work you began according to the lights and graces of his Spirit. You have worked and fought to keep it on its true path and with its original spirit. God will take this into account and the Congregation will praise you a thousand times for having re-Founded it, so to speak ... The future will bear the fruit of your pain, and we and those who will come after us will harvest in joy what you have sown in tears. The Congregation wishes to receive everything from you. it wants to be your work. This desire is legitimate, and it is a sign of God’s will because it signifies the union of all hearts with the Mother He has given us  ...

The Priory of Nîmes Affair

[Note: Cf. Documentation biographique du Père d’Alzon, vol. II, chap. 30. Touveneraud, Lecture given on July 1, 1979 to the Religious of the Assumption at Auteuil,  Anthologie atzonienne, chap. 47.]

Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet

The facts pertaining to the Priory of Nîmes Affair are mentioned in Father d’Alzon’s correspondence between January and November 1879, sometimes incidentally, sometimes directly. They were the subject of exchanges among several persons:

  • First of all, Father d’Alzon, age 69. He was sick most of the time, certainly diminished, and inclined to exaggerate or paint situations and problems darker than they were in reality. The overall context was gloomy: there was a hostile republican majority in the Senate as of January 5, 1879; MacMahon was replaced by Jules Grevy as president (January 31); and the decrees of Jules Ferry (March 1879) were being put into effect.
  • His direct interlocutor was Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, age 62. She was equally preoccupied by the foreseeable consequences of the republican policies which targeted the teaching-congregations of religious. She was also very affected by the death of Sister Marie-Agnes Devereux, the superior in Malaga who died of poisoning. In April, she began to travel, particularly to Nîmes where she saw the Sisters at the Priory (April) and Father d’Alzon (beginning of May). The two had already seen each other in Paris at the beginning of April.

This crisis began in January, reached its highest point in the spring, and ended shortly thereafter with two decisions: the removal from the community of Sisters Marie-Paul Hummel (from Strasbourg, age 39) and Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy, the former superior (from a Scottish family, age 47), who was replaced by Sister Marie of Christ de Mauvise (from the Poitou Region, age 34).

But this crisis obviously concerned everyone in Nîmes who was involved in one way or another, sisters as well as priests:

– Priests: Father d’Alzon (superior), Father Laurent (ordinary confessor who resigned from his post), Father Dumazer (in Ales, age 35), Father Emmanuel Bailly (director of the College, age 37), Father Marie-Edmond Bouvy (temporary confessor who also asked to be relieved of his duty, teacher, age 32), and Father Justin Grelet (teacher, age 28).

– Sisters at the Priory:592 there were at least 11: the superior, Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy, and the directress of the boarding school, Marie-Paul Hummel. Others are also mentioned in the correspondence: Marie-Thérèse de Rocher (age 41, from Nîmes), Hélène of the Visitation Micheau (age 47), Marie-Henriette Magne (age 37, from Nîmes), Marie-Eulalie Olivier (age 43), Marie-Elisabeth de Balincourt (age 53, from Nîmes), François de Sales Bosc (age 50, from Nîmes), Thérèse of the Conception Bardou (age 40, from Paris), Marie-Ange de Lansade, and Cecile-Elisabeth de Lansade (two sisters from Jonquieres in the Hérault Region)  ... .

To be noted at the outset: the relative youth of many of the people involved and the considerable number of religious from Nîmes.


There were four grievances that Father d’Alzon had to address at the Priory:

The government of the Congregation. Father d’Alzon wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus: “Your constant dissatisfaction discourages rather than encourages the Sisters  ... . Your persistent distrust must not become a stumbling block.”593 As a matter of fact, since 1876, Marie-Eugénie had been thinking of removing Mother Marie-Gabrielle as superior because she was being accused of weakness. Father d’Alzon opposed the move.

The direction of the boarding school in Nîmes. This was about Sister Marie-Paul Hummel who, in Father d’Alzon’s view, embodied all of the shortcomings and abuses of the Priory of Nîmes: bad spirit, spitefulness, out-of-place remarks, gossiping, lack of firmness with the students and parents (leniency in granting permissions and authorizations to leave the property), and allowing formal balls and extravagant dresses.

The internal life of the community of the Religious of the Assumption. “How can a house function with a collection of simpletons and fools?”594 What was missing, according to Father d’Alzon, was a leader capable of governing. According to him, there were many abuses that needed to be corrected: over-use of the parlor, too many visitors, gossiping (cutting remarks) and intrigue, and a domineering attitude on the part of Sister Marie-Paul who, by putting pressure on the Sisters, had a bad influence on them. He also thought that she was critical and worldly, lacked piety, slandered others, was secretive, wrote clandestine letters including an anonymous letter of protest, joked about the preaching, objected to spiritual direction, demonstrated weakness by the concessions she granted families, and was not frank. Father d’Alzon did not directly implicate the Superior, but he blamed her for being under the thumb of Sister Marie-Paul, for supporting her,595 and for not seeing the overall problem behind the personal one. Marie-Eugénie sensed the problem and had been thinking of replacing the Superior since 1876.

The attitude of the Religious of the Assumption toward the Assumptionists. There were inopportune visits by Sister Marie-Paul Hummel to her sick nephew at the College (François Wittman);596 laisser-faire regarding a few favored students who were relatives (among them, a certain Cordelia, a relative of a Religious of the Assumption, Thérèse Wittman, the niece of Sister Marie-Paul, and a Miss Chalmeton); impertinence on the part of Sister Marie-Paul toward Father Laurent; accusations of undermining the work of the Assumptionists;597 and disobedience to directives.598 The lack of consideration on the part of the Sisters toward the priest-chaplains, the spiritual directors or the ecclesiastical superiors seems to have been a constant if we are to believe the list of names Father d’Alzon sent to Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus in August 1878.599

In the end, Father d’Alzon decided to bring his spiritual authority to bear on the community of the Religious of the Assumption by offering his resignation as ecclesiastical superior,600 by withdrawing the Assumptionist confessors and spiritual directors from the Priory, and by replacing them with secular priests (Paradan). However, his intention and the measures he took were not entirely negative: he suggested to Marie-Eugénie a number of transfers of personnel and an internal measure of reform:

“You desired the departure of Sister Marie-Paul? You have fifteen days to give her another appointment.”601

It was decided that Sister Marie-Paul would leave Nîmes during the Easter vacation of 1879. But Father d’Alzon also wanted to go further. He wrote to Marie-Eugénie of Jesus on April 26:

You must profit by this storm to make your sisters understand the need to give all priests the respect that is due them  ... . We have the impression that there is a strong trend among you that is saying to us: if you fall short, others will take your place. However, no one seems to know exactly to whom they would turn, except possibly one or two sisters who would be inclined to look to the Jesuits. This would be completely opposed to your way of thinking, but from heaven you will see that things will turn out this way.

Again, this ties in with the broader question of the spiritual direction of the Religious by the Assumptionists. According to the preferred formula devised by the two heads of the two Congrega tions, it was to be voluntary, not imposed. Not yet settled, however, was the freedom of the Sisters to look for a confessor or a director of their choice.

Outcome of the Crisis

This crisis had multiple repercussions, some foreseen and others unforeseen, in terms of the solutions that were adopted. Not all of them seem to have been successful, though the overall effect was rapidly positive:

In April, Father d’Alzon and Mother Marie-Eugénie consulted each other. It was decided to transfer Sister Marie-Paul to Montpellier, which provoked a few protests on the part of parents and the withdrawal of a few students. Father d’Alzon described the details of the changes that were made in a letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie dated July 17, 1879.602

The community at the Priory, which had too many Sisters from Nîmes, was reorganized. Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel O’Neill, former mistress of novices, was asked to come on a temporary basis and to take charge.603 Father Picard preached a pacifying retreat in November 1879, which was well received.

Sister Franfois de Sales Bosc was transferred.

The religious vocation of Sister Marie-Ange de Lansade seems to have been shaken. Two other temporary (?) departures, probably not connected to the crisis, nevertheless took place at the same time: Sister Cecile-Elisabeth de Lansade (October 1879) and Sister Marie-Véronique Guiraud (Montpellier) left the community.

Sister Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy asked to be transferred, which Father d’Alzon opposed. She was replaced at the beginning of the new school year by Sister Marie of Christ de Mauvise (age 34).

Moreover, Father d’Alzon requested the transfer of Sister Marie-Rose Michel of Nîmes, whose elder brother, in Nîmes, sided with the republicans and whose younger brother, who was half crazy, presided over a civil burial which caused a scandal.

The arrival of Sister Marie-Catherine Doumet (age 27) in Nîmes did not help the boarding school. It was Sister Jeanne-Marie Pérouse, another sister from Nîmes, who in fact reopened the academic year and took charge of the school in 1880.

When classes reopened in the fall, everything seemed to be back to normal: “The Priory is calm,” confided Father d’Alzon to Father Picard in September. In 1880, given the Ferry decrees, the danger lay elsewhere.

Conclusions to be Drawn from the Nîmes Crisis

To be sure, Father d’Alzon let himself be influenced by Father Laurent who was very worked-up against the Priory. Did he not say that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back? It is also true that Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, beginning in 1876, was more perspicacious than Father d’Alzon in her appreciation of Sister Marie-Gabrielle whom Father d’Alzon supported until 1879. His support was the underlying cause of the distortion of attitudes, judgments, and decisions which poisoned the atmosphere.

There was surely a polarization concerning the case of Sister Marie-Paul Hummel. The unwarranted interference of her nephew (François) and of her niece (Thérèse), both students in Nîmes, probably gave rise to accusations of nepotism and preferential treatment. But, in fact, did people not generalize by describing as objectionable conduct what was undoubtedly nothing more than the obvious sign of a superior and influential person? At any rate, the speed with which Father d’Alzon underlined the return to normal justifies that judgment. It was somewhat of a storm in a teacup.

Father d’Alzon’s deep feelings for people deserve consideration and attention: freedom, forgiveness, discretion, friendship, and flexibility. He was not a spiteful person. On occasion, however, he did exhibit a painful pragmatism which was psychologically understandable: “Do not quarrel with anyone and do not get too close to anyone at all.”604 “For my part, I have forgiven a lot of things that I have never spoken about.”605 At the height of the crisis, he wrote to Marie-Eugénie:

I understand that the Nîmes Affair has worn you out and broken your heart. That’s life. As I take more and more refuge in solitude, I see that many things are falling, people included. This makes me suffer. However, we should be saying: only God remains steadfast, and the few friends he allows us to have! You are at the top of the list of those I still have.606

At any rate, we might do well to follow the somewhat macho advice given on May 15, 1879 to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly who probably did not really need that advice:

The best way to deal with women is to make oneself wanted. That has been my big principle. Women want to be sought after. The best way to keep them under control is to leave them alone until they come to you.607

Father Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet
Archivist of the Augustinians
of the Assumption

55, Via San Pio V
00165 Rome

Relations between the Oblates and the other Congregations of the Assumption

Claire De La Croix Rabitz

The Assumptionist General Chapter of 1876

Father Picard submitted a report on the relations between the Assumptionists and the religious communities of women.

This question had already been discussed at the General Chapters of 1868 and 1873: the religious women of the Assumptionist family, namely the Ladies, the Little Sisters, and the Oblates, had to choose between being governed or directed, or being governed and directed by the Assumptionists. The Little Sisters and the Oblates chose to be governed, and the Ladies to be directed.

Here is what Mother Emmanuel Marie Correnson drew up for the Assumptionist General Chapter:

Reverend Father,

We ask that you accept to govern our Congregation and to confirm the delegate whom you have named. We are convinced that, after you, your religious will consider themselves duty bound to maintain the rules and spirit which you have given us.

Sincerely and devotedly yours,

Sister Emmanuel-Marie of the Compassion

September 13, 1876.

Mother Correnson added on this sheet the following note:

This copy is identical to the one we gave the Assumptionists. “You will always be free to change your mind on this?”: words of Father d’Alzon.

Father Picard told me in 1882 that this letter had displeased the Assumptionists. The delegate should normally have been Father Emmanuel Bailly (1842–1917). Since he remained the regular confessor of the Sisters until he left, he therefore did not complete his mandate.

In an appendix to his report, Father Picard described in detail how this government should be carried out on both sides.

The Chapter adopted on a trial basis for six years the draft proposal of a Canonical Directory which laid down the rules and regulations determining the relations between the Assumptionists and the Little Sisters and the Oblate Sisters who were asking to be “governed” and the Ladies of the Assumption who were only asking to be “directed.”

Father d’Alzon stated his opinion orally and in writing on several occasions. He preferred that the Assumptionists direct rather than govern the women’s congregations.

On a trip to Rome in 1877, he discussed this problem with some cardinals, and even wrote to Father Picard:

Father Laurent is recopying for me the decisions of the Chapter, suppressing on my order, what was said about our relations with the women religious. Rome would delete these things in horror, so we might as well delete them ourselves.608

Conflict between Father Picard and Mother Emmanuel Marie Correnson in 1882

In 1882, the six years had elapsed, but Father Picard did not question the relations between the Assumptionists and the Oblates. He continued to govern in his own way.

Father Picard always preferred Paris to Nîmes and tried to interest Father d’Alzon in going to Paris permanently, but without success.

Father Picard wanted to create in Paris a social apostolate which would help him develop a Catholic Press. To achieve this, he asked Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson for a Mistress of Novices to begin a novitiate for the Oblates in Paris. (Letter of April 11,1882)

In a letter dated June 18, 1882, he reiterated his request.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, wanting to be faithful to Father d’Alzon, did not think she could change the place of the novitiate. She answered Father Picard on June 19, 1882:

The novitiate must stay in Nîmes at the Motherhouse where Reverend Father d’Alzon placed it and for which he built a chapel. If it is difficult for you to follow the novices at such a great distance, will not the same problem arise for me? How can I admit a person whom I do not know if, according to our Rule, it is the Mother General who admits to the novitiate and who governs the house with the help of her council, as it is written in our book of government.

Father Picard criticized her for several things, especially for the lack of obedience she owed him,609 but she found his criticisms baseless.

The Constitutions of the Oblates of the Assumption

The texts of 1864, 1867, and 1876

Father d’Alzon wrote the first Constitutions of the Oblates with Mother Marie-Eugénie (1817–98) in 1864, at the time when the Oblates were to be a third category of the Ladies of the Assumption, witness Father d’Alzon’s letter to Father Galabert of December 14, 1864:

It seems to me that we have created a masterpiece by taking from the Rule of the Assumptionists everything that can serve our purposes, and from the Rule of St. Vincent de Paul everything that is suitable for women called to live in the villages or to help in the colleges.

The text written for the Oblates in 1867 was the fruit of exchanges with Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson and resembled almost completely the text of the Assumptionists. The gender of words was changed from the masculine to the feminine, and certain words were replaced by synonyms which were undoubtedly clearer for the Sisters. Omitted were the sections on relations between the regular and secular clergies, which was understandable.

What is noteworthy in the text of 1867 is that only the Superior General of the Assumptionists is mentioned. He is the one who seems to govern the Congregation.

However, the text was changed in 1876 with the help of Father d’Alzon. The words “Superior General” in the masculine form were replaced by Superior General in the feminine form. A few other details were also changed.

Disagreements with Father Picard over the texts

In this disagreement with Father Picard, Mother Lmmanuel-Marie based herself on the Constitutions which Father d’Alzon had written for the Oblates, as can be seen in the letter she sent him on July 14, 1882:

Your letter of last Sunday prompted me to reread the excerpt of your General Chapter. In it, I see three situations which apply to the Assumptionists vis-a-vis the communities of women. They can be asked to direct, to govern, or also to direct and govern. I have spoken about this to my councilors and we believe that we are being faithful to the views and intentions of our good and regretted Father d’Alzon in asking you for “Direction.” We are convinced that no one better than the Assumptionists will be able to preserve the spirit of our founder. I think, dear Father, that this will be the occasion for you to notice that we are progressing in confidence and simplicity.

Since the foundation of the house in Nîmes (1873), and therefore of the Motherhouse, Reverend Father d’Alzon always left full authority to the Superior General of the Sisters, reserving only the spiritual direction to himself. It was he who wrote in the book of our Constitutions the passage I quoted to you the other day: “The power of receiving candidates who present themselves resides with the Superior General of the Sisters, who can delegate this power to the local Superiors. However, the latter shall not receive anyone without having first requested authorization.” ...

Father Picard sent her a copy of the letter she had sent to the General Chapter of 1876, asking to be governed by the Assumptionists.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson responded on August 2, 1882, insisting on “Direction.” She considered the idea of government to be out of the question:

I had not forgotten the letter that you so kindly sent me: I had even reread it after reading the extract from your Chapter. But, let me tell you, dear Father that, a short while after that letter was written, experience quickly demonstrated to Father d’Alzon how much we had been correct in hesitating to do such a thing. Father d’Alzon in a way abrogated this provision by giving up all government during the last four years of his life. Since we were always worried about this document, he calmed our fears by stating that we could always freely come back on it, which the extract from your chapters confirms ... For all that, do not think, Reverend Father, that I do not want the Sisters to get all the help they can from the Assumptionists. On the contrary, I understand the usefulness of it all. But that does not mean that the local sister superior, supported by the ecclesiastical superior, should not come under the authority of her Superior General. Believe me, Father, this is not a personal issue that I am defending. Quite to the contrary: in this case, I would prefer not being a part of it.

Father Emmanuel Bailly’s Position

Father Emmanuel Bailly had always had excellent relations with Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson and the Oblates of the Assumption of whom he was the confessor. Many letters sent to the Foundress testify to the high degree of consideration and affection they had for him. But as soon as disagreements began to surface between Father Picard and Mother Correnson, this friendship was finished. Whenever Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson thought she could find support, she only met with hostility, which she had a hard time understanding. In a letter from Osma, in the fall of 1882, Father Bailly, all the while exaggerating them, unearthed points of disagreement which he thought existed between Father d’Alzon and Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, quoting them out of context: works for the poor, government by the Assumptionists, attitude of Mother Emmanuel-Marie towards the Assumptionists and toward the Sisters ... money given by Father d’Alzon to the Oblates  ...

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson addressed Father Emmanuel Bailly’s allegations point by point in a letter dated November 21, 1882.

Father Emmanuel Bailly would nevertheless have been the normal person to serve as an intermediary, to settle the situation, and to arrive at a compromise in order to avoid a complete break.


Mother Emmanuel-Marie, not wanting to give in on the question of the novitiate in Paris, placed herself de facto in opposition to Father Picard and the Assumptionists.

The vote

Each Oblate in the Near East and in Nîmes was asked to choose between being governed by Father Picard or by Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson.

For a longtime Father Galabert had been quite critical of the Superior General of the Oblates of the Assumption. He expressed his criticisms in numerous letters, either to Father d’Alzon, to Father Picard (July 23, 1882), or to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly (December 14 1880). In a letter to Father d’Alzon in 1876, Father Galabert wrote:

Since the Superior General is now feeling better, I think it might be good for her to take more interest in the Mission and to write or have someone write regularly to Mother Veronica.

The Sisters complain, and for good reason, that they count for nothing in the eyes of their Mother General. They know nothing about what is happening at the Motherhouse; they are not informed of the Investitures, nor of the Professions, nor of the little celebrations that take place now and then. Such communiques would maintain the life of the family and would surely increase the authority of the Mother General who, at this time, is accepted by all of the Sisters in the Mission. A few affectionate letters to the older Sisters would melt all the old prejudices. To achieve this, it would be necessary for the community of Nîmes to write only once a month to the one in Bulgaria and to give intimate details which would permit them to live the same life.

On September 25, Father Galabert wrote to Father Picard:

I have already written this to you. Our Oblates in Adrianople, having all made the vow to consecrate themselves to the Foreign Missions, all want to remain faithful to that vow. They all understand that they can work usefully in the Missions only if they are placed under the immediate direction of our Superior General. They will let you know whenever you ask them. All of them are ready to accept as Superior the sister you choose to give them. Most of them have no great opinion of their Mother General. Those who are most attached to her will easily drop her, especially if they have to withdraw from the Mission and not remain under your overall direction.

Also, when they were asked to choose between Father Picard and Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, about thirty of them rallied to the Assumptionists, except Sister Louise de Gonzague Simon (1860–1917). How could they continue their mission in the Near East without them? Father Picard knew this all too well for a long!  ...

In Nîmes, all but a handful remained faithful to Mother Foundress.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie’s reaction

Mother Emmanuel-Marie’s reaction was both firm and painful. She wrote to Mother Jeanne de Chantal Dugas (1848–1940), Superior of the Near Eastern Mission, on September 26, 1882:

... if only we could have come to a perfect agreement! This was and would be my most fervent desire. But unfortunately, at the present time, you must undoubtedly have been told by Rev. Father Galabert of what happened. It was especially about a very important question to which many things are connected: who is in charge of the government of the Congregation? Our Constitutions seem to be very clear on this point: Father d’Alzon wanted the authority to reside in the Mother General, and the Council thought that it could not accept any other form of government. But Rev. Father Picard declares that, this being the case, he refuses to take responsibility for this apostolate. Just imagine, dear daughter, how painful this is ... I have tried all I could to avoid such a crisis whose numerous symptoms have scared me for a long time.

On the following day, September 27, 1882, she wrote to Father Emmanuel Bailly:

... last Sunday, the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the Council of the Oblates, believing that it had to uphold the article of the Constitutions which assigns the government to the Superior General of the Sisters, the Very Reverend Father Picard formally declared that in such conditions, it was impossible for him to take responsibility for the work. Will this be definitive? I surely fear that it will be and I am profoundly saddened by it. To think that we lived the same life, venerated the same common Father and Founder, and are now taking different paths.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson was very upset but did not weaken.

The Consequences

Father Picard began his novitiate of Oblates in Paris with professed sisters and novices from Bordeaux (Augustinian Sisters of Providence), with professed sisters and novices from the Near Eastern Mission; and with a few Sisters from Nîmes.

The Oblates in Paris developed very rapidly thanks to Father Picard and Mother Marie of Christ de Mauvise (1845–1922), Lady of the Assumption, to whom he gave responsibility for the Oblates. However, she never became Superior General.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson and the Oblates who remained faithful to her became diocesan Sisters under the Bishop of Nîmes, Bishop Besson. They developed slowly, but always had a few novices.

Wanting to remain faithful to the desires of Father d’Alzon and with the help of the Jesuits, Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson founded four communities in Armenia: Tokat, Trebizond, Marsivan, and Amassia.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson was never at ease with Father Picard. It could be that this was due to the difference in their social background. Moreover, she thought for a long time that he was taking the place of Father d’Alzon. Witness the letter she wrote to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly on October 28, 1869:

... Since yesterday, I have been asking myself who is the Superior General of the Assumptionists. Is it Father Picard or Father d’Alzon? I believe that I am not mistaken in saying that one is the superior in name, and the other is the superior in fact.

Father d’Alzon had foreseen for a long time that there would be problems with Father Picard. He had forewarned Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson and Mother Marie-Eugénie, as the following letter of October 22, 1876 reveals:

With the best of intentions, the one who will bring about rivalries will be Father Picard, with his despotism ... . But also, why can he not be more flexible and why does he have to be so categorical? We must go along with his way of thinking; otherwise he will submit his resignation which, he knows very well, I cannot accept at the present time. I put up with his demands, but in conscience I must remember them.610

Father Picard did not like to be opposed by a woman!

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson had very poor health, which might explain certain aspects of her personality. She was not personally attracted to the Near Eastern Mission, even though she thought it her duty to form Sisters for this Mission, as Father d’Alzon had asked her to do. On the other hand, she trusted Father Galabert, which could have left the impression that she was uninterested. She was sincere when she said that she wanted to be faithful to Father d’Alzon. For her, the Near Eastern Mission represented the purpose of the Oblates. She tried to fulfill this purpose to the best of her abilities by sending to the Near East the majority of her Sisters and by keeping in Nîmes only the core needed to care for the novices and to assure the good functioning of the day school, which provided the Congregation with essential financial resources.

Reunion brought about by Mother Marguerite Chamska and Father Gervais Quénard

Mother Marguerite-Marie Chamska (1842–1926) succeeded Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson as Superior General in 1897. Though she completely agreed with Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, she always suffered from being separated from the Assumptionists.

When Sister Myriam Franck (1837–1918), who wanted to reunite the Oblates of Nîmes, asked her opinion about opening legal proceedings against the Assumptionists, Mother Marguerite-Marie replied:

Be charitable towards those whom we still love despite the harm they have done to us: they are the sons of our Beloved Father. This reason alone must bring us to adopt a policy that every neutral lawyer would suggest.

After having met Father Gervais Quénard (1875–1961) and Father Mathieu Lombard (1858–1951) in Nîmes, the idea of a reunion between the two branches of Oblates was born. Mother Marguerite-Marie Chamska wrote to Father Lombard on January 9, 1925:

Father, did you really think that we were hostile to the sons of Reverend Father d’Alzon? But we are not the ones who caused this painful reparation, much less the ones who wanted it.

With Father Gervais Quénard and Mother Berthe-Marie Pare (1860–1946), the first Superior General of the Oblates of Pari*f Mother Marguerite-Marie Chamska prepared the way for the reunion of the two branches.

But she died in April, just a few weeks before the official text arrived from Rome in June 1926.

Sister Claire de la Croix Rabitz
Superior General of the Oblates of
the Assumption

203, rue Lecourbe
75015 Paris

Disagreement between the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption and the Oblates of the Assumption about the name “Oblate”

Claire De La Croix Rabitz

During Father d’Alzon’s Lifetime

An old fear

On August 30, 1868, Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson was in Lourdes. She wrote to Father d’Alzon for his birthday:

I prayed for you, for your work, and for your chapter. I even prayed for the Ladies of the Assumption. I had already done so before. I had asked God to grant them whatever they might desire. I am now asking the Blessed Virgin that they not have the right to take away our name of Oblates Sisters of the Assumption, and I pray that the Blessed Virgin will take our cause in hand. Also, I do not fear anymore, since Mary is our advocate.

We do not know what Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson was alluding to. But we know that three years after the foundation, the name of the young Congregation of the Oblates of the Assumption was already being contested!

The creation of a day school

In 1873, Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson opened a little day school at 26 rue Seguier, believing that she had the approval of Father d’Alzon because this small establishment could not possibly hurt the Ladies of the Assumption located about 300 meters away.

Mother Marie-Eugénie dreaded the opening of this school and, in a letter dated July 19, 1873, wrote to Father d’Alzon about “the creation of a rival institution, which you do not want.”

Father d’Alzon thought that a day school for children from another cultural and social milieu was not a danger for the Priory. He felt that Mother Marie-Eugénie was exaggerating the situation and he told her so.

Father d’Alzon told her what Bishop Plantier had said when he authorized Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson to open this day school:

There are in Nîmes 5,000 more girls than boys. There is no day school in the neighborhood where you arc establishing yourselves. Given the price you intend to charge, you will not be competing with the Ladies of the Assumption. It is a completely different public.611

The name of “Assumption”

Mother Marie-Eugénie sensed, even before the opening of the day school, that there would be problems with their using the name “Assumption.”

She asked Father d’Alzon in a letter dated August 11, 1873 that the name Assumption not be used at the day school of the Oblates or on its official papers. Here are some excerpts of Father d’Alzon’s response:

The Oblates did not receive the name Assumption from you but from us. If we were to change our name, they would be only too glad to change theirs also. I have proposed this to them, but they are resisting. And frankly, if ever our religious go to Nice, will we be obliged to change our name because the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption are there already? The ecclesiastical authorities do not get involved with such things. You can see this by the numerous Sisters of St. Joseph or of the Immaculate Conception who have been approved and have different rules.612

Father d’Alzon was taken aback by Mother Marie-Eugénie’s reaction and privately mentioned it several times to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly:

The Superior General wants to take away from the Oblates the name “Assumption.” I’m like Louis XIV with Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon. I would prefer having all of Europe on my back.613

The Superior of the [Religious Sisters of the] Assumption is asking me to change the name of the Oblates. Can you tell me a mystery of the Blessed Virgin which has not yet been taken? I am suggesting that we surrender our name to her. Of what would we be the Augustinians?614

A few days later, he said that he did not want to hear about it anymore.615

Besides the name, the Fathers and the Ladies of the Assumption, albeit unconsciously, wanted to keep a tight rein on the Oblates. But Mother Emmanuel-Marie showed that she could manage her affairs very well by herself.

After the bishop had approved the opening of the day school, she wrote to Father Emmanuel Bailly on November 21, 1882: “the Ladies of the Assumption and Father Picard never again set foot in this house.”

After the foundation of the Oblates of the Assumption, the opening of the day school on rue Seguier constituted the second problem which harmed relations between Father d’Alzon and Mother Marie-Eugénie ... These two subjects were often raised by Mother Eugénie and affected their friendship.

After the Death of Father d’Alzon

Ban on the use of the name “Assumption”

In 1882, after the break between Father Picard and Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, Father Picard asked that the Oblates cease to be called “of the Assumption” because, by refusing to follow him to Paris, they no longer worked for the Assumptionist apostolate.

In 1883, Bishop Besson officially asked them to no longer add the name “Assumption” after the name “Oblates.”

For about ten years, they continued to use the name on their official papers, but without insisting too much on it as long as Bishop Besson was still alive.

In 1885, Mother Emmanuel Correnson asked Rome for the Laudatory Decree and the approval of the Constitutions. She renewed the request in 1890 with the help of the Jesuits who had returned to Nîmes in 1881.

Bishop Gilly supported this request with a highly laudatory report, along with his two Vicar Generals. Undoubtedly, he did not notice that, on the letter of request, the name was very clearly stated: “Oblates of the Assumption.”

Trial before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Nîmes

The Oblates continued to circulate printed materials and invitations which could easily create confusion between their day school and the boarding school of the Ladies of the Assumption. This led to a number of mistakes and misunderstandings.

Tired of the family squabbles, the Ladies had recourse to the Bishop in order to stop the Oblates from using the term “Assumption” in their name. The Bishop referred them to the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Nîmes.

The Ladies initiated civil court proceedings in 1891 and asked Father Picard and the Oblates of Paris to join them as plaintiffs in the case. Father Picard and the Oblates of Paris accepted, basing themselves on the harm the Oblates of Nîmes had supposedly caused them (cf. the reports of Father Picard, Mother Marie of Christ, and the Sisters in the Near East).

Public opinion having been aroused in the city, the Ladies of the Assumption, on the advice of the Bishop, withdrew their complaint without advising Father Picard.

The Officialis of Nîmes maintained the ban that the two bishops of Nîmes, Besson and Gilly, had imposed on the Superior of the Oblates and her Sisters, forbidding them to use the name Assumption. This judgment was rendered on August 13, 1891.

Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson and her lawyer, Mr. Serre, appealed to Rome.

The trial in Rome

The trial lasted two years. It was a very trying and painful period for Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson. She sent her Assistant, Mother Marguerite-Marie Chamska to represent her in Rome and defend the cause of the Oblates. An almost daily correspondence took place between the two Sisters.

These letters are an excellent source of information about all the phases of the trial, the persons who were contacted, and the sue cesses and failures in Rome, as well as about daily life in the city of Nîmes, in the convent of the Oblates, and in the Church.

The Oblates obtained the Laudatory Decree on February 10 1893.

The Laudatory Decree

On September 18, 1890, the Oblate Sisters on rue Seguier had asked the Sovereign Pontiff for a Laudatory Decree (decretum laudis) of their Institute and for the approval of their Constitutions. On February 10, 1893, upon the advice of the Consultors of the Congregation for Bishops and Religious, the Most Eminent Cardinals were asked to respond to the two following questions:

Must the Institute and the Constitutions of the Oblate Sisters of the Assumption in Nîmes be approved? How must we approve them?

The Most Eminent Cardinals answered the first question: the above-mentioned Sisters should be given a Laudatory Decree. As for the second question, the answer was differed.

According to this decree, the Oblate Sisters on rue Seguier can henceforth be called the “Oblates of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”616

The court proceedings concerning the name Oblates of the Assumption seriously affected the health of Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, but she persevered to the end to have the right to bear the name which Father d’Alzon had given her, even though she had been accused of having given it to herself.

She repeated over and over again in letters to Mother Marguerite-Marie Chamska:

I hold to my name.

People should know that we have been called Oblates for the past twenty-five years and that we therefore have priority over those who just arrived before the trial began (an allusion to the Oblates of Paris who had just installed themselves on rue Sainte Perpetue). As for the Ladies of the Assumption, the name Oblates sufficiently distinguishes us from them.617

The name “Oblates of the Assumption” is engraved on our vault in the cemetery as well as on the cornerstone of the chapel.618

We at least have the merit of having defended our name and having suffered to keep it.619

Today, we like to add to our name Oblates of the Assumption the words Missionary Sisters in order to recall the fourth vow made by the first Sisters who left for the Foreign Missions (Oblates of the Assumption of Nîmes until 1882—Oblates of the Assumption of Paris until 1926).

Sister Claire de la Croix Rabitz
Superior General of the Oblates of the

203, rue Lecourbe
75015 Paris

Addendum: Sister Thérèse Maylis Toujouse, R.A.

It was said that the Statutes of the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption mentioned Choir Sisters, Lay Sisters, Oblates, and Tertiar-ies.

The question of Oblates had arisen following the difficulties in Cape Town with respect to persons would devote themselves to outside apostolates and pronounce annual vows (Cape Town 1849, England 1850). In council and in community in 1854, the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption accepted the possibility of having Oblates. The question arose again in 1857 for London.

When the question arose of helping the Near Eastern Mission, the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption immediately thought of Oblates. Indeed, the first Rule of the Oblates was prepared by the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption.

At the same time, the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption always considered the Oblates as associates. Well before 1865, Mother Eugénie wrote to Father d’Alzon on the subject of Oblates ... The Third-Order for the Missions was made up of Oblates.

Confusion about the name in Nîmes

The reason for the disagreement was that everything was getting mixed up: the mail, student enrollments, and the work of each congregation. Collections were made in the name of Assumption, but which one? There was great confusion about the uniforms worn by the pupils. In 1891, there was a decision by the civil court forbidding the Oblates from being called Oblates of the Assumption.

A change of name was requested from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Nîmes.

There had already been problems about the name in Nancy, but that was far from Paris. Realizing that the situation was getting very complicated in Nîmes. Marie-Eugénie withdrew her claim and informed Father Picard about it. Finally; the question was referred to Rome and became the object of a lawsuit.

In 1892. Maric-Hugcnie also wrote to the Bishop. In Rome, the Oblates won the lawsuit and were allowed to keep their name.

Disagreement between the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption and the Oblates of the Assumption about a boarding school in Nîmes (1873)

Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet


Among all of the questions raised, this is the simplest and the easiest one to describe. We must keep in mind that Nîmes, in the history of the Assumption, was the city in France where, except for the capital, there was the greatest concentration of inter-Assumption communities and that this simple fact can partially explain the origin of certain difficulties:


Augustinians of the Assumption (college and novitiate). 1855: Religious of the Assumption (Priory), rue de Roussy, then later, rue de Bouillargues.


Oblates of the Assumption (at the college, then after 1873, rue Séguier).


Two branches of the Oblates of the Assumption (Nîmes, Paris), rue Séguier, rue Roussy, and rue Sainte-Perpétue.


Little Sisters of the Assumption (rue Briçonnet).

Fear of competition from a boarding school provoked rivalry between two Congregations

It suffices to reread various letters of Father d’Alzon to discover what caused the difficulties between the Religious and the Oblates of the Assumption concerning the opening of a boarding school by Mother Correnson during the summer of 1873 and to note the progression of the crisis up to the time of its solution:620

Mother Marie-Gabrielle, who got worked up over the Martin courses, is again getting worked up over a nursery school for little girls that the Oblates want to open. Be mindful that I would never allow mytclf anything that would harm the Assumption, but you will have lo Ukc my word for it. You will understand why. The Superior of the Oblate* has come to the point where she will slowly waste away, unless *hc is cured by some miracle. She has become so sensitive that she is having terrible crises that can last for months, and over nothing. I he real cause of the distressful weakness she had last winter came from the fact that the Sister who cooks for them said that the nurse had too often requested partridge for her. Also, I saw her go into a rage (I left) which lasted four hours because, on the subject of questionable behavior on the part of Madame Correnson toward Mr. Barnouin, I had said: ``There are underlying problems with which, you’ll excuse me, I do not want to get involved  ... .621

Father d’Alzon, who was at Le Vigan at the time, minimized the affair and assured Marie-Eugénie of his support for the Priory. But, not wanting to upset Marie Correnson, he asked not to be held responsible for things over which he had no control.

And so, my child, have you begun to convince yourself that the Religious of the Assumption can, without too many disadvantages, compete with the Oblates whose superior does not always spell correctly and whose other members, with only one exception, barely know French and have never taught school, except for the A B C’s? I nevertheless wrote to your Mother General about this mountain of problems which is about to crush you all  ... . We will bring peace to the troubled soul of Mother Marie-Gabrielle who imagines that her boarding school is about to be devastated by mountaineers, taffeta weavers, and seamstresses-become-Oblates.622

Father d’Alzon treated as a joke an affair that could have been compared to the combat between David and Goliath. As a matter of fact, the Priory had nothing to fear from competition.

My letter will be transmitted to you by Mr. Gros, an architect who only wants permission to quickly examine your cloister. I received your letter. It would be very serious if Miss Moriau were to go to the Oblates to teach the day students. And if she goes, I have decided that I will no longer go myself. However, no one has mentioned anything to me about this, though I believe that my permission is required. You can tell people that I know nothing about it, except for what you have told me. Either I am the superior or I am not.623

But that same day, Father d’Alzon must have learned that a qualified person had been hired. The place had gone from a nursery school to a day school. He reacted more strongly to decisions that had not been referred to him in his capacity as Superior.

Thank you, my child. I am not at all upset about your wanting to state a fact. That having been said, may I ask about the status of the projects we have never discussed.

In a conversation I had with the Superior of the Oblates some time ago, she did speak to me about taking in a young person from Adrianople as a boarder, an idea which I again rejected. However, I believe that a girl from Adrianople, if she were to come—which is not likely—would do you no harm. Moreover, if she does come, I believe it would be better to entrust her to you. I am going into all these details to show you how I would accept the absurd idea of a boarding school.624

Father d’Alzon, always at Le Vigan, denied having had anything to do with the very idea of a boarding school run by the Oblates. To be noted are the various terms that were used (nursery, day school, boarding school), as well as Father d’Alzon’s hesitations and uncertainties (“some time ago,” “if,” “I believe).” On the other hand, his judgment is clear about the absurd idea of a boarding school.

The Oblate Affair had been somewhat distorted by Mother Marie-Gabrielle. First, there was never question of offering courses, nor of Miss Moriau. Second, there was never question of a boarding school, nor of a half-boarding school: 10 francs a month before First Communion, 75 francs after that. You can see that this is not at all your public. Besides, the half-boarders sent by the bishop are to Mother Marie-Gabrielle’s advantage. After Mother Marie-Gabrielle had spoken to me about specific facts that fortunately were untrue, I wrote a very strong letter, from Le Vigan where I was still staying, to the Superior of the Oblates. Upon my return, I received an explanation from Mother Marie-Gabrielle. Sadly, I saw that she was all worked up, as she had been about the Martin courses. I also had a conversation with the Superior of the Oblates in which I was somewhat curt. What did she do? I had barely left her that she took a car and went to see the Bishop, who first had her explain that she only wanted a day school. He then said to her: kln Nîmes, there are 5,000 more girls than boys, as stated in this year’s statistics. There is no day school in the neighborhood where you have established yourselves. Given the price* you will be asking, you will not be competing with the Ladies (Religious) of the Assumption. You are dealing with a completely different public. I our years ago, I took the boarding school away from the Visitation Nun*, but I cannot refuse a day school that would hurt neither the Ladies [Sisters] of Besançon nor those of Saint Maur who are bursting at the scams with students.’

That’s the whole story. I had told Mother Marie-Gabrielle to accept some half-boarders, but she wanted them to come from the Bishop through Father de Cabrières. And what is strange is that the Bishop made his decision without speaking to me about it beforehand ... .625

This time, the die was cast. It was clear that Mother Correnson, facing Father d’Alzon’s opposition, went around him to obtain episcopal authorization from Bishop Plantier who decided that a new day school, in a badly served neighborhood, would not create competition between the religious communities. Father d’Alzon was therefore able to get out of a difficult situation that had been created by others.

Then, the question changed: from possible competition on the part of a school, the issue now focused on the use of the common name “Assumption,” which risked being prejudicial to the Religious of the Assumption, according to Mother Marie-Eugénie:626

The name “Assumption” was given to the Oblates, not by you, but by us. If we change, they will only be too willing to change also. I suggested it to them, but they refused. And really, if ever our religious [the Assumptionists] were to go to Nice, would they too have to change their name because in the same city there will be some Sisters of the Assumption (Assomptiades?). The big difference is that, besides the name Oblates, they are also called Religious [Missionaries], and, I can assure you, they hold to this difference. Moreover, in the foreseeable future, they won’t have a prospectus available. I see so many people predicting a complete failure (between us, I too expect one) that I don’t see why we should worry. You can see that, by exaggerating the difficulties, Mother Marie-Gabrielle managed to obtain the bishop’s permission behind my back. Undoubtedly, more unpleasant problems than you can imagine are yet to come  ... .

This intervention on the part of Mother Marie-Eugénie must have annoyed Father d’Alzon who wrote to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly between August 13 and 14:

Doesn’t the Superior General [of the Religious of the Assumption] want to take from the Oblates the name “of the Assumption”? I am like Louis XIV with Madame de Montespan and Madame de Mainte-non. I would prefer having to deal with all of Europe. When a tarantula bites these good ladies, God help us! Isn’t the Superior of the Religious [Sisters] asking me to change the name of the Oblates? Can you tell me if there is a new mystery of the Blessed Virgin that has not yet been taken? I’m thinking of turning our name over to her. Of what would we be the Augustinians?

There was a return to reasonable language when Father d’Alzon wrote to Marie-Eugénie of Jesus on August 20, 1873:

Reduced to its present dimensions, the Oblate Affair is no longer a problem. Excuse me if I add that, if there had been no rumors, everything would have been easily solved. Remember how you were horrified when Father Combalot came to preach the Advent series in Nîmes. What came of it? Nothing. It will be the same thing this time around. Also, I ask your permission not to talk about this anymore. If there had been a combat, it would have been the story of David and Goliath. So, why be alarmed?

Consequently, they were moving toward peace. On August 31, 1873, Father d’Alzon felt reassured:

I am pleased to see that the Oblate question doesn’t frighten you as much. If you had relied on me, I would have told you that it was an unfortunate venture, and you would have tortured yourself much less. As a matter of fact, who do they have to teach their classes? The fact is that they need money. Moreover, I think I have found them a richer source than all the boarding schools. Nevertheless, I, too, need money.627

Well after the beginning of the school year, Father d’Alzon serenely came back to the question of the two boarding schools, speaking again of a day school for the Oblates:

The two boarding schools, as I had foreseen, absolutely do not serve the same people. Mother Marie-Gabrielle is busy maintaining one in Nîmes for 80 pupils, she says, which is to her credit. I had to recommend someone to her because the teacher wants to become a Religious of the Assumption. I do not begrudge Mother Marie-Gabrielle, and I am not interfering with the Missionary third Order. However, at Av sumption, people will no longer have grounds to complain because we create Missionary Third Orders and support boarding schools like the one run by the Oblates. Do you understand?628

In April 1874, there was question of absorbing the Bourdet boarding school and of increasing the teaching personnel of the boarding school run by the Oblates, which provoked a new appeal on the part of Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus to Father d’Alzon, but which was useless because this proposal never got off the ground and because Father d’Alzon made known his opposition to it.


An all-out school war over competition did not take place in Nîmes in 1873. Nevertheless, this whole affair seems to have provoked hostility on the part of the Religious [Sisters] against the Oblates of the Assumption. Things remained very uncertain and ready to further deteriorate at any moment (the affair over the name). Moreover, in 1882, the quarrel over the name was fueled by the Religious of the Assumption in order to support the argument made by the Assumptionists against Marie Correnson regarding her acts of disobedience to Father d’Alzon.

Father d’Alzon was certainly overwhelmed by the initiatives of Mother Correnson. But these initiatives were not intended to put in question the educational leadership in Nîmes of the Religious of the Assumption. This feminine jealousy which targeted Father d’Alzon and had recourse to him as an arbitrator made him vulnerable in terms of his twofold fidelity: fidelity to the Religious, and fidelity to the Oblates. Though he wanted to remain a Father to all of them, he had not yet succeeded in making them true sisters among themselves.

Father Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet
Archivist of the Augustinians
of the Assumption

55, Via San Pio V
00165 Rome


Clare-Teresa Tjader, R.A.

July 14, 1873: “He [Father d’Alzon] is not obeyed enough [by Mother Marie Correnson].”

Father d’Alzon was in Nîmes at the time. Mother Marie-Gabrielle, appointed Superior of the Religious of the Assumption at the request of Father d’Alzon, was also in Nîmes. When the Oblates opened a school, Father explained h imself to Mother Marie-Gabrielle, and things fell into place (Letter of Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugénie, July 3, 1873). But Mother Marie-Eugénie saw where this would lead, and she reacted. It was charity that would suffer, as pointed out in Note 29 of my document. Mother Marie-Eugénie wrote to Mother Marie-Gabrielle:

I am delighted that you agree with Father d’Alzon, but you must get the Oblates to agree that they will not put the word Assumption on anything pertaining to this work of education they are undertaking, either on their prospectuses, their notes or anything else ... . Anything that could cause confusion between the two houses would be unjust towards us and would harm our work, which is something that Father d’Alzon had promised would not take place. It would destroy the charity between us by our having to explain endlessly that we are not the same work and that their students are not our students.629

We have approximately 400 handwritten letters by Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugénie. They read like real news bulletins about the life of the Assumption in Nîmes. In fact, “the Nîmes Affair” is but one affair among many others. Mother Marie-Gabrielle seems to have been a reliable witness, objective about what she was describing. She wrote that the Correnson family did not accept Marie’s vocation, especially that she should be an Oblate; that the bishop did not dare to oppose the Correnson family; and that her mother wanted to give her daughter a boarding school like that of the Religious. It was the Correnson family who bought the school property. Marie took steps without Father d’Alzons knowledge. Things then became more complicated. There were two “Superiors of the Assumption,” and two schools of the Assumption. The uniforms of the students were identical! Mail got mixed up: that of the students of the Assumption boarding school run by the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption ended up by mistake at the Oblates.

Claire Rabitz, O.A.

We can always learn more about these situations. Until yesterday, I did not know of the existence of the letters of Marie-Gabrielle to Father d’Alzon. Father d’Alzon would have said about an eventual boarding school: “Only the bishop can give this permission.” Who bought the land? The Correnson family or Father d’Alzon? At the time, there were only six students from very modest families. Mother Gabrielle said that her boarding school was full.

Money needed to be raised for the Near Eastern Missions.

In 1891, there were three Assumption communities of women. One of them, the community on rue Sainte Perpetue, was closer to the Priory than to the one on rue Seguier and was set up by Father Picard to be a boarding school.

Bishop Plantier must have been very friendly with the Correnson family. It is said that he would not have wanted to refuse them anything.

When Mother Marie of Christ (Religious of the Assumption) became an Oblate of the Assumption

Clare-Teresa Tjader

For me, everything started with a conversation with Sister Claire in which she said that the Religious of the Assumption “got rid of Mother Marie of Christ” by sending her to the Oblates. We do not know exactly why Marie of Christ went to the Oblates. This was the point of departure of my research.

In our Archives, I did not find anything against Mother Marie of Christ before 1884. Born in Poitiers, she was intelligent and fervent. In 1876, when she was elected General Councilor, the Superiors had to obtain an indult because she had not reached the age required by Canon Law. At one point, “someone” thought of her as a successor to Mother Marie-Eugénie. We do not know who this “someone” was.

During a difficult moment in the Council, Marie of Christ complained that Mother Marie-Eugénie did not trust her. This was settled and I concluded from the incident that, in the eyes of the “Mothers,” her youth was the only problem. I understood afterwards that the relationship was beginning to deteriorate. In examining her letters to Father Picard in the Assumptionist Archives, I discovered another side to Marie of Christ. Though the most important letters are undated, their content led the archivist to write 1883 on them. They contain many complaints against Mother Marie-Eugénie and reveal the hardening of her heart. Nevertheless, in 1884, Marie of Christ wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear Mother. You will never know the full extent of my love from the very moment I began to love you. You are the one I have loved most in the world.630

... Always believe in my unfailing trust and affection in Our Lord.631

And on September 9, 1884, she wrote:

“there is not the slightest problem between you and me.”

All that—and a lot more that I will not go into—seems to indicate a very complicated person who was going through an emotional crisis: an adoration of Mother Marie-Eugénie that turned into disillusionment when she saw her human side, with its weaknesses and faults. Some of her remarks perhaps betray a certain jealousy.

In any case, Marie of Christ became friends with Father Jean Lehec, an Assumptionist, and Mother Marie-Seraphine, another General Councilor. The three believed that Mother Marie-Eugénie and Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel were too old to govern.

Father Picard needed someone in Paris for the formation of the Oblates (after the split). He suggested Mother Marie of Christ, undoubtedly knowing that Mother Marie-Eugénie was unaware of the great discontent of Mother Marie of Christ.

It was in 1885 that Mother Marie of Christ openly opposed the government of Mother Marie-Eugénie. Mother Marie-Eugénie very rarely spoke about the situation, but in a letter at the beginning of the year, she wrote:

Perhaps she is unaware of what has antagonized the Sisters and Mothers. It is the warlike attitude that she has taken, even against the members of the Council. How to deal with all of this?632

In March 1885[?], Mother Marie of Christ wrote to Father Picard that she was a victim in her own Congregation:

To suffer and die ... for all of you. This seems to be the purpose of my life. ... You hold the key and are the head of the Assumption. It is the order established by God and nothing will change it ... You are wrong in referring to my devotion. I do not have and will never have any for my congregation from now on. Nothing resonates nor will ever resonate again. Everything is destroyed. I knew well enough that the day when I would no longer be concerned about the common good, I would have thousands of reasons to be interested in nothing else but to leave the congregation as soon as possible. I consider myself no longer part of it. There is no longer anything between her [Mother Marie-Eugénie] and me, I repeat, Father. I am now devoted to you, not to her [Notre Mère]633

In June 1885, Mother Marie of Christ submitted her resignation as Superior and Councilor. Her resignation as Superior was accepted, but not as Councilor because she had been elected to that office. Mother Marie of Christ considered herself a victim (although she had asked to be replaced). This would create reactions and opposition to her and to her allies in the community. This made her suffer and ``victimize herself even more. Another undated letter:

... I should love them because I see them as coming from divine justice, but each day brings so many additional broken bonds with my congregation that what I endure by continuing to live in it, wearing the habit, and seeing the Sisters is enough to kill me physically. There is only Hélène and Mother Marie-Seraphine for whom I do not feel this insurmountable repulsion, because I know they are attached to the congregation only by a thread ... 634

During the special Chapter of 1886, Mother Marie-Eugénie was confirmed in her office and in the hearts of the Sisters. There was certainly a still greater hardening of hearts on the part of the Sisters against Mother Marie of Christ who did not realize how very obvious her aggressiveness against the Mothers was. She was always the victim.

My conclusion is that the transfer of Mother Marie of Christ to the Oblates after the Chapter of I 886 suited first of all Father Picard and Mother Marie of Christ herself. Certainly, Mother Marie-Eugénie was a bit relieved but she always forgave everyone. (See her Introduction to the Special Chapter) It was she who did everything to save the face of Mother Marie of Christ at the time of her departure and kept contact with her after she settled in with the Oblates.

Thérèse Maylis Toujouse, R.A.

The Congregation had placed a lot of hope in Mother Marie of Christ. After the Priory affair, she was sent to Nîmes to restore order. That was at the time of the death of Father d’Alzon. After that, she became Superior of Auteuil (Little Convent) and of the day school of Lübeck.

On June 12, 1885, feast of the Sacred heart, she submitted her resignation as Superior and as Councilor to Mother Marie-Eugénie. The latter said that it was difficult to resign as Councilor because she had been elected.

The Chapter of 1886 was convoked to deal with questions regarding relations between the Religious of the Assumption and the Assumptionists. Father Picard had already asked Mother Marie of Christ to help with the formation of the Oblates in Paris. Mother Marie of Christ was present at the start of the Chapter but not at the end, as evidenced by the absence of her name and signature. We do not know why. Bishop d’HuIst received each Sister in private. The result was that seven Sisters favored government by the Fathers. The Constitutions which had to be reviewed were discussed paragraph by paragraph. The proposal of government was taken up again. A new proposal was adopted. In the Acts of the Chapter, there is no mention that she was on loan to the Oblates. But it is written in the records of the Council: “Mother Marie of Christ is on loan for an undefined period ...” She remained a Councilor and a Religious of the Assumption. In her absence, another Sister was appointed Councilor. What happened after that? Mother Marie of Christ left for Lourdes to rest. We have in our possession the letters she sent to her family. So that she would not be alone, she was accompanied by another Sister, Sister Hélène, who was also favorable to Father Picard.

What is astonishing is that her letters always showed a very strong attachment to Mother Marie-Eugénie, but there was a great sacrifice involved because she always remained a Religious of the Assumption. Her inconsistent language says something about her psychology. I think she arrived in Paris at the Oblates early November. She wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie that she would go to see her; she was welcomed with open arms.

1888: Ordinary Chapter after the death of Mother Thérèse Emmanuel, approbation of the Constitutions, and fiftieth anniversary of the Congregation. Mother Marie of Christ wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie asking her if she could attend the Chapter. The Council thought that if Mother Marie of Christ wanted to come back to the Congregation on a permanent basis, she would be welcomed with open arms. But if she thought that her work was not finished with the Oblates, it would be better for her to stay there because the Chapter was going to deal with internal questions of the Congregation.

It seems that Bishop d’Hulst thought that she could come to the Chapter, but he did not want to go against the Council. Another Councilor was elected to replace her.

In 1889, steps were taken to transfer Sister Hélène to the Oblates. At that time, Bishop d’Hulst wrote that no steps needed to be taken for Mother Marie of Christ because she was thinking of coming back to the Religious of the Assumption. We do not have the official document.

In 1898, at the death of Mother Marie-Eugénie, Mother Marie of Christ came back to Auteuil. She was filled with emotion, but she also felt a cold shoulder on the part of the Sisters. And understandably, because no one knew her status.

In 1900, fourteen years after her transfer to the Oblates, she wrote to Mother Marie-Celestine, “You are my only Superior General ...” It is not at all clear to us, or to the Oblates.

There were problems. The Congregation held her in high esteem but, juridically, we do not know what her status was. She died in 1922. How was she buried? In which habit? There were no Religious of the Assumption present at her burial. Religious congregations were being expelled from France. The Mother House was in Belgium. The Superior General died in Rome, as did the Pope!

Additional Information from Sisters Claire Rabitz, O.A.

Marie of Christ was revered by the Oblates in Paris. The big problem from the point-of-view of the Oblates of Paris was that she was presented as the Major Superior of the Oblates of Paris, never as the Superior General. The first Superior General was Mother Berthe-Marie Pare in 1924. When the two groups were reunited in 1926, the Laudatory Decree of the Oblates of Nîmes benefited the Oblates of Paris.

Soon after, there was rivalry between Marie of Christ and Mother Myriam Franck. The Frank Mothers had not received an adequate formation to the religious life. It was Father Picard who placed them at the head of the Oblates. They were sent back to Bordeaux without any explanation. It was very hard. Father Picard said, “I did not promise you anything.”

Mother Myriam Franck recounted how Marie of Christ had been welcomed: Father Picard presented her to the Franck Mothers who thought she was coming for only a few days. While Father Picard was still alive, things went well enough. Later, Mother Marie of Christ joined Father Emmanuel Bailly in opposing Mother Myriam Franck, especially over questions of money (the Franck Mothers had a lot). “I accepted the authority of Mother Madeleine (Little Sister of the Assumption who came in the early days to help with formation), and of ... I can do as much for Mother Marie of Christ ... as long as I have Our Lord  ...”635 Mother Myriam Franck wrote to Father Picard.

Feminine psychology was not Father Picard’s forte.

In the beginning, I thought that the Religious of the Assumption had rid themselves of Mother Marie of Christ. I think rather that she was happy to respond to Father Picard’s invitation. In this way, she did not leave religious life or the Assumptionists. When I read the texts, I saw her great attachment to the Assumptionists and her love for religious life. All the reports I received from the older Sisters testify to the great veneration everyone had for Mother Marie of Christ.

Georgette-Marie Fayolle, O.A.

I agree with Sister Claire Rabitz. The problem at Charlton was badly dealt with because there was no one to whom Mother Franck could normally and legitimately appeal, and because the Fathers were going through a difficult period. There were no clear canonical standards. Furthermore, the Franck Mothers were Jewish, a very painful recollection for the Assumptionists and the Oblates.

Very difficult situations ensue when situations are not clear and when normal channels of appeal are not available to individuals.

Sister Clare-Teresa Tjader
Religious of the Assumption

1001 South 47th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19143

The Near Eastern Mission and the Foundation of the Oblates of the Assumption

Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet

This question, which is certainly the most complex and the most difficult of all those encountered during the period 1840–80, tested the relations between Father d’Alzon and Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus. It has already been treated many times,636 albeit from perspectives somewhat different from ours today. To shed light on the question, I will first examine its significance, the protagonists, and the documentary evidence.

What Significance did it Have for the Church?

It was not the first time that Father d’Alzon or Mother Marie-Eugénie had to face the issue of Eastern Christianity. Both of them, or more precisely one through the other, became interested in this geo-political dimension of Catholicism after 1835, especially through the intermediary of the Polish Resurrectionists, then subsequently, in 1860, at the time when the Maronites were being persecuted by the Druze.

However, in 1860–61, the question of a Union of the Bulgarian Church with Rome convinced the papacy of the need to undertake sustained missionary activity in Bulgaria which was seeking a twofold independence: a political independence to free itself from Ottoman dependence (the Crimean War had revealed both the weakness of the Turkish Empire [“the sick man of Europe”] and the appetite of the Russians), as well as a desire on the part of the Bulgarians to withdraw their Church from the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Constantinople.

It was in the middle of this complex situation that Father d’Alzon immersed himself, on the vague suggestion of Pius IX during his famous blessing on June 3, 1862 when he said: “I bless your works of the West and the East.” This sentence redirected Father d’Alzon’s original desire to found two communities in Jerusalem, one at the tomb or at the Dormition of Mary for the Religious of the Assumption, and one at the Cenacle for the Assumptionists. The private audience with Pope Pius IX on Friday June 6, 1862, the conversation Father d’Alzon had with Cardinal Barnabo that same day, and the undoubtedly concerted intervention of three prelates of the Curia (Bishops Talbot, Howard, and Lavigerie) resulted in Father d’Alzon giving up Jerusalem in favor of Bulgaria.

His mind was made up: on August 1, 1862, in Nîmes, the speech he gave at the traditional distribution of prizes at the College was on working in Bulgaria. He went into high gear during the fifth General Chapter of the Assumptionists held in Nîmes in September 1862 during which Father Galabert volunteered to go. In October, Father d’Alzon received from his father the sum of 500,000 francs for the Near Eastern Mission, and on December 20, Father Galabert, after making a detour by way of Rome, arrived in Constantinople to found the Near Eastern Mission and sought the opinion and suggestions of Archbishop Brunoni who, at that time, was Apostolic Delegate in Constantinople.

All of 1863 was spent learning the ropes: how to approach the Near Eastern reality which was so complex and multi-dimensional, what to do, and where to start. The mission was launched and resources were found (personnel, money), but the strategy was not clear. On the spot, Galabert tried to gather information, made visits, and learned the language.

Father d’Alzon, not wanting to rely solely on his informant, went there personally from February to April 1863 in order to study the situation and to meet the local people. His stopover in Rome on the way back (April 22-May 3) and the presentation of his report to Pius IX and to the Congregation of the Propaganda did not adequately answer the questions he had, quite to the contrary. Therefore, even though the importance for the Church was clear (help the return of the Bulgarians to Rome), the means and support he needed could not be taken for granted. It was therefore in this very uncertain and hazy context that the protagonists of the Near Eastern Mission struggled among themselves.

The Protagonists of the Original Near Eastern Mission

During the years 1863–65, Father d’Alzon was caught between influences and relations that were more than contradictory on this subject. Many of his religious thought that this new foundation in the Near East was yet another foolish adventure on his part, at a time when another distant mission had been started under difficult conditions in Australia with an unmanageable bishop, Bishop Quinn.

From Constantinople, Father Galabert, buried like a foundation stone, clamored unceasingly for resources and personnel, money and men. Very soon, he realized the indispensable need for religious auxiliaries to stabilize his apostolic activity in the fields of education and health care, with Church unity being sought through truth and charity. Though Father d’Alzon encouraged him, he nevertheless kept putting him off, saying “non possumus.”

In Paris, the fraternal friendship of Fathers Picard and Pernet did not lag behind in supporting the work of Father Galabert, but the means they had at their disposal were no less virtual. In Nîmes, Father Vincent de Paul Bailly, tormented by his new duties as director of the College, was becoming more and more frustrated.

Father d’Alzon then began working closely and urgently with Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus to involve the Religious of the Assumption in the Near Eastern Mission. In Nîmes on May 29, 1863, he mentioned to her the part the Religious could take in this foundation. Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus was in favor of it, but she had to come to terms with her Council which, without being against it, underlined especially the present impossibilities: Who? Where? What type of cooperation? The letters that went back and forth between Nîmes and Auteuil during the years 1863–64 were full of questions: Where? Constantinople? Adrianople? With whom? At the time, the Assumptionists had only one name, Father Galabert. With the Resurrectionists? The Religious of the Assumption did not want to hinder or duplicate in Adrianople the work of the Sisters of the Resurrection.

Father d’Alzon did not let up on pressure. On August 1, 1863, at the distribution of prizes at the college, he made another brilliant speech about Rome, Constantinople, and France. He followed it up with talks in favor of the Near Eastern Schools (Nîmes, Paris, Toulouse, and Marseille). In September 1863, he preached 22 sermons to the Religious in Auteuil, and in November, 26 sermons to the Sisters at the Priory in Nîmes. In December, he spoke again in Nîmes to Mother Marie-Eugénie about the Near Eastern Mission.

October 1863 brought a ray of hope to Father Galabert when Brothers Augustin Gallois and Jacques Chilier were sent to be his companions at Philippopolis-Plovdiv in Bulgaria. The Capuchin bishop, Bishop Canova, accepted to entrust the Assumptionists with a small elementary school, Saint Andrew, next to the Catholic cathedral. The school opened its doors on January 3, 1864 in the presence of the bishop who gave the inaugural blessing. That is the list of the events and protagonists during these two preparatory years.

Documentary Evidence about an Open Crisis between the Assumptionists and the Religious of the Assumption

It would not be completely accurate to present the foundation of the Congregation of the Oblates of the Assumption as the direct result of the refusal of the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption to go to the Near East. In order to describe the thorny situation that arose more from a disagreement or dispute over the timing of a foundation in the Near East by the Religious of the Assumption than over the idea itself, we must examine the correspondence between Father d’Alzon and Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus and recall Father d’Alzon’s many efforts to interest several groups of women in his Near Eastern foundation: the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, Assumption’s Third Order of women, and the Children of Mary.

The first four women, besides the Religious of the Assumption, came from the Adorers and from other pious movements in Nîmes: Eulalie de Regis, the person in charge of the group of Adorers, Isabelle de Merignargues, a former student of Saint-Maur, Marie Correnson, president of the Children of Mary, and Pauline Sagnier, said de Lavagnac, former nurse of Viscount d’Alzon. It was on this group that Father d’Alzon counted at the beginning of 1865 after exploring in 1864 the possibility of the Religious of the Assumption.

Father d’Alzon’s letter to Marie-Eugénie of Jesus on February 24, 1863 was explicit: ``Will you open a boarding school in Philip-popolis?ty He was thinking of two types of presence in the Near East for the Religious of the Assumption: a work of adoration and a work of education, including a normal school.

Mother Marie-Eugénie’s answer (Auteuil, March 8, 1863) was reticent:

In principle, I accept in the projects you are proposing everything we are capable of doing. But, in practice, nothing serious can come from them until we talk things over upon your return, once you know more about the situation and the region.

High costs, a work of adoration without a garden, a normal school without knowing the Bulgarian language!

The conversations and visits that took place throughout 1864 then went in the direction of a work conducted by the Oblate Tertiaries,637 an intermediate category of Religious of the Assumption between choir sisters and lay sisters. Since Father d’Alzon could count only on four volunteers from among the Religious of the Assumption, he suggested a threesome: Pauline Sagnier, Eulalie de Regis, and Isabelle de Merignargues, since Marie Correnson was having difficulties with her family about her choice of religious life.

But already on November 1, 1864, he came up with an alternative solution: “If you think you cannot accept Oblates under these conditions, please tell me very simply because I will then create a separate Congregation ... .” Marie-Eugénie answered this request favorably (letter, November 3, 1864). But there already seemed to be two distinct projects: one to be entrusted to the Oblates who would assist the Assumptionists in their “works of zeal” [oevres de zèle], the other to the Religious of the Assumption in view of a normal school.

Then, all of a sudden, the situation became muddled: Pauline Sagnier, the person chosen to be the foundress, went to the Priory in Nîmes where she became enamored with the life of the Religious and now wanted to become a Religious of the Assumption and not an Oblate (letter, February 22, 1865). Father d’Alzon’s attempt to found an Oblate community in Nîmes, in a house rented for this purpose, also failed because of differences of opinion and a clash of personalities between Isabelle de Merignargues and Eulalie de Regis.

But Father d’Alzon did not let himself be stopped by this failure. Thanks to the help he received from Father Hippolyte Saugrain, who discovered in the Cévennes Mountains the possibility of recruiting vocations of women from among the working classes, he began to think of founding a congregation that would be distinct from the Religious of the Assumption, to which he gave the name Oblates of the Assumption, Bulgarian apostolate. He shared this idea with Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus in a letter dated April 27, 1865, which was a prelude to the foundation that took place on May 24.

However, in no way did he cut his ties with Auteuil. In fact, he asked Mother Marie-Eugénie to provide a religious formator to begin his foundation of Oblates (letter, June 5, 1865). It was Mother Marie-Madeleine de Peter who, after negotiations, was finally chosen by Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus to direct this first community (July 25, 1865) before Father d’Alzon was able to appoint Marie Correnson, still a would-be postulant, as Superior General.

Marie Correnson eventually went to Auteuil for her formation under the direction of Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus. She took the habit on April 7, 1867, became Superior General on June 27, 1867, and made profession on April 18, 1868. Mother Marie-Emmanuel d’Everlange, another Religious of the Assumption, succeeded Mother Marie-Madeleine de Peter between December 1866 and June 1867. As another tangible sign of unity, Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus went with Father d’Alzon on April 24, 1868 from Nîmes to Marseille to accompany the first five Oblates who departed for the Near East on April 25. The Oblates established themselves in Adrianople on May 24, under the direction of Father Galabert.638

The Period after the Crisis

Surely, the written traces of this turbulent history of the foundation of the Oblates do not stop there. It is clear that Father d’Alzon was saddened and annoyed by the reserved and distant attitude he encountered, not on the part of Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus who, despite some reservations, was personally won over to the Near Eastern project, but especially on the part of the Religious of the Assumption at Auteuil whose negative attitude apparently brought them together around Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel O’Neill who, in Father d’Alzon’s estimation, was by temperament more mystical than apostolic. At any rate, Father d’Alzon drew from this episode a few personal conclusions.

He learned better to distinguish in his relations that which united him with Mother Foundress from that which separated him from the Sisters. It was an exercise in autonomy, which took nothing away from his personal feelings regarding his favorite daughter but which reminded him of and reawakened in him everything he felt toward Auteuil: friendly relations, to be sure, provided God and his servants the Sisters wanted them, but no ties of subordination or authority. With the Religious, it was better to be asked than to ask, a solution that history has undoubtedly validated. Father d’Alzon’s basic idea about this issue never changed since the day he put it in writing on May 10, 1849!639

Regarding the Near East, his idea became clearer. Father Galabert and his successors were not to expect help or female associates except from the Oblates of the Assumption, not from the Assumption families. This explains why Father d’Alzon responded negatively and forcefully to Father Galabert when the latter asked for additional personnel from the Little Sisters of the Assumption, through the intermediary of Father Pernet. The Assumptionist Near East will be “private land,” only the Assumptionists and the Oblates.

Grievances and recriminations against Auteuil became sharper under the pen of Father d’Alzon, undoubtedly because of this painful experience of the Near Eastern Affair, which he tended to exaggerate or amplify.

Already back in November 1864, he had said rather bluntly to Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, but also with a bit of malice and humor:

“Since you are founding in Poitiers and Malaga, you might have subjects available for a foundation that has been in the works for a long time.”640 Was this double talk? Was there any trust?

Father d’Alzon wanted to make a distinction between Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus and her Congregation:

I find there is a big difference between what you do, which I like very much, and what is done at the novitiate in Auteuil, which I like a lot less. That impression baffles me. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I don’t understand, but since you accuse me of lacking confidence in you, don’t accuse me of having shown you too much confidence by speaking in this way. The older Sisters had their faults, but there was something charming about their openness and their easy-going attitude, which I find much less present in the younger ones. But this does not necessarily make them more supernatural. Finally, I regret what seems like a spinal degeneration of the Congregation. It is the same institution, but it no longer has the same character ... .641

Clearly, Mother O’Neill, who insisted too much on love for Auteuil and not enough on love for the Congregation, was the one to whom he alluded in this letter.642

There was also another quip regarding the acceptance of a young Paul (sister of one of the Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption in Nîmes):

If I wanted to be nasty, I would add that this way of acting would perfectly legitimize what some Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption have said to some individuals, who told me about it, viz that it was time for people to prove that they can get along without me.643

To make others feel that they are no longer needed, isn’t that a way of pushing them aside or of rejecting them?

What Father d’Alzon thought he especially noticed in the attitude of the younger sisters—about whom, it must be said, he knew much less than he did about the earlier generations he had visited on impasse des Vignes or on rue de Chaillot—was a lessening of an apostolic or missionary sense. In 1866, the Veron Affair, which was a much more troublesome event, brought back to him all these impressions which remained painful memories, as he confided to Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus in July 1867:

I admit very simply that the first idea of founding the Oblates came to me two or three years ago, I can’t remember exactly when. The year before, in your community room, some of your sisters had promised me that they would give themselves to the foreign missions. When, a few months later, having gone back to see them again, I noticed that not one of them, except Sister Marie-Antoinette [d’Altenheim] wanted to devote herself to the missions, I had pangs of conscience, which I was probably wrong in keeping to myself, because I was left with a sad impression about the devotedness of the Sisters of the Assumption. And it was one of the signs that led me to believe that there was an undercurrent at the novitiate, to which you do not subscribe and about which I have often spoken to Father Picard. I suspect that this might cause difficulties because it will be impossible for me or my religious to speak about the foreign missions to your students without people thinking that I want, or that we want, to make Oblates out of them.644

To be sure, the Congregation of the Oblates summoned up all of Father d’Alzon’s enthusiasm. Nevertheless, this did not diminish in the least his esteem for the Religious of the Assumption. He continued to direct toward them vocations from the upper classes, reserving for the Oblates those from the more popular or working classes who, in his mind, were intended principally for the foreign missions. Obviously, this division according to social class was due more to the mentality of the time than to solid evangelical criteria. Nevertheless, after 1870, it was not without having an influence on the different points-of-view between him and Mother Marie Correnson who, as a matter of fact, came from the bourgeoisie of Nîmes.

As for the average or ordinary Assumptionist opinion, it remained indelibly marked by the distancing that took place in 1865 and did not change very much, as exemplified by this extract from Galabert’s Diary:

Madame the Superior of the Religious of the Assumption instructed me to tell Reverend Father Picard that she regretted having been such a poor correspondent, and she assured me that she was always well-disposed toward our work. I did not hide from her that I had been deeply hurt by her attitude toward me because her doubts, her hesitations, her promises, and her failure to keep these promises had put me in a very awkward and uncomfortable position. Father Picard responded saying that they had never been very enthusiastic about coming to Bulgaria and that the fear of not having close to them a priest whom they could trust had held them back ... .645

Father Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet Archivist of the Augustinians of the Assumption

55, Via San Pio V 00165 Rome Italy


A. Sister Thérèse Maylis Toujouse, R.A.

1. Additional information on the Near Eastern Mission

I would like to thank Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet for having pointed out that Marie-Eugénie did not refuse to send sisters to the Near East. This is clear from her 1863–65 correspondence.

Among the reasons that have been presented to us, the main one was obviously the uncertainty. At the time, the Sisters were not very numerous. It was not a question of refusing a mission, but of accepting it prudently. Moreover, Marie-Eugénie desired Father d’AI-zon’s presence at the first Chapter in 1858 and at the second in 1864.

For two years, the question of collaborating with the Assumptionists in Bulgaria had been under study. In 1864, the Chapter members re-examined it. The Chapter decided to postpone collaboration with the Assumptionists in the Adrianople foundation until they became more solidly implanted. At that time, the Sisters had two other foundations under way: Poitiers and Malaga. During those two years, Marie-Eugénie tried to find sisters to send, sisters who were both healthy and capable. Neither those chosen for Poitiers nor for Malaga were suitable for Bulgaria.

In January 1865, Mother Marie-Eugénie wrote to Father d’Alzon about the future foundation of the Oblates and their Rule:

Father Picard must have sent you yesterday by mail the Rule of the Oblates in which I inserted material from our rules that 1 thought might be necessary. I have kept a copy. I would be grateful if you were to send me whatever changes are made. In any case, the essentials come from St. Vincent de Paul. Since experience has proven that that is what works best in the Missions, I think that we should be very sure of ourselves before changing it.646

In February 1865:

“In God’s view, a different life-style is based on a different vocation.”

In June 1865:

As for the Oblates you are in the process of founding, I hope that wc will be their best friends, and that they have good vocations and an excellent spirit. If, later on, they have a better spirit than ours, we will gain by our contacts with them. If, on the contrary, they need us for something, we shall help them. Did you think I was trying to be difficult when I couldn’t find a Sister to give them? I suspect you did. I wish you could come and see how poor we are this year in young women capable of properly carrying out such a task. You have seen what we sent to Malaga. None of them would have been suitable for you, and it will be more or less the same for Poitiers.647

In July 1867, Mother Marie-Eugénie wrote to Father d’Alzon who thought that he noticed a weakening of the sisters’ missionary sense.

Don’t have any reservations. If ever I deserved any, it isn’t now. I regret the one you have which is based on the absence of some Sisters from the recreation during which you spoke about the Bulgarian Mission. The truth is that, in such cases, those who put themselves forward the least are the ones on whom you can count the most. Regardless, the foundation of the Oblates is a good thing, and their rule is more suitable for small schools. What matters is that we support each other, brushing aside in all candor and true charity all that the devil wants to sow between us. I beseech you not to take any decision or any other action until we have seen each other.648

2. “Message of Communion” read by Mother Marie-Eugénie at the preparatory session of the Chapter of 1886 (August 4)

For the past thirty years, the Fathers of the Assumption have been in relation with us as confessors, directors, friends, and counselors. Never has the devil been able to cast a shadow on these relationships, which have always been holy and above all suspicion. I believe that the Enemy of all good wants to take vengeance today on that purity, which he has not been able to besmirch, by sowing division among us. This causes me deep pain. I want to insist that if anyone thinks there is an antagonism between Father Picard and me, I do not accept the allegation, nor does he. Whatever happens, I shall always remain devoted, grateful and attached to Father Picard, who has always given me good ad vice and has helped me throughout the years in the Lord’s work. At the beginning of my religious life, Father d’Alzon was my support, then Father Picard. I have always been deeply attached not only to Father d’Alzon and Father Picard but also to their congregation, and I have sought to serve it whenever I could. God alone knows the pain I have experienced over the past six months.

The question of the break in relations with our Fathers is very serious, as is the question of our Rule. Let us place ourselves in the presence of God, and let us render ourselves worthy to do His will and to receive His light.

3. Correspondence between Father d’Alzon and Mother Marie-Eugénie – 1879

On May 24, 1879, Father d’Alzon wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie:

We must evidently make our final arrangements here below and prepare for our judgment. Let us pray hard for one another, that we may be treated with great mercy. I understand that the Nîmes affair has worn you out and broken your heart. Such is life. As I take refuge more and more in solitude, I see that many things are falling, including people. This makes me suffer. However, we should be saying: only God remains steadfast, and the few friends he allows us to have. You are at the top of the list of those I still have.

On May 29, Mother Marie-Eugénie answered:

I really needed your thought about fidelity in friendship. It is supportive and is the grounds on which we will always meet.

And on December 9, she paid him this homage:

I recognize in you a religious, a priest, and a man who—I know from all my past experience—does not want to leave souls, who are in the service of God, in ways characterized by poor and earthly behavior.

In her Christmas greetings, she wrote again:

I sense that even if people have managed to put sticks in the wheels, it is the Holy Spirit who establishes the very pure link of supernatural unions, and it is to Him that we must entrust them by affectionately trying to obtain the best possible gifts for those we love.

4. Statement by Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus upon the death of Father d’Alzon on November 21, 188O:

On the occasion of this very holy death, in which all the beautiful trait% of Father d’Alzon’s piety shined so beautifully during his suffering, souls—and mine in particular—are filled with the memory of his virtues and good works. Even if emotion provokes tears because of the break and the sadness of a painful separation, the impression remains that “God’s hand has made itself felt, sweetly and in a holy way, in the events which have taken place for all the Assumptions.”649

5. Circular Letter written by Father Picard to the Religious [Priests] of the Assumption on March 12, 1898, upon the death of Mother Marie-Eugénie

My very dear Brothers,

I recommend to your prayers in a very special way Madame Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, the Superior General and Foundress of the Ladies of the Assumption. Her life was intimately linked with that of our Founder, Father d’Alzon, and to the beginning of all of our works. She loved our Assumption almost as much as her own, right up until the time when, after the foundation of the two congregations, each one was able to do the good which Our Lord expected of it. I have been her confessor for over forty years. Her soul, so dear to Father d’Alzon, remained until the end the object of my prayers and my solicitude. I therefore ask you to say in each house the prayers we customarily say at the death of our own religious. There is not a single work undertaken by our congregation until 1886 in which she did not participate, and to which she did not devote herself.

Our two Congregations have been united by the most intimate bonds. The day I was called to give the last sacraments to this faithful handmaid of the Lord, 1 had the impression that one of the oldest witnesses of our foundation was leaving us and was going to join our Founder. Madame the Superior General of the Assumption was one of the most intelligent women I have ever known. She blended her brilliant intellectual qualities with a heart full of tenderness and generosity. She loved the Church, as Father d’Alzon knew how to make us do. To all who came close to her, she imparted a great love for the Liturgy and the Office. Deeply attached to the Pope, she transmitted to her Congregation her spirit and her 1 ove for all that is Catholic.

The Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption weep for the most tender of superiors and the most enlightened of guides. Our tears are mixed with theirs. We suffer with them, and we pray for the one who was the mother of so many our works and of so many vocations. I bless you very paternally.

B. Sister Gisele Marchand, L.S.A.


The Little Sisters of the Assumption were twice asked to make a foundation in Constantinople (Istanbul).

– In 1873, eight years after the foundation of the Congregation, the request made by Father Galabert was deferred. Father Pernet wrote to him on the July 23, 1873:

[ ...] We are only beginning, as you know. Although the number of our Nurses of the Poor is increasing respectably (there are 36 at present), I wouldn’t yet dare detach them from the trunk to transplant them so far away. My opinion is that, for the present, we continue our development and training in Paris [ ...].650

On November 15 of the same year, Father d’Alzon, for his part, wrote to Father Galabert: “I think you would do well to drop Father Pernet’s Sisters.”651

And on September 7, 1877, in another letter to Father Galabert, he wrote:

I ask you not to attract the Pernettes or the Religious of the Assumption to the Near East. Believe me; everyone should mind their own business. The reason why some Oblate Sisters have not been sent is because they are being formed very seriously.652

– In 1883, this request was renewed in a letter dated November 16 of that year from Father Galabert to Father Pernet. It would appear that Father Picard was pushing for that foundation.

[ ...] Like the Very Rev. Father Picard, I believe that this foundation must take place and that it must be started as soon as possible. My opinion would be that it be done immediately after Faster. Wc would reserve the occasion of the visit by Father Picard for the definitive foundation. You could then come to Constantinople and we would see about establishing your daughters on a firm base.653

We do not have Father Pernet’s reply to that letter in our archives.

Though this foundation did not take place, it seems as though the Little Sisters wanted to go to Constantinople.

Indeed, in 1881–82, Father Pernet wrote three letters to Father Chilier concerning some young women who were being approached about entering the Little Sisters. One of them, Blanche Ottelet,654 entered in 1885.

On the 11 December 1881, Father Pernet wrote:

I thank you for the two prospective young recruits for our Little Sisters. We are already praying for the success of these two vocations who would be the first to come to us from the Near East where we ourselves would all like to go. You can tell them that, before too long, there will be Little Sisters of the Assumption, if not in Philippopolis, at least in Constantinople.655

Relations between the Little Sisters of the Assumption and the Assumptionists

Sister Gisele Marchand

Father Pernet participated in the General Chapters of his Congregation in 1868, 1873 and 1876 at which relations between the Assumptionists and the women’s congregations were discussed.

In 1896—twenty years after the last of these chapters—when Father Pernet began to take the necessary steps in Rome for the Pontifical Approbation which the Little Sisters of the Assumption ardently desired, there was a period of deep crisis between him and Father Picard, `` ... everything having been called into question’’ (Letter of Etienne Pernet, March 8, 1896). However, in reading the correspondence, it is obvious that the same questions had been lying under the surface since 1872. There were three periods: 1872–75, 1876–80, 1896 and later developments.


As we have already seen in speaking of the foundation, in 1873 Mother Marie of Jesus accepted the statute drawn up at the 1868 General Chapter: government and direction by the Assumptionists, with the election of Father Pernet as “Delegate of the Superior General of the Assumption” (December 26, 1873).

1874: Request for approbation by the Archdiocese of Paris

In March 1874, steps were taken at the Chancery of Paris to obtain approbation of the Rule of the Congregation. Mother Marie of Jesus Fage and her assistant656 met Father Lagarde, Vicar General, who received them very cordially and asked to meet Father Pernet (Annals, March 1874)

The correspondence between Father Picard and Father Vincent de Paul Bailly brings out points-of-view that were at variance with those of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. We can imagine the tensions that existed at the time.

From Nice, on March 28, 1874, Father Picard wrote to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly:

Approval of Father Pernet’s daughters. [ ...] You arc the judge at the moment with Father d’Alzon, but do believe that the opinion concerning Madame Fage is well thought out. For nearly two years now, I have been trying to prevent the matter from developing in the direction it seems to be taking at the present time. If the Archbishop of Paris does not wish to give approval with the Augustinians of the Assumption, we’ll wait until there are two houses in a diocese that will give its approval.

On April 6, he specified what he meant:

As for the Little Sisters, if they want to be independent, I don’t see any problem with that, but if they want to depend on us, I don’t think they can keep their present position within the Assumption657 because their life is entirely different. It is only by a more direct and complete authority that we will be able to maintain the spirit. [ ...] We have the duty to conform ourselves to the decisions taken [in chapter]. Moreover, these decisions seem to me to be very wise. If they are not followed, I will plead for a complete break because I believe it is impossible to maintain the spirit and the unity of such works without having authority.

Father Pernet, in a letter dated April 24, 1874, wrote to Father Picard to clarify the question:

[ ...] As for the Chancery, we are at the stage of a simple investigation, very cordial by the way, by Father Lagarde.658 The latter said to Father Pernet [ ...] “It is time to regularize the position of the new community and to propose its approval to the Archbishop.” While thanking him for so much interest and kindness, I told him that I was only a simple religious in all this and that it was my duty to refer the matter to my superiors. This is where we are at. Nothing has been started on our part and it is understood that my response will be that of obedience.659

After the approval by the diocese, the Little Sisters made their first annual canonical vows on July 13, 1875.660

During that same period, our Founders raised the question of the Laudatory Decree from Rome. From the beginning of the Congregation, they had envisaged the presence of the Little Sisters in other countries.

“France is your cradle, but the whole universe is open to you.”661

That was probably why they wanted to have pontifical approbation. On November 13, 1874, Father Pernet wrote to Father Picard:

At this point. Father, I want to call to your attention to and ask you to support the preparation of a Laudatory Decree from Rome in order to facilitate the development of the Nurses of the Poor. Despite the fact that we have not intervened, the Chancery is taking an interest in them and in very kindly terms.

We don’t know the response to this request.

1876 to 1880: The Question of the Eccliastical Superior

This came to the fore in October 1876, one month after the Assumptionists’ General Chapter which had been held in September and confirmed the union of the Little Sisters of the Assumption with the Assumptionists who were to “lead, govern and direct them as children of the Assumption.”

Assumptionist General Chapter of 1876: Union of the Little Sisters with the Assumptionists

At that time, the founders envisaged that the Little Sisters

“would one day be a real Third Order Regular of the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption, dependent on them for government and direction.”662

In preparing the 1876 Chapter, the Little Sisters of the Assumption worked with Father Picard. During that period, Father Pernet was at Notre Dame des Chãteaux. We do not have this work, but Father Pernet’s correspondence refers to it and Father Picard mentioned it in 1896.

On August 3, 1876, Father Pernet wrote to Mother Marie of Jesus:

M. [Marie] Lucie [Martineau] mentioned some work that you will be doing tomorrow with Father Picard. It is an important matter. I ask you to please send me a copy of it so that I can have an idea of it before the Chapter begins. In all this, don’t lose sight of the aim of our work; the type of bond it has with the Congregation of the Augustin-ians; its direction and government; your independence with respect to temporal goods and affairs; your desire to eventually depend on Rome and make perpetual vows; and finally the need to have the daughter houses centralized at the Motherhouse for absolutely everything.663

On September 10, Mother Marie of Jesus wrote to Father d’Alzon confirming the request for union with the Assumptionists:

Very Reverend Father,

We thank you for having accepted us as your daughters, and we ask you to be so good as to continue to lead, govern and direct us as children of the Assumption. We are happy to have as delegated superior our Father, the Reverend Father Pernet who founded us and to whom we owe so much, and we hope that, according to your promise, you will leave him with us until he dies. Nevertheless, we wish above all to be the Daughters of the Assumption and we accept in advance all that you and the Chapter of our Fathers will decide for our constitutions and our direction.

Please accept, Very Reverend Father, the humble submission of your respectful children, the Little Sisters of the Assumption, Home Nurses of the Poor.

Signed: Sister Marie of Jesus


Paris, September 10, 1876

On September 14, Father Pernet wrote to Mother Marie of Jesus: “Yesterday, we discussed the question of your union with us. Everything went very well, you will be hearing about it.”

Intervention of the diocesan authority of Paris

A month later, in October 1876, Cardinal Guibert, Archbishop of Paris, appointed in Council an ecclesiastical superior other than the Founder, namely, Canon Quinard,664 Promoter of the Diocese.665

This marked the beginning of the “affair of the ecclesiastical superior,” as Father Vincent de Paul Bailly called it. Mother Marie of Jesus herself left an account of the events that took place at the time.

The foundress was officially asked to give her opinion on the matter.

She met Father Pernet and Father Picard. It was agreed that she would first consult Father d’Hulst who was astounded that she was not willing to accept a superior from the diocese. He sent her to Coadjutor Archbishop Richard

“who listened to her very kindly and advanced good reasons in an effort to convince her.”

Correspondence from December 1876 to March 1877

This correspondence enables us to follow the events and the thinking behind them. On December 23, Father Picard wrote to Father d’Alzon:

There’s a struggle brewing over the Little Sisters. They have been given a superior without even advising Father Pernet who does not feel inclined to accept the decision. The Little Mother said very gently to Father d’Hulst and Archbishop Richard that she would not be able to do without the Father Founder, and that they shouldn’t be surprised she wasn’t going to see Father Quinard. In the meantime, the Bishop of Versailles authorized an establishment in his diocese and permitted us to be superiors and confessors. We will make a foundation quickly and the novitiate will be placed out of reach.

Mother Marie of Jesus met Father Quinard at Grenelle where he was accompanied by the parish priest,666 who had exerted pressure along these same lines.

On January 29, 1877, Father Picard, writing to Father d’Alzon, kept him informed of the situation:

The Grencllc affairs are taking a turn for the worse. ( ... ) `Ihe superior who has been imposed is to present himself on Wednesday in his capacity as Promoter and to deal severely if necessary. Yesterday, I went to see Madame Fage and told her that we were giving her full freedom, if she so wished, so that she would be the only one involved on Wednesday and our house would be harder to implicate. Plans have been prepared against us, but what can we do about people who tell us they are ready to pull out from the work in Paris? We will keep after them, nevertheless, because we hold to this work. We see it is running well, and we want to keep it going in such a way as to be kicked out on the first day. The Mother doesn’t want to hear of it. She is firm and gentle. She says she would not have undertaken the work without the Assumption, and that up to now Father Pernet has always worked closely with the Chancery as well as with the parish priest. Unable to work otherwise, she would prefer to withdraw rather than take on such an impossible task.

Father d’Alzon was in Rome and passed on to Father Picard the various opinions he had received:

I have just left de Luca.667 I talked to him about the Little Sisters of the Assumption. He thinks that the Archbishop is following the principles of the Roman court according to which the founder can complete his foundation, but after him there must be a return to the general principle.668

I wrote to you about my conversation with de Luca. Today, I had a better one with Bianchi.669 [ ...] Father Pernet can be in charge of the government of the Sisters as their founder, provided they request it.670

On February 17, 1877, Father Picard wrote to Father d’Alzon:

The questions of the Nurses came up also in the course of the conversation, and the Archbishop671 wants to see me about this matter. [ ...] Obviously, they are anxious to keep them, and the thought that they might prefer to leave the diocese greatly bothers them. Perhaps this thought will bring a satisfactory solution? God willing!

On February 27, 1877, he wrote again:

“Concerning the Little Sisters [ ...], they are meeting a need and that is their strength [ ...] God is visibly blessing this work, and the discussions with Archbishop Richard are not going badly.”

Father Pernet had an appointment at the Chancery on March 1, 1877, which he explained to Mother Marie of Jesus:

Father Quinard sent me a note yesterday, asking me to be at the Chancery today from 1 to 2 P.M. He is to take me to Archbishop Richard who will give me the answer that corresponds most to our wishes and to the good of our Work. Those are the very words he used.672

Father Pernet gave an account of that conversation to Father d’Alzon in a letter dated March 2, 1877:

From the moment of my arrival, Father Quinard assured me that the work of the Little Sisters of the Assumption had the sympathy and the goodwill of the diocesan authorities. The proof, he told me, is what was decided in their favor at the last Council meeting. His Eminence Cardinal Guibert recognizes you and gives you full authority to govern and direct this nascent Congregation. You can sell, buy, administer, and found as you wish for the good of the work. You will be the one who will examine candidates for admission to the novitiate and profession. You are asked simply to keep the Administration informed, and, for ecclesiastical and jurisdictional matters, to have recourse to the Ordinary in the person of the official of the Chancery who will be designated for that purpose.

[ ...] With a kindness that I shall never forget, Archbishop Richard granted me in approximately the same terms, as much in his own name as in that of His Eminence, all of the above-mentioned powers indicated by Father Quinard with regard to the Little Sisters of the Assumption, with this restriction, however, that it would be thus lor as long as the Sisters made only annual vows.

I expressed my deep gratitude to His Excellency, telling him at the same time that these favors would help us with the Constitutions the Little Sisters of the Assumption intend to have. According to these Constitutions, they would one day be a true Third Order Regular of the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption and depend on them for their government and direction. In this regard, Archbishop Richard noted, with great kindness, that this objective was not in keeping with the usual discipline and was therefore difficult to attain, as he had remarked to lather Picard some days earlier. But, this was the Congregation’s own affair.

Finally, as I took my leave of him, Archbishop Richard blessed the work and me with most fatherly kindness.

I think that that is the best we can hope for in Paris.673

The same day, Father Picard wrote to Father d’Alzon:

“At the last Council meeting, a very favorable decision was taken in favor of Grenelle. Father Pernet has full authority even for examining candidates for the novitiate and profession. Archbishop Richard showed great kindness.”674

In the midst of these difficulties, the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption became deeply rooted in the Church, and Father Pernet sought to establish it solidly. Nevertheless, the situation remained delicate with the Ordinary of Paris.

On September 6, 1878, Father Pernet, then in Sevres, wrote to Mother Marie of Jesus:

When you come back here, we will have urgent and important affairs to deal with: 1) the extension of the novitiate; 2) the permanent foundation in Creil; 3) the question of perpetual vows. I have done the groundwork. We must now go with Father Picard to submit the requests in Versailles ... 675

The authorization for perpetual vows was given by Bishop Goux676 of Versailles on September 7, 1878:

“The Little Sisters will only be admitted to the profession of perpetual vows after making annual vows, renewed for ten consecutive years following the completion of their novitiate.”677

In November 1880, Father Quinard resigned and Father Pernet was appointed unofficially the Ecclesiastical Superior of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. He wrote to Father Emmanuel Bailly:

Last Monday, Archbishop Richard called me to the Chancery. It was especially to tell me that Father Quinard was resigning as Superior of the Little Sisters and that I was being unofficially appointed Superior in his place. We will talk about that at a suitable time because it only half satisfies me. In the meantime, since they are letting us act freely, we will have peace from that side.678

1896: Steps taken in Rome to obtain Pontifical Approbation

In 1896, there were approximately “400 sisters residing in 22 houses, which are located in 9 dioceses.”

Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament, Superior General, expressed herself in the following way when she requested the Laudatory Decree:

The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, being dispersed in this way and coming under the obedience of several bishops, feels the need to be more immediately under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff so as to ensure for its works and its constitutions that type of stability which alone, with the grace of God, can continue to assure its success.

This question of Pontifical Approbation began to be negotiated especially in 1890.

In January 1890, Father Pernet fell ill and hovered between life and death for a month. When he recovered, he continually prayed and got others to pray, so as to obtain the final approbation, (cf. Biography)

On April 1, 1893, Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament, Superior General, wrote to Father Emmanuel Bailly, then the Congregation’s procurator in Rome:

[ ...] `We cannot ignore the fact that the Little Sisters are not yet even baptized in the Church.

[ ...] To be sure, we have in our favor all the bishops of the dioceses where we have houses. Some have even asked us why we weren’t going to Rome and are urging us to do so.

Other persons are telling us that we can not only look forward to a Laudatory Decree but that we are in a position to have the Approval of the Institute, something we desire very strongly, lather, as you can well understand.

Father Emmanuel Bailly replied a month later:

I have closely examined the question bothering you. But I must tell you that, in the interest of the desired objective, the present would be an ill-chosen moment to undertake any step in the direction you mentioned.679

`‘The moment would be ill-chosen for those steps1’ for two reasons, continued Father Emmanuel Bailly. First, because of the jurisprudence followed by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars and “secondly, because we have just obtained from the same Sacred Congregation an important decision concerning the Oblates.”

At the beginning of 1896, on January 29, Father Picard suddenly suggested to Father Pernet that he go to Rome with Father Emmanuel Bailly who was returning there the following day. He authorized him to consult, clarify matters, inform himself, and act under his responsibility in full freedom (cf. letters from Father Bailly of February 13 and 14, 1896). Father Pernet did this as soon as he arrived in Rome, for he was encouraged by Leo XIII’s kindness during the audience on February 2.

As for Father Bailly, he wrote to Father Picard:

I’m greatly confused about Father Pernet. You tell me that if he asks for the Laudatory Decree, we must expect that the conditions set down today will determine the future. But, he has come here solely with that intention and with the sole idea of getting the ball rolling. He doesn’t think that you authorized him to come here for any other purpose.680

We know Father Picard’s position from his correspondence with Father Emmanuel Bailly:

My dear friend,

I am returning to what I wrote to you yesterday and summarizing my thinking so as to respond to your new question.

1. Father Pernet and the Sisters have such a strong desire to obtain the Laudatory Decree that, in spite of my reluctance and the certainty that the present request will affect the future, I am letting them be, not giving them any advice and not forbidding them anything.

2. Let Father Pernet do as he wishes, but on his personal responsibility and with full knowledge of the facts. If in the future the separation of the religious from the Fathers becomes an established fact, I am quite decided not to fight to prevent the consequences of all this.

[ ...]

5. I offered Father Pernet the trip to Rome in order to give him a rest and to satisfy his heart. I thought and I still think it quite natural that he should take advantage of this trip to consult, to clarify matters, and to inform himself.681

In the previous letter, he had noted:

I am convinced that, in order to maintain or obtain this union canonically, we will still need to wait a long time. Since the Sisters and Father Pernet do not believe this, it is up to them to shoulder the responsibility.

That is my view, my dear friend. Let things be.682

Father Pernet spoke to Father Bailly about what he was thinking of doing, and the latter mentioned this conversation to Father Picard:

He told me he had advised you of his reservations about leaving the sensitive question to be dealt with later on, without raising it at present and without compromising the future. He is contenting himself with presenting things as they are at the moment, that is, according to the prescriptions of Canon Law, along with a summary of the constitutions.683

On February 25, Father Picard himself was in Rome.

There was an extremely difficult moment between Father Picard and Father Pernet who, in a letter of March 8, 1896, on the eve of the audience with the Pope, spoke to Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament of the “torture” he was going through:

Everything having been called in question, ( ... ) some are convinced that the first step taken or the first action performed to obtain approval from the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars will break the contract of union passed between us and the Fathers. It would be a rupture. ( ... ) This being the case, would it not be better for us to stop, suspend everything, and wait a while longer?

It will be very humiliating for your servant who will have come to Rome for nothing. I will suffer a lot from it; in fact, I am already suffering a great deal from it. But, in the face of what is good for all of you, and of the general good, I will remain silent and disappear, which I will do with God’s help.684

On March 9, at the pontifical audience, Father Picard presented Father Pernet to Leo XIII as the founder of a new congregation. The Pope enquired about the origins, the development and the apostolate of the Little Sisters.

“They can easily be presented (for approval),” the Pope concluded. “They must be baptized because they were born long enough ago.” And he added, “Father Picard protects you and I, for my part, bless you.”685

In a letter to Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament dated March 10, Father Pernet gave an account of this audience, at the end of which he requested

``the favor of being able to give the apostolic blessing to my children (the Little Sisters of the Assumption) and to other groups involved in our work. “I didn’t know,” he added, “that I was asking something the Pope rarely grants.”

In a postscript to this letter, he added:

“I think that all my apprehensions are coming to an end.”686

Indeed, in three days, Father Picard’s position changed because on March 11 Father Pernet sent Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament the petition requesting the Laudatory Decree.

I’m sending you the Petition. Father Picard thinks it is very good. It is the work of one of the consultors in the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. Bishop Battandier is our friend. [ ...] At the present time, all the difficulties have been straightened out. We will be able to go as far as the approval of the Institute without any further resistance, and even with the encouragement and support of our Fathers.

I don’t think I am mistaken: we can, with the greatest and most complete confidence, abandon ourselves even more than before into the arms of the Lord. Let us love Him, let us love Our Lord, and let us not refuse him anything since He is granting us everything, in spite of our unworthiness.687

The Laudatory Decree was signed on April 2, 1897. The Constitutions were approved on August 3, 1901.

At the death of Father Pernet (April 3, 1899), Archbishop Richard of Paris, “in accord with the formal wish and request of the Little Sisters,” agreed to appoint as ecclesiastical superior the religious presented by the Superior General of the Assumptionists and chosen by the Little Sisters. In the minutes containing the decisions taken by Cardinal Richard (see appendix), Father Picard added so that

“in the event of my death, my successor will be able to see that, while respecting the rules of Canon Law and the Roman Congregations, I felt obliged to grant certain favors that seemed necessary for the good of the work of the Little Sisters and the preservation of their spirit.”688

Father François Mathis became ecclesiastical superior, but clarifications soon became necessary concerning the respective roles of the Superior General of the Sisters and the Delegate of the Assumptionists.

In 1909, an agreement that was more explicit than the declaration of 1899 was submitted to the General Chapters (1909 for the Little Sisters of the Assumption and 1912 for the Assumptionists). This agreement was in force until 1964.

In attempting to draw a conclusion, I think that the review of the events between 1876 and 1896 highlights the same underlying questions and the respective positions of Father Picard, Father Pernet, and the Little Sisters of the Assumption.

The Little Sisters wished to have Pontifical Approbation and held “to being Daughters of the Assumption.”689

In 1896, Father Pernet wrote to Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament from Rome:

There is the conviction that the first step taken or the first action performed to obtain approval from the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars will break the contract of union passed between us and the Fathers. It would be a rupture. This being the case, the Fathers would no longer owe anything to the Little Sisters, except what they would choose to give them and what their zeal might impel them to do for Religious who would no longer belong formally to the Assumption family.

The project of a Statute of Union with the Augustinians of the Assumption can be placed in the context of the ecclesiastical laws of the period.

“I am convinced that in order to maintain or to obtain this union ca-nonically, we will still have to wait a long time. The Sisters and Father Pernet do not believe this.” [ ...]690

The Laudatory Decree would have been easy to obtain if there had been no mention of a Statute of Union but difficult if it were mentioned in Rome,

`‘ ... an easy matter if we are not mentioned, but inextricable, I think, if we are ...’691

The authority of the Assumptionists was exercised through the interpersonal relations of people of very different temperaments.

Father Pernet was subordinate to Father Picard. The latter had a strong temperament and was taken up by a great number of activities. Father Pernet was more timid and reserved and was surely less categorical, but tenacious. This can be seen in several events. With regard to the pontifical approbation:

Father Pernet thought that the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption would in any case preserve, in the future, the spirit of mutual help and collaboration with the Assumption. Father Picard thought it necessary to wait until the law permitted us to speak about this, but he had too much esteem for Father Pernet and for his work to impose his point of view.692

Sister Gisele Marchand
Little Sister of the Assumption

57, rue Violet
75015 Paris


Correspondence (Archives of the Assumptionists and of the Lit-tie Sisters of the Assumption)

  • Minutes (General Council)
  • Mother House Journal 1874
  • Notes sur l’oeuvre 1876 and 1877 by Mother Marie of Jesus Fage
  • Letters of December 26, 1873 and March 8, 1896, and Minutes May 13, 1899 (included as appendices)


Letter from Mother Marie of Jesus to Father Picard, December 26, 1873

Reverend Father,

The chapter in your Constitutions concerning the relations of the Reverend Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption with the Communities of women has been communicated and explained to us. We could not wish for anything better for the general good of our work than for you to assume its government and direction. For that reason, as soon as our Very Reverend Father General, Father d’Alzon, asked us to choose as Superior either Father Vincent de Paul Bailly or Father Germer or Father Pernet, we hastened to do as he wished.

We held the vote by secret ballot last Sunday, the 21st of this month, with the whole community gathered together. Here, Reverend Father, are the results:

The Rev. Father Germer received 3 votes.

The Rev. Father Vincent de Paul Bailly received 5 votes.

The Rev. Father Pernet had the majority with 33 votes.

We humbly ask you to approve this vote and to see in the desire it expresses our firm determination to conform ourselves in everything to the paternal authority of the religious family which has adopted us.

Please accept, Reverend Father, the renewed assurance of the deepest respect of your daughter and servant in Our Lord.


Superior of the Little Sisters of the Assumption

Nurses of the Poor693

December 26, 1873

Letter from Father Pernet to Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament, March 8, 1896

[ ...] I had a private interview with Father Picard last evening that has left me highly perplexed. I am betwixt and between, and at the present moment I don’t know what to decide for your good and that of our little Congregation.

It is at a time when everything is in place and the road is open before us—a time when all we have to do is go forward with the certainty of reaching our goal—that everything is being called into question. No one wants to cause us any pain or annoy us. The desire to advance and to establish ourselves in the Church is good and very legitimate. People are not opposed to this and leave us all the more free thai your desire lor the approval is now stronger and more precise among all ut you. All this is being respected. Hut it is no less true that some firmly believe that the first step taken or the first action performed to obuin approval from the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars will break the contract of union passed between us and the Fathers. It would be a rupture. This being the case, the Fathers would no longer owe anything to the Little Sisters, except what they would choose to give them and what their zeal might impel them to do for Religious who would no longer belong formally to the Assumption family.

As you can see, things are serious, especially in these times that are so troubled [ ...]

This being the case, would it not be better for us to stop, suspend everything, and wait a while longer?

It will be very humiliating for your servant who will have come to Rome for nothing. I will suffer a lot from it; in fact, I am already suffering a great deal from it. But, in the face of what is good for all of you, and of the general good, I will remain silent and disappear, which I will do with God’s help.

So consult Little Mother Marie-Madeleine [Tomkowicz]694 and the others around you who will readily understand the gravity and the importance of the decision to be taken and the solution to be found. Then send me a short telegram letting me know your feelings. I need to have them as soon as possible.

[ ...] I still intend to leave with Father Picard, who has not yet determined the date. Tomorrow, Monday, he will be having his audience with the Pope at 11.15 A.M.

And Father added at the end of this letter:

I am taking up again the letter I began before noon. I am sending it as it is so that you’ll have an idea of the agonies I’ve been going through. This evening, things seem to be falling into place. However, I’ll only know the outcome tomorrow afternoon, Monday.695

Text of the Minutes of May 13, 1899

In conformity with the express desire of their founder, the Reverend Father Pernet, who died in the odor of sanctity on April 3, 1899, the Little Sisters of the Assumption, Home Nurses of the Poor, wishing to remain faithful to the spirit in which they were founded by the Religious (Fathers) of the Assumption, have asked His Eminence Cardinal Richard, Archbishop of Paris, to deign grant their Institute the means to remain faithful to this spirit and this wish of their founders. For his part, His Eminence graciously declared of his own accord that he thought that the good and the future of the work required the maintenance of the spirit that had been present at the foundation. It was therefore important that, while retaining the higher authority granted him by the rules of the Church in his capacity as Archbishop of Paris, he believed he ought to appoint in his place the Superior General of the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption who, either himself or through the religious he might appoint, would have the responsibility of carrying out the canonical examinations on behalf of His Eminence. Moreover, in accordance with the formal wish and at the request of the Little Sisters, His Eminence will appoint as Ecclesiastical Superior of the Little Sisters the priest whom these same Little Sisters will choose from among three Religious (Fathers) of the Assumption presented by the Superior General of the Fathers of the Assumption.

Judged necessary for the good of the Institute by His Eminence, requested unanimously by the Superior General of the Little Sisters and her Council in accord with the formal wish already expressed by the foundress, Sister Marie of Jesus and her entire Council since 1875, and agreed to by the Superior General of the Fathers of the Assumption in his Council, these arrangements have been recorded in the form of a declaration and included in the present Minutes which the Mother General of the Little Sisters, as well as the Superior General of the Fathers of the Assumption have signed, after and at the request of, His Eminence.

Paris, April 19, 1899

Sister Marie of the Blessed Sacrament, Superior General of the Little Sisters of the Assumption.

Father Picard, Superior General of the Augustinians of the Assumption.

Read and approved,

Paris, May 13, 1899696

François Cardinal Richard

Archbishop of Paris.

The Orants of the Assumption

Did the initial project undergo any transformation after the death of the founders?

The role of Father André Jaujou in the evolution of the Orants of the Assumption

[Note: André Jaujou (1859--1929), Assumptionist, from the Midi, religious of the Province of Paris, secretary to Father Picard (1882--1903), and General Assistant (1892--1923). As Father Picard's private secretary, he accompanied him for 20 years and participated in all of the important events in the life of the Congregation. He wrote his letters, shared his intimacy, and rendered him the many daily services he needed because of his infirmity. He was not only his confidant but was also acquainted with all of the dossiers and all of the business pertaining to the religious and the Congregation. Fortunately, he was most discrete. After the death of Father Picard, he was put in charge of the Orants by Father Emmanuel Bailly and appointed their Ecclesiastical Superior by Cardinal Richard of Paris.]

Anne Huyghebaert

The decision to speak here about the difficulties encountered in governing the Congregation after 1903 (Father Picard’s death) brings us into the 20th century and can therefore seem to have nothing to do with our topic. However, since we were established after the other branches, we were still in the process of being founded. Also, this subject can help clarify the evolution that has taken place in our lifestyle over the years.

1896–1903: A Progressive Autonomy

As I pointed out in my earlier talk on “The Foundation of the Orants,” Mother Isabelle, in full agreement with Father Picard and submissively under his direction, was no less the one who had had the founding intuitions of this “little work.” Though each one stressed different aspects of it, both were very humble in serving and in submitting themselves completely to the “rights” and will of God. Their relationship, maintained by the spiritual direction Isabelle received from Father Picard, by their collaboration in serving various apostolates, and by their complementary roles in founding the Orants, was unfailing.

Since the date of the actual foundation in December 1896, and despite the fact that, for several years (1880–88), she had participated in religious life, particularly at the novitiate of the Religious of the Assumption in Cannes, Mother Isabelle had positioned herself as a novice who had everything to learn about religious life. But at the end of February 1899, Mother Marie of the Compassion (Oblate of the Assumption) fell sick. On March 3, Father Picard entrusted the government to Sister Isabelle. It was now up to her to implement Father Picard’s directives on an everyday basis. During this same period, sickness and the persecutions that were taking place in France were increasingly keeping Father Picard away from the new foundation. Mother Isabelle suffered from this forced absence and from the uncertainty it provoked, but she nevertheless progressively assumed her responsibilities.

On April 17, 1900, while the persecutions were emptying the convents, the three first Orants made their private vows, adding a fourth one to devote themselves to the Assumptionists by prayer and sacrifice. That same week, the Assumptionists were condemned by the court and had to disappear. “Persecution strengthens real love,” concluded Father Picard.

Exile and the secularization taking place in France also kept him away from the Oblates. On July 10, 1901, the Orants left rue Ber-ton permanently. They went first to Clichy-sous-Bois, then, on October 2, to the convent of the Augustinian Sisters, rue de la Sante in Paris, for a stay that was very beneficial. Finally, after obtaining permission to have a chapel, Mother Isabelle installed the Orants in their first house at 27 rue Desbordes-Valmore in Passy in March 1902. In exile, Father Picard was obviously not present, and his letters were rare and brief. He was only able to visit this small monastery for a few hours on September 2 before leaving for the Near East. Shortly after his return, he visited the Orants for the last time on December 8, the anniversary of their foundation. He wanted to preach the Sisters’ retreat but, for the first time, had to be replaced by Father Andre Jaujou. The retreat greatly impressed Mother Isabelle who recognized in what he said the views of Father Picard and the spirit of their “little work.” The Orants paid a last visit to Father Picard on December 13, just before his departure for Rome where he died four months later, on April 16, 1903.

1903–1904: New Guarantors of the Spirit of the Work

Embodying the founding intuitions of the “small work,” Mother Isabelle now had to shoulder her responsibilities alone. Father Andre advised her by letter of the details surrounding Father Picard’s death, adding: “the suddenness of his death did not allow me to ask him what he wanted for the [Orants].”697 He nevertheless thought that Father Picard had entrusted him with this work, and he assured her that “to the best of my ability, I will help you bear the responsibilities that this death imposes on you.”698 Mother Isabelle was thinking along these same lines, which she confirmed to Father André in writing.699

After consulting the three eldest sisters,700 Mother Isabelle wrote to Father Emmanuel Bailly telling him of the desire of the Orants to place themselves in the hands of Father Picard’s successor and to have Father André continue his work among them.701

In response to her request, Father André paid a first visit to the “small monastery” on May 18, conveying to the Sisters Father Picard’s blessing and the witness of his death and life. Two days later, Father Emmanuel wrote to the Orants asking them to pray fervently for the Chapter of Elections and giving them the answer they awaited:

... I have for the work that is so dear to you a predilection that prompts me to desire its development more than that of any other. Without the slightest doubt, the one who has understood you and done you some good will be able to continue, in accord with Father’s own desire, to care for this beautiful, great and dear work, as small as it is in its cradle.702

The “small monastery” had a chaplain, Father Victorin, but when Father André was in Paris, he went there often, even daily. He went—often unexpectedly—to say Mass, to hear the confessions of the Oblates and the Orants, to take care of the Oblates, meeting at the convent on rue Desbordes those who were passing through, and to preach a retreat or give a talk to the Orants  ...

Father preached this strong and profound doctrine he picked up from being close to our Founder. The text of his sermon may seem strange: “When a tooth is extracted, God strengthens the gums.” I do not know in what book he found this, but it expressed his thought very well. When God removes a support or a light, it means that he wants to be himself the support and the light.703

From his teaching, one gathers that he combined originality, profound doctrine and contemplative spirituality. Mother Isabelle appreciated Father Andre’s words to the Orants and told him after the retreat he preached in August 1918: I must tell you how much we agree about the work of the Orants which you have described so well ... ‘‘ Subsequently, Father Andre’s teaching remained very much appreciated by several generations of Orants who were spiritually nourished by reading his sermons and instructions.

Mother Isabelle found that Father Emmanuel Bailly, in whose hands she placed the Orants, was just as strongly imbued with the spirit of Father Picard. She discovered that he appreciated, understood, and spoke well of their vocation. He reinforced the contemplative dimension and the love of the Church, but, “on the ground,” he seemed less open than Father Picard, for example, regarding studies and external contacts. Mother Isabelle put her trust in him. She reported to him about the life of the small monastery and submitted to him questions concerning both the present and the future. Given the trust she had in him as well as the similarity of their thinking, she ended up by entrusting him with the direction of her soul.704

Mother Isabelle did not receive the same type of support from Father Andre705 to whom she was nevertheless strongly and sincerely grateful for the concrete devotion he had for the work of the Orants. She did not doubt his intentions, but, apart from his teaching, she did not always agree with all of his ideas. She consulted Father Emmanuel about this:

... Do you want Father Andre to have more authority and to be responsible for all of our formation instead of having this formation given, by mutual agreement, by him and me? In other words, do you think that I should remain the Mother? In all of this, I only want to do the will of Our Lord as it is made known to me through obedience, and I would not feel that I am called any less because I will be obeying even more.706

She wrote to Father Andre:

... You told me that in the event of differences between us, I am the one who must be obeyed, but Monsieur [a pseudonym of Father Emmanuel] told me that you were my Ecclesiastical Superior. So I must obey you. That is clear. But he also told me that my opinion must be discussed. Consequently, you must dot the i’s for me and let me know when I must remain silent and obey, lent this issue be referred to the higher authorities. In the meantime, however, you can count on my filial and respectful gratitude.707

Therefore, even though she retained a filial respect towards him, relations between Mother Isabelle and Father André were not easy. The fact that each one was convinced that he/she was the heir of Father Picard’s thinking probably contributed to the tensions that appeared in the concrete management of the Congregation. There are traces of this regarding various important points about which references were or were not made to Father Emmanuel’s opinion. Mother Isabelle called upon him especially to “arbitrate” two debates about the spirit Father Picard wanted to give the Orants, which we will discuss below.

It should be noted that some of the tensions were resolved by the submission of Mother Isabelle, as noted in Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel Dienne’s708 written testimony. This habitual submission shows that the points about which she disagreed or debated with Father Andre reflected her own charism and what she perceived to be her responsibility as a foundress.

1904: Orants outside [the Monastery] (Orantes du Dehors)

In January 1904, in the small house at 27 rue Desbordes-Valmore which could barely accommodate ten persons, Father Andre brought together about thirty of his spiritual daughters to attend the retreat he was about to preach to the Orants. There were a few Oblates and especially workers from the “Bonne Presse” as well as laypeople, young girls and widows in whom he discerned an attraction to contemplative life. All the retreatants took their meals in the refectory with the community; some of them were given complete accommodations.

The number of places were calculated and recalculated in the chapel, the refectory, and everywhere. Since Father André refused to recognize that there were too many people and not enough places, the Sisters rose to the occasion. Given her deep respect for the Priest, the Religious and the Superior, and given the humble and supernatural submission of which we have already spoken, Mother Isabelle did—and would continue to do—the impossible to please Father Andre. She herself went out to buy chairs, tables, etc., because there were not enough for such a large number of people. Exhibiting good humor and even cheerfulness, she tried to make each retreatant as comfortable as she could. At the same time, with spiritual and joyful words, she encouraged the Sisters who were overloaded with work. This helped them to accept the difficulties because they were serving only as “Martha” throughout the retreat. Indeed, for them, viz., two visiting postulants and nine Sisters, this retreat was hardly anything more than hard work at a breakneck pace at the service of “Father’s invited guests.”

This could have been no more than a picturesque episode, as experienced in all beginnings, but it was the beginning of a long debate about the “Orants outside [the monastery]” (“Orantes du dehors”).

Indeed, as he finished the retreat on January 17, 1904, Father André founded this work which brought together nine persons who wanted to effectively unite themselves to our prayer life, but without leaving the world where they continued to have various responsibilities. Father gave them a prayer schedule which resembled our own, telling them that they were members of our Congregation, and that, after a trial period of two years, they would make in his hands the same vows as the Sisters. As often as possible, they were to share in the life of the community and would be admitted to all of its community exercises, except the Chapter of Faults.

Almost all of the Orants outside [the monastery] were very edifying and devoted, but their invasion of this very small convent continued to be a real trial for the calm and regularity of the religious contemplative life that was already disrupted by the effects of the persecution being carried out in France against the religious congregations.

Father André wanted collectedness and preached it admirably, but by making our small hermitage the center of his active apostolate,709 he himself was an obstacle to the practice of what he preached.

In this delicate situation, Mother Isabelle wanted to obey the Superior, who represented the will of God for her and, at the same time, to maintain for her Orant daughters the climate of recollection needed to live their contemplative life. Remaining submissive, she spoke up at times to defend the contemplative life. Because she held firmly, the number of Orants outside [the monastery] was never greater than about a dozen. She also insisted that they not be admitted to the intimate life of the community before being carefully screened and submitted to the approval of the community:

We must protect the inside from being invaded by the outside and create a prayerful milieu which the Sisters Outside can join in order to increase its fervor, without ever diminishing its intensity or upsetting the regularity of the religious life.

It was not the work of the Sisters Outside that Mother Isabelle disapproved of. On the contrary, she yearned to see the Orants become a center for prayer comparable to a hearth radiating outside by its fervor. But for that to happen, it was necessary to avoid too many drafts that might extinguish its flames. Father André was possibly aware of the situation and of its disadvantages,710 but he took his role seriously and gave priority to increasing the number of Orants. All of these difficulties give us additional insight.711 Father André and Mother Isabelle both favored openness, but prudence, priorities and the means to be taken were different, causing tension in its application.

Throughout her life, Mother always held to a spirituality that was communicative, but at the same time she made sure that “prayer always remained the first priority.” This is undoubtedly what we must retain from this adventure.

1905–1906: Drawing up of our First Constitutions

Rather than trace the history of our First Constitutions, we will highlight here only one aspect about which we have questions. Besides his function and the much appreciated steps he took with the archdiocese, what was Father Andre’s role in the elaboration of the text? To what extent did he have an impact on the expression of the spirit and charism of the Orants?

To obtain the recognition of the Orants, Father André zealously increased the number of times he approached the archdiocese where he was well-known and always welcomed by Archbishop Richard, even when he was sick. Since the Archbishop had asked that a project of our Constitutions be brought to him during the year 1905, Mother Isabelle drafted a first version in a student work-book in collaboration with the elder sisters. Full of words that are crossed out, this book is in our possession but it was only a draft. It was probably written cleanly by a Sister with a nice handwriting and completed by Mother Isabelle before it was given to Father Andre Jaujou. The text Mother Isabelle gave him has not been found.

Our various chronicles and souvenirs of the foundation mention the work and the preparatory meetings on the Constitutions, but we have no written traces of the exchanges that took place between Mother Isabelle and Father Picard on this issue. Sister Thèrése-Emmanuel wrote:

“Father André completely revised this project in order to give it a more canonical format. He added a chapter on the Orants Outside [the monastery], which he hoped to have approved at the same time as our Congregation.”

And she added that after Christmas 1905,

“Father Andre came here to spend his days busying himself with ... an important work for our small Congregation.”

Combined with specific times of adoration, this work was surely that of editing the Constitutions and was done in collaboration with Mother Isabelle.

At her request, the finished-product was presented to the Sisters: “Father gathered the professed Sisters to read the work he had done for us and to ask our opinion.” Unanimously approved by the Sisters and subsequently presented to Cardinal Richard at the beginning of January 1906, this text has not been found either.

In the depths of the religious persecution, in the aftermath of the severing of the Concordat, and in the midst of the effervescence caused by the inventory of the churches by tax officials, Archbishop Richard had a lot of other worries but nevertheless weighed and discussed with Father Andre all the articles in the text that had been submitted. Among the changes he made, he suppressed the chapter on the Orants outside [the monastery] and did not even accept that they be mentioned in the Constitutions, leaving Father Andre responsible for this work. There were also other discussions and changes about which we have no details. A second version, of which we do have the text, was then submitted. The decree of approbation of our Constitutions for ten years by Cardinal Richard, Archbishop of Paris, was signed on November 21, 1906.

At the present time, not having in hand the intermediate texts of the Constitutions, we do not know the extent to which the intermediate step and the necessary revisions of the text were worked out in real collaboration and in complete keeping with the foundress’ opinion. For this same reason, we do not know the evolution in Mother Isabelle’s thinking on this subject before her document of 1912 entitled Explanation of the Constitutions. Our oral tradition explains this document by the need felt by Mother Isabelle to complete and comment the Constitutions with which she was not entirely satisfied but which she nevertheless gratefully accepted from the Church. We cannot say if this dissatisfaction was linked to other things besides canonical questions.

1913: La Croix-en-Brie

In order to lead a life of prayer and of union with God, Mother Isabelle knew that souls need a calm, well-ordered and silent atmosphere. This need led her to take little interest in the work of the “Orants outside” (Orantes du dehors) as it had been conceived: the life of the community was not protected from the arrival of persons habitually living in the world. In spite of her desire to spare the community the agitation coming from outside, Mother Isabelle burned with zeal for the well-being of all souls. She warmly welcomed Father Emmanuel’s suggestions to give spiritual advice to people who would like to come for a retreat, or occasionally to teach catechism to children. Besides, this also corresponded to the ideas expressed at the time of our foundation by Father Picard who wanted us to have an enlightened and radiating piety.

It always pleased Mother Isabelle very much when, during their few outings, some of the Sisters had the opportunity to help the poor materially or spiritually. It pleased her because of the additional good that was being done and because of the renewed hope it gave her at seeing the concretization of the secondary work that had been part of the original project. It was for her like the first fruits of a foundation she hoped would be open to the world. She expressed this clearly on the occasion of a rest the Sisters took together for health reasons at Berck-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais) in 191 I during which a little girl was left in their care for catechism:

I am absolutely delighted  ... . I almost cried for joy. I wanted so much for God to show me his will regarding the secondary work, and then all of a sudden he shows it to me  ... . for indeed it is him. We had nothing to do with all of this, and yet here is the realization of the desire we expressed last winter to have children to prepare for their first private communion. I have the impression that we should not take the initiative of our secondary work. It should be pointed out to us by Providence, and the best thing for us is to be nothing more than helpers ... 712

The Following year, a new stay in Berck was again the occasion for a charitable deed: a 10-year-old crippled boy, who had never heard about God and who was thought to be incurable, was so well taken care of that he got better and became a good Christian.

The health of the Sisters having improved after those two summers in Berck, they never went back. A house in the countryside now became necessary in order to accommodate during the summer the Sisters who had lost strength as a result of their sedentary life in Paris. Mother Isabelle found such a house in the Department of Seine-et-Marne, in a town called La Croix-en-Brie, a small village where the faith seemed almost dead. Its young parish priest had tried to reawaken the Christian faith in the area, but he only managed to gather a few children. He asked our Sisters to take care of the young girls who had not been catechized and to create a youth club. This was the origin of a new debate with Father André.

We have sought to discover the idea behind the foundation, the desire of Father Picard regarding the secondary works authorized by our Constitutions. This article in our Constitutions must not remain a dead letter. We must keep the privilege of being in contact with the poor who are the suffering members of Jesus Christ. However, we must not let ourselves be dragged into works that are too external and that might divert us from our contemplative goal and therefore from our intimate union with Our Lord. The question is complex, but since we desire to do only the will of God, we trust that he will show it to us according to circumstances. Accordingly, it was decided that we should accede to a certain extent to the desire of the parish priest of La Croix-en-Brie and welcome the young girls by trying to do them some good, speaking with them, instructing them, and having them sing, but that we should not open a youth center as such.

These decisions as well as Father Andre’s directives were not easy to implement because the young girls preferred to play. Furthermore, Father blew “hot and cold.” He would give permissions, then deny having given them or withdraw them. He gave the impression that he agreed with this opening and, at the same time, that he did not want it. Mother Isabelle wrote to Sister Thèrése: “Father André had many objections to the youth center. He fears too many distractions that could lead to something else.” For her part, Mother Isabelle rediscovered the desire she had had with Father Picard to avoid having the contemplative life turn people in upon themselves:

Going to the poor is like going to Our Lord. If we do it in a spirit of faith and in such a way as not to detract from the observance of the rule and from recollection, our contemplative life will not suffer. It is good for the soul to devote itself and to be in touch with the miseries of this world! Selfishness is one of the dangers of contemplative life. We can easily be content, we must admit, with what pleases us in our work. We can also be content with a poverty that lacks nothing and that frees us from a good number of worries. It is good for us to see real poverty. It makes us more detached and especially less annoyed by the sacrifices we have had to make. Humility wins out.

Mother Isabelle was so taken up with this issue of charity toward the poor that she talked about it profusely, especially during this period. She was attracted by the prospect of a future foundation in a poor and de-Christianized area where, by the presence of the Sisters, a lot of good could be done in places where there was no one to do it.

The discussions and tensions that were taking place influenced the Sisters in one way or another and risked dividing the community and instilling a certain vagueness about what was or was not the basic lifestyle of the Orants The experience would not be repeated. The following year, war broke out and absorbed everyone’s energy with its share of exterior miseries and of worries about how to support the community in these difficult conditions. As for Mother Isabelle, she lost part of her fortune in Russia: I have always desired poverty, and now I am living it.’’

Until 1918, she kept her desire to be near the poor: “When we move, we must find a way to be close to the poor.” After that, either out of weariness or because she followed the opinion of the majority of the Sisters, she never spoke again of this idea of presence to the poor. The move of the community to Sceaux in 1920 was done without foreseeing this dimension of openness. At the end of her life, Mother Isabelle insisted more on silence and separation from the world.

In spite of her long resistance, Father André’s influence seems, in fact, to have modified Mother Isabelle’s initial project. The admission into the community of persons not very interested in openness and not very capable of pursuing systematic studies also influenced this evolution.

In this study of the role of Father André other points would also need to be examined, particularly the place of studies in the vocation of an Orant, the impact of the crisis of Modernism, and the reasons for which Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel, on whom Mother Isabelle thought she could count, was excluded from every position and influence in favor of Sister Anne-Marie. In the absence of a complete analysis, here are nevertheless a few facts. A “daughter” of Father Andre’’ since the age of 14, Sister Anne-Marie was proposed by him in 1908 to be a member of the Council at a time when she was still a young professed. Mother Isabelle refused. She became a Councilor in 1914, replacing Sister Thérèse who was put aside. Since each one had a natural tendency to share more easily the ideas of their respective spiritual Father or Mother, this increased the influence of Father Andre with whom Sister Anne-Marie easily sided.

1921: Chapter of Elections, Full Habit, Enclosure, Work of the Sisters ...

At her death on July 3, 1921, Mother Isabelle was surrounded by about thirty Sisters who had been living for a year in larger quarters that were conducive to greater silence and withdrawal from the world. The General Chapter, composed of the eleven eldest Sisters, took place on October 4. After deliberating, it voted to elect a new Superior General Superior and two Assistants. It lasted only a quarter of an hour and elected Sister Anne-Marie Loysel as the new Superior General.

A new era was about to begin. Directed and counseled by Father André, Sister Anne-Marie put her virtues and organizational skills at the service of her new responsibility. Their agreement about ideas and decisions marked a turning point in the organization of the Orants. Withdrawal structures were set up in which the dimension of openness wanted by Father Picard and Mother Isabelle had no place.

  • On November 21, 1922, the entire community definitively began wearing the long white religious habit with the choir mantel and the mantel with train at the prie-dieu of adoration.
  • Strict enclosure was established shortly thereafter.
  • The office was henceforth celebrated in choir seven times a day, as it is by the major orders, and it took on a particular splendor on major feasts.
  • A new category of Sisters was founded: the External Sisters who were now in charge of all links and contacts with the outside.
  • Work was organized within the enclosure in order to meet the needs of the community which no longer benefited from the property and income of Mother Isabelle.
  • On February 2, 1926, perpetual adoration before the Blessed Sacrament was begun day and night. This was the fulfillment of one of the great desires of Mother Isabelle.
  • In 1927, the article on the secondary work that Mother Isabelle had had inserted and approved in our First Constitutions was deleted by Father Andre.

Mother Isabelle had said that the life of the Orants would take a very different direction depending on who—Father André or herself—would die first. Her prophecy was borne out.713

Later, when the Church of Vatican II asked religious congregations to rediscover their original charism, the Orants stopped wearing their big mantles and went back to being present to the world, though “prayer always remains the top priority.”

Sister Anne Huyghebaert Orant of the Assumption

62, rue de Normandie 1081 Brussels Belgium


  • Histoire de notre famille religieuse, les dix premières anniet, vol 2, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 3, 280 pages.
  • Souvenirs de la fondatrice des Orantes de l’Assomption, Mere lsabelle-Marie, ecrits par Sceur Thérèse-Emmanuel, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 4, 140 pages.
  • M. de Dainville, Isabelle de Clermont-Tonnerre, Comtesse Henri d’Ursel, fondatrice des Orantes de l’Assomption, Ed. Lethiel-leux, 398 pages.
  • A l’occasion d’un centenaire, Les Orantes de l’Assomption hier et aujourd’hui, Orants of the Assumption, Centennial collection no. 1.
  • Pages d `Archives on Father Andre Jaujou, Unnumbered series.
  • “La T.R. [Très Révérende] Mere Anne-Marie de Jésus,” Lettre à la Dispersion, no. 330.


Luc Fritz, A.A.:

I discovered the very rich personality of our founders, along with their qualities and shortcomings. I learned a lot about our history.

For each Congregation, we might want to underline two positive points and two negative ones.

Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet, A.A.:

We would need to be more explicit about the relations between Father d’Alzon and Marie Correnson because they changed over the course of time. We would also need to include Father d’Alzon’s relations with his entourage, especially with the foundress of the Oblates.

Michele Ropp, Or.A.:

I am struck by the desire of each Congregation to remain attached to the Assumption family. I am also struck by the importance of the principle of subsidiarity. Today, we have nothing to fear from this moment of truth, but we must face this common desire of the Assumption family: how can we build the Assumption of today and of tomorrow?

Clare Teresa Tjader, R.A.:

Direction and government are not clearly distinguished or explained in our documents. Money and temporal goods seemed to be the only things that remained outside the purview of the directing authority. Did the Augustinians of the Assumption have from the Church a plan on which to base themselves in their relations with our Congregation? The question of the spirit of the Assumption family that the Religious of the Assumption are supposed to have lost was never explained, except in a letter you will find in my document. Was it a question of too much contemplation? However, Mother Marie-Eugénie never alludes to difficulties with Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel on this subject.

Jean-Michel Brochec, A.A.:

I discovered flexibility on the part of Father d’Alzon.

Amid all of the disappointments that took place, I noticed that all of the Congregations wanted to form a family.

Question: Were the difficulties between the Assumptionists and the congregations of women concerned only with questions of government? What about the spirit? Were there any other fundamental issues involved?

Céline Héon, L.S.A.:

The people in place had very clear ideas. But wherever Father Picard appeared, there was a crisis. 1 don’t see very clearly the distinction between direction and government. In the future, we should define what allows us to be a single family.

Thérèse-Agnes de Balincourt, R.A.:

I am struck by the personality of these women and, at the same time, by their desire to be attached to the Assumptionists. It would be a good idea to compare the Constitutions of our Congregations. I will remember the impact of history on our present-day relations. 1 am amazed by the strength of the oral tradition of each family. It could lead to a greater conviviality.

Mercedis Martínez, L.S.A.:

I was able to understand the complexity of the situation, particularly the relationship between men and women, which was still more difficult during that century than it is now. We are living a time of grace. How can we put it to good use for the future?

I would like the Religious of the Assumption to clarify the role of Marie of Christ from the point-of-view of their Congregation.

Richard Lamoureux, A.A.:

The role of women in the 19th century, with their feelings and beliefs, has become clearer. It is not the same today as it was in the 19th century. The desire on the part of men to play a decision-making role is difficult for us to understand today.

I also believe it is difficult for us to interpret the 19th century. We would need supporting documentation and proof. Regardless, human nature has not changed since the 19th century. We must continue to be in communication with each other in all openness and maintain friendship among our congregations.

Cristina Maria Gonzalez, R.A.:

I am struck by everyone’s freedom of expression, especially that of the women. I am convinced that it was very risky business in the 19th century to want to found a congregation of men and women. We all risked something and we could not avoid difficulties. I would like to know more about Father d’Alzon, independently of the difficulties. Also about Father Picard and the other great figures we have talked about.

Marcel Poirier, A.A.:

I note that our history is marked by the idea of the role of women in the 19th century, at a time when it was evolving rapidly. Our foundresses were feminists before their time. Our history is also marked by a juridical vagueness within the Church. The miracle is that we are here today searching together to recapture the vigor of our origins.

Céline Héon, L.S.A.:

I discovered the complexity of the 19th century. The difficulties of our families stem from this complexity as well as from those of our founders.

Richard Brunelle, A.A.:

There are different ways of understanding obedience. Father d’Alzon’s idea of it was rather broad, while that of the two others was much narrower. That narrowness even manifested itself within the Assumptionists, particularly during the crisis of 1917. Though the General Chapter was supposed to elect the successor to Emmanuel Bailly, the Holy See had to intervene and impose a Vicar and eventually chose a Superior General.

Georgette-Marie Fayolle, O.A.:

The Lord can draw good from all types of situations, provided we cooperate with him. The crisis led the Oblates of the Assumption to involve themselves heavily in the Bonne Presse. Providence can work through us. It is a call to build the future in a very positive way. I am very happy to live today in a Church that frees us from a very strong ecclesiastical tutelage, all the while leaving us the possibility to choose and to open ourselves to the richness of others.

Henri Kizito Vyambwera, A.A.:

How are we living this history today? Our Superiors General meet and work together, but the religious do not know about it. There might be things that are causing problems today.

Maureen Connor, R.A.:

I am struck by the simple and humble way in which the problems were presented. This way of proceeding is a grace. I situate problems on three levels: the role of women, the contusion of roles, and the strong personalities with their qualities and shortcomings.

Mow did we get out of these crises? Someone dared to take a step forward. The Spirit also intervened when Father Picard changed his mind from one day to the next. Having more information is also a way of getting out of a crisis.

René Mihigo, A.A.:

We are truly a family that has weathered violent storms and gone beyond the seas. I congratulate our Fathers who knew how to manage all these charismatic women and to keep alive the founding spirit of the Assumption family. Our family is in the process of nursing its past wounds which we have exported to mission countries, possibly even unconsciously.

Claire-Myriam Milanese, R.A.:

I would like to know more about the impact of the ecclesial and political context on our different crises, the influence of the positions taken by the bishops and politicians.

Bernard Holzer, A.A.:

I would like to see a clarification of the role played by the entourage of our founders, the role of their Councils. It is less clear in the case of Marie-Eugénie. Are there any Minutes of the Council meetings?

Thérèse-Maylis Toujouse, R.A.:

(in answer to a question from Father Bernard Holzer): Yes, we have the notebooks of the Council minutes.

Marie-Jacques Sevenet, Or.A:

We would need to place certain problems regarding government in the broader context of the diocese. Should not the appeal that was made to the Assumptionists be placed in the context of the relations they had at the time with the dioceses, for example, with the diocese of Paris in the case of the Little Sisters?

Luc Fritz, A.A.:

It would be interesting to know something about the mutual financial help that existed and that still exists.

New insight into Father Picard's categorical temperament

Point-of-view of an Orant of the Assumption at the end of the colloquium

Anne Huyghebaert

Father Picard has been mentioned many times in connection with the disagreements that took place during the early years of the various congregations of the Assumption and that have been discussed during this colloquium. The discovery of several facts and quotations have allowed us to better understand the harsh side of his temperament that has not been transmitted to us by the writings of our foundress, nor by the tradition of our Congregation, nor by the testimonies, generally posthumous, of the Augustinians of the Assumption of his generation.

We knew him to be fraternal, often paternal, to the point of expressing his tenderness in some of his letters. During this colloquium we have discovered, for instance, that Father d’Alzon, who often praised him, gave the following thumbnail sketch of him in 1876:

Concerning the rivalry between the provinces, I am the guilty one ( ... .). We have a secondary school where people are overloaded with work, but where the religious are much more energetic than those at the novitiate ( ... ) With all of the best intentions in the world, the one who will foment these rivalries will be [Father] Picard with his despotism. You don’t want to be subjected to it and forced to go here or there. The religious here are no longer disposed to accept him as an infallible oracle. I think this is most unfortunate. Bui also, why could he not be more flexible, and why does he have to be so categorical? We must go along with his way of thinking, otherwise he will submit his resignation which, he knows very well, I cannot accept at the present time ... 714

In this extract, Father Picard is depicted to be just as domineering toward Father d’Alzon and the other Fathers as he was toward Mother Marie-Eugénie. His rigidity cannot simply be reduced to a problem of not accepting women who stood up to him. His relations with women were surely marked by his time and his place of origin, but they were marked even more by his notion of obedience which he applied to all his relations, whether in spiritual direction or government. With Father Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet, A.A.,715 we note that for Father Picard obedience was especially a question of humility and self-effacement, while for Father d’Alzon, it was marked especially by dialogue. Since Mother Isabelle had deepened her consecration to God by practicing profound humility during her entire life, she was able to find support and to harmonize her life with this spirituality of Father Picard.

Moreover, it should be noted that the rigidity we have spoken about can co-exist with “the best intentions in the world.” That is why, for example, Father Picard could consider a project, which had a social dimension and involved the Christian press, to be, at the same time, something good for the Oblates, as he did when he suggested to Mother Correnson that she open a novitiate in Paris:

We could seize this opportunity to prepare a major development of the Oblates, which I am hereby suggesting to you. Please see in this overture my desire to help a work that is very dear to me and to which you have consecrated your whole life.—I believe that [this project] would be very useful to the Oblates. 1 ask you to do the impossible to make sure that a Sister can come as mistress of novices. I believe this combination would open the way to a real development of the work ... .716

But he then had trouble admitting that Mother Correnson might have had other views, and he insisted (letter of June 26, 1882).

It has been said that, in that same letter quoted in its entirety below, Father Picard “blamed” her for many things:

Paris, June 26, 1882

Reverend Mother,

I understand your dilemma, but I hope that you understand mine. No more than you, would I want to stray from the intentions of our dear and venerable Father, but by acting as I intend to do, I am sure that I will be following his known intentions and the authorizations he has given.

You told me: there should be only one novitiate, and this novitiate should be in Nîmes. However, I had just experienced the pain of having to assume the burden of leading the Assumptionists when a first report arrived from Bulgaria informing me of a second novitiate. Among other things, I had been authorized to start something in Paris or in Sèvres. All that in the name of the Oblates of the Assumption. Today, circumstances seem to be calling for what I found desirable approximately three years ago. I therefore allow myself to insist. If you have no one in Nîmes, we might be able to borrow one of the Sisters from Bulgaria. This does not contradict in any way the point in the rule that you quoted. The superior indeed is the one who admits to profession, but this admission is always preceded by the examination and consent of the [ecclesiastical] superior.

This brings me to the more serious question you raised in your letter and about which it is indeed important that we agree. Sending Sisters to Spain to raise money without informing me beforehand, and organizing special sermons and retreats without the approval of Father Laurent are things that are just not done. I should have spoken to you about this when I visited you, but it was difficult for me to do. I preferred waiting for the right moment, which would not be long in coming, to ask you the question: exactly what is the situation of the Oblates with regard to the Assumptionists? I fear a misunderstanding, and you alone can clear up my doubts. Please clarify this question completely. I hope that the situation will be one that we can all find acceptable. I ask Our Lord to enlighten us and to lead us. Before all else, we must be able to proceed with trust and simplicity. Please accept, Reverend Mother, the expression of my very best wishes. Respectfully and devotedly yours in Our Lord, Father Picard. (Letter from Father Picard to Mother Correnson, no. 5106).

The tone of this letter remained moderate, and the briefly stated remarks—for example, about the existence of a novitiate in Bulgaria, which we have not checked, or about collections made on behalf of the Assumption seem understandable and legitimate, especially in the context of the agreement of 1876. It would obviously be more interesting if we could complete this impression with Mother Correnson’s own response and opinion regarding these matters.

After receiving this letter, Mother Correnson clearly stated that she did not want the Oblates to be a congregation governed but rather directed by the Fathers along the lines of the authority given by Father d’Alzon to the Superior General in Nîmes. But the situation in the Near Eastern Missions was quite different because the Sisters there were entirely supported and directed by the Fathers to whom they belonged. Not only would the Oblates have been unable to continue their mission without them—something Father Picard was well aware of—but, especially in this mission context, the Fathers thought that it would have been impossible for them to continue assuming the expenses of Sisters who would no longer depend on them except for spiritual direction. “I do not find it possible to retain the responsibility without the authority”; “in the missions this is impossible”; “in the missions, we cannot accept to remain [financially] responsible for the Sisters.”717 It was for this last reason that Father Picard asked all of the Oblates to express by secrete ballot their choice as to whether they wanted to be governed by the Assumptionists or not, This provoked the painful schism of which we are all aware.

In September 1882, Father Picard initiated conversations with Mother Correnson in Nîmes to search for an understanding. Were they able to truly dialogue? Did he try to convince her? Did his categorical temperament stop him from searching and suggesting a solution of reconciliation? Did such a solution exist? We have no reliable information about all of this.

We are now more aware of the situation. The rigid character of Father Picard led him to be inflexible and intransigent, the damages of which the history of our congregations bears traces and scars, some of them long-lasting and often hard to pin down as to their causes. However, we must not forget that the positive side of this same character-trait greatly contributed to his charism in terms of faith, spiritual direction, and government as well as to his unfailing commitment to the service of the Kingdom of God and of the Assumption. Both aspects of his character were indispensable to him as he personally confronted the turmoil caused by the contradictions and persecutions of the time and as he guided his Congregation through it all, as he did.

Sister Anne Huyghebaert Orant of the Assumption

62, rue de Normandie 1081 Brussels Belgium


Louis Secondy

I have retained five main points, reactions, reflections, and/or comments from this colloquium and from the contacts we have had during these days of study and sharing.

I. You have dared

You have dared to discuss things that, in the past, opposed your families and made them suffer, things that have left traces today, in order to make the best possible use of them, to turn them into a work of purification not only of your memories but also of your feelings and emotions. And to do that, it was necessary to clarify the facts. You did this without making any concessions to serious history and without leaving things unsaid. You confronted different points-of-view based on primary sources, studying testimonies and accounts in order to better grasp the issues involved and to get a clearer idea of what really happened. That is good history. But your merit does not stop there. Indeed, it wasn’t a question of discussing a topic external to yourselves, but, quite to the contrary, of discussing facts about your heritage, your family history, things that implied calling the past into question.

You have also dared to give your colloquium broad objectives by focusing on three aspects:

  • An understanding of a complicated and unstable century, and therefore of the overall context.
  • An analysis of dossiers that are precise and meticulously drawn up.
  • An active participation of the heirs present in this room, by giving them the floor—which made of this meeting a true colloquium.

II. Mission accomplished

This colloquium has accomplished its mission by fulfilling two of the three objectives it set for itself. I will come back to the third objective in my conclusion.

Rereading your history

You have reread your history by:

Creating excellent dossiers compiled by your archivists who were rigorously methodical and extremely knowledgeable about their subject;

Presenting dossiers that were carefully explained in keeping with a strict analysis of their contents that left nothing to improvisation;

Using long quotations, which are less easily slanted in favor of one’s point-of-view, rather than short ones, which can sometimes be taken out of context;

Engaging in historical discussions at the university level.

One avenue that perhaps still needs to be explored is researching external public archives—municipal, departmental or national—regarding this or that issue, for example, all that concerns the boarding schools of the Assumption Family in Nîmes. It would be a good idea to specify that the questions that were debated and that had something to do with this city—which had a population of more than 62,000 in 1872—concerned especially Catholics from among the upper-class. The business of the Priory and of the boarding schools was probably not the major preoccupation of the inhabitants of L’Enclos Rey. Father Pernet, on the other hand, though living at Assumption College, was nevertheless concerned about them.

Consequently, and thanks to these methods, everyone here now understands the essential aspects of the topics that were chosen in order to help us interpret the events that sometimes made for a painful past during and after the 19th century.

III. Comments about the crisis

Your reflection revolved around this question. What can we conclude from it?

1. A clarification: what was the cause of the difficulties?

You approached this question on a case-by-case basis and discovered its complexity. Some causes stemmed from one or another person, others from the difficulty involved in determining the nature of the relations among the various “Assumptions,” and still others from external causes: a particular situation or the concept of a given mission, for example Cape Town.

2. This study of the crises paradoxically provoked in me a number of unexpected reactions


On listening to all these accounts, I discovered that there were as many positive aspects as there were crises among the various “families of the Assumption,” the very idea that united you all. There were solid bonds that often allowed you to bear up under the trials and conflicts, as well as a chain of mutual help that extended from the Religious of the Assumption, to the Augustinians of the Assumption, to the Orants, then to the Little Sisters of the Assumption and the Oblates of the Assumption. It is striking.

I also discovered the major element that brought everyone together and that played itself out around a name which, while creating unanimity, also became on certain occasions the object of a quarrel. We explored this aspect. But, strangely enough, it is a name which, by and large, does not correspond to the spirituality of the mystery of the Assumption but to a type of Christocentric spirituality that is lived out in a variety of charisms.

These charisms led you to assume many commitments, works, and institutions in all of the fields which the Church has traditionally entrusted to religious congregations: education and teaching at all levels, including a concern to “re-Christianize intelligences” and to make society more livable and more Christian, as well as a concern for the poor, the humble, the unfortunate, the missions, and contemplation.

All of that came from a common trunk and from a family that has many branches.

3. A brief comment about the crises

A crisis is a regrettable accident, but one that is inevitable in all walks of life. We can say that you were much more exposed than others. Wanting to create a sort of existential link among five branches, in which important key people interacted, could only increase the occasions for a crisis. With five persons, there are more occasions for misunderstandings than with only two. You had some, which you have just described. At this point, must we not ask the key question: why did your crises, very serious at times, not bring about what happens so often elsewhere, viz., a complete break?

4. That being the case, you need to ask yourselves the following question:

How did you overcome these crises? A basic but helpful distinction might be useful in finding the answer, viz., the distinction between crises that were quickly overcome, and crises that had long-lasting consequences. How and when were these consequences overcome? Have they been overcome? Have they yet to be overcome? What was the final outcome of these crises? Was there a complete break? Has there been a reconciliation? Were meetings held that eventually became constructive, like the ones you have had with the Sisters in Cape Town?

5. Putting crises to good use

If crises are overcome in the short-term, they can have quick positive effects. They can also have positive effects if they are overcome over the long-term. They can also lead to separations, which, at times and from some points-of-view, can almost become a necessity, in which case separation can be preferable to a brutal deterioration of the situation or to deadly gangrene.

Today, group-therapists as well as politicians use mediation. Would this be a new way of limiting the scope of future crises?

IV. This colloquium shows the unique contribution that the Assumption family made to the Church of France

I will underline three aspects:

First, the idea of evangelizing young girls of the upper class at a time when boarding schools for girls were often no more than schools without particular characteristics. This insistence was not unique, but was especially strong with Mother Marie-Eugénie.

Second, the creation of a teaching Congregation from within an institution. Education then becomes, at one and the same time, basic, pre-existing, and internal to the Congregation.

Third, the Near Eastern Utopia of looking to Poland and Bulgaria in order to reach Russia, with the extraordinary desire of putting an end to the schism and of bringing the Orthodox back to Rome. And this, in absolute terms: you are in error, but we are in the truth and have the truth.

V. The place of laypeople

Father d’Alzon gave the example in his college, even if this meant having to pay the price. Moreover, he stated that the same obligations should not be imposed on future laymen (college students) as on future priests (students in the alumnates), for example, presence at daily Mass. Father Pernet and Marie Fage, for their part, constantly sought ways of including laypeople in what they were doing. It is absolutely necessary to analyze this way of doing things in the documents of the Little Sisters of the Assumption.

This is a point that needs to be deepened in each of your Congregations because it is essential to an accurate history of the Church of France in the 19th century.


But in your inter-congregation relations, you still need to implement the third objective of this colloquium, viz., greater communion among yourselves. This is not the work of an historian, though it will be once you have achieved it and it has become history. As a result of this colloquium, I have the impression that the number of your encounters will increase. To see each other and to speak with each other will give you occasions to correct misconceptions and to dress and heal past wounds. By better knowing each other, you will better appreciate each other.

At any rate, thank you for having welcomed me, the stranger and the outsider. I have profited from these encounters, and I leave enriched in terms of my personal thinking and my teaching, and full of admiration for a Church that is so human that we sometimes ask ourselves how it can still survive after two-thousand years under these conditions. By daring what you dared to do, you have made a contribution to the Church in your own way. Thank you for all you continue to do.

Louis Secondy

9, rue de la Frigate 34084 Montpellier France

Conclusion and Dismissal

Richard Lamoureux

At the end of a colloquium that has in part dealt with relations between men and women in the 19th century, I feel compelled to explain why I (the only male Superior General) am speaking at the conclusion of our work. I want to assure you that I do not attribute to myself any special authority. On the contrary. I am, in fact, acceding to the will of the four other Superiors General who have asked me to speak. I should add that what I am about to say has not been reviewed and approved by them, each of them has contributed in one way or another to what I am about to say.

You might consider these words a secular equivalent of the “ite missa est” from the end of Mass. We have been celebrating something of a Eucharistic ritual, with times for reconciliation, for historical narrative, for celebration and for thanksgiving. The “ite missa est” at the end of Mass was always a moment to remind us that what was just celebrated must now have consequences. And so that is the case for us at the end of this colloquium. Our work has given us certain responsibilities and entrusted to all of us a mission.

I would like to summarize all of this in two major convictions, and then three practical suggestions.

Do not be afraid of the truth

The first point is summarized in these few words: do not be afraid of the truth. Sister Mercedes already reminded us at the beginning of our work: “Remembering the past is liberating” (Hacer memoria es liberador). The fourth evangelist had put it in similar terms, “The truth will set you free”:

“Jesus then went on to say to those Jews who believed in him: ‘If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31).

Truth is hard to come by, but we gathered here because we thought that it was worth the effort and that it would bear fruit. We tried to enter into the minds and hearts of our foundresses and founders, to avoid judging them with the criteria and, yes, the prejudices that are ours today. This colloquium made it possible to clarify a number of difficult questions (e.g. the initial efforts to organize the Near Eastern Mission). In the process, we were able to admit that interpretation is rarely easy. During our discussions, the same text could be used to substantiate very different interpretations, but at least we made the effort to provide evidence for our interpretations. We also realized that the truth is often much larger than what we initially are able to grasp. We couldn’t study everything about all of the questions that we would have liked to address, but we accomplished a good deal, we identified some questions that need to be pursued, and best of all we proved to ourselves that we could do this kind of work together and that serious research and reflection do allow us to resolve certain problems and do make possible greater progress in our relations.

We also understood that what is in our archives is not always very edifying or uplifting and does not always correspond to the idealized image that we have of our founders or of our histories. I recently read a letter that we’ve integrated into our archives in Rome, from Father Léon Déhon to a friend of his who had become an Assumptionist but decided to leave the Congregation. What Father Déhon had to say about Father d’Alzon was not especially flattering, but perhaps there is some truth in what he had to say.

I am pleased about your plan to leave the Assumption. It carries on feverish activity that seems to have satisfied you for a while, but that is not the way the big congregations began. I have the impression that Father d’Alzon does not have what it takes to be a founder. Surely, he has a lot of heart and sometimes the insights of a genius, but he is extremely unstable in his character and affections, unsure in his judgments, and irascible. With him, it is impossible to do a serious novitiate. There is little coherence in what he does and, after a hundred changes, he has not yet determined his aim and rules. There are a lot of natural and human sides to dear Father d’Alzon. Nevertheless, his person is what holds everything together. This congregation looks to me like a flash in the pan that will not last.718

Yes, history is not always edifying, but to ignore it would be folly. Our love for the truth would have us avoid all false hagiography. Perhaps our motto ought to be these few words of Mother Marie-Eugénie: “frankness and true charity.”

Let us not forget what we have seen in the mirror

The second major conviction is summed up in this passage from the letter of Saint James.

A man who listens to God’s word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks into a mirror at the face he was born with: he looks at himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. There is, on the other hand, the man who peers into freedoms ideal law and abides by it. He is no forgetful listener, but one who carries out the law in practice. Blest will this man be in whatever he does (Jas 1, 23–25).

It is sometimes difficult and painful to look at oneself in the mirror. And it is even more difficult to change one’s ideas, to forge new paradigms, to convert. To look at and to see oneself is not enough. At the end of this Colloquium, we each need to do some thinking. We would do well first of all to identify what we have learned. Perhaps we should do what Father Luc Fritz suggested at one point. And then we have to change (and that’s the challenge) the stories that we’ve been telling for the past century if they do not correspond to what we have now learned to be the truth. Change the stories that have become legend, that have almost become “gospel”—but that are simply wrong! Perhaps the change has to go even more deeply: we need to purify our memories, forget wounds inflicted by real or imagined offenses. It is a real conversion of the spirit to which we are called by this colloquium.

And then, more concretely, we need to organize ourselves (by sessions for formators, by revised formation programs, by publications, etc.) so that what we’ve learned here gets transmitted with precision and accuracy, instead of the errors that we have, perhaps unwittingly, been propagating. One way we might do this effectively is to publish, as a family, a formation module, with the common elements of our charism and with explanations in each Congregation’s own words of its particularity.

But conversion goes even further than this. Beyond simply teaching us something about the past, what does the example of our mothers and fathers inspire us to do today? I’ve been impressed during these few days by the capacity of the founders to read the signs of the times and then to respond. I’m impressed by their flexibility, their “availability,” their attentiveness to the Spirit. Maybe what impresses me is their holiness. Perhaps it’s easier to found than to re-found, but this is what we are called to today: to re-found for a new day. If re-founding is more difficult, then probably we have to be even more holy. Such presumption!

Three Suggestions

Now, let me address three practical matters.

The importance of archives and of archivists, if ever we were tempted to doubt it.

Archives must be gathered together (in dry, safe spaces, on solid, clean shelves, and in appropriate boxes and cases), they must be physically preserved (and today how can we not think of computerizing all of the documents?), they must be indexed (with reference information on paper and in computer data-bases), and they must be published. All of this is in view of making them available for the enlightenment and edification of the religious and the general public interested in our history. Should everything be accessible? Clearly, discretion must be respected when documents touch upon people who are still living, but it seems to me that reverence for the truth should compel us to make every document in our archives accessible to the serious researcher. Once again, no false hagiography!

Archivists are responsible for all of the tasks listed above. But for them to do all of this well, they need to be people who love this type of work and they must be well trained. It is important then to foresee long in advance the university training of a certain number of religious in history. As for the technical know-how of the archivist, it is more easily acquired on the job and through specific workshops. Perhaps we also need to enlist the help of our lay friends in the organization of our archives and in their utilization for scholarly research.

The importance of continuing our research and dialogue on the questions that have been studied, on the questions that have been raised, and on other questions that will come up

We agree on the importance of all of this, but how should we go about it? This colloquium was organized in the context of Jubilee 2000, but let us not wait for another millennial jubilee or a second colloquium of this importance. There are simpler ways.

The first, of course, is the publication and the distribution of the content of our discussions during these days. A committee has accepted to prepare the Acts of the Colloquium, and to them we should be grateful. We can be confident they will do their work with dispatch. But then what will we do with this publication? 1 insist once again on the importance of a “live” transmission of what we have learned here, using the published Acts as our book of reference.

The second could be an annual meeting of our archivists or of religious who are engaged in a study of these kinds of questions. At such a meeting, the participants could talk about the projects on which they are currently working, share the questions that they think it would be important to investigate, and maybe even study together specific issues that they identify.

Finally, the third would be the publication by our individual Congregations of studies, major or more modest, that would be of interest to the other Congregations.

Finally, the role of the Superiors General and General Councils in identifying questions and ways of pursuing them

The Superiors General and their Councils meet very regularly and are often more aware of questions that need to be studied than other religious who are more taken up by immediate problems. Consequently, it would be good for the members of our general governments to propose on a regular basis specific studies to be undertaken. Some of the questions that have already arisen include the following:

The famous “common trunk,” that is to say, the common elements that unite us as Assumption religious. This discussion should also include a common reflection on what distinguishes us and al lows each of us to make our own particular contribution to the Church.

“Let us stay connected to the trunk; let us be happy about who we are.” (Pernet?)

“Let us remain loyal to our roots.” (Mother Marie-Eugénie)

The role of women and the importance of friendship in the Assumption family.

Power in the Church, collaboration, and clericalism.

The role of the laity (e.g. the idea behind the fraternities of the Little Sisters of the Assumption).

The role of intelligence and reflection at the level of the mission itself; the link between study and social action (“remake a people for Jesus Christ,” Pernet).

Ite Miss Est. Deo Gratias

These are just some thoughts that come to mind after celebrating this important event or “liturgy,” as I’ve come to think about it, in the life of our religious family. At the end of such a “liturgy,” it is appropriate to give thanks for many things in our history:

  • The discovery of both the crises and the times of grace;
  • The dialogue, the conversation (even the differences), and the encounters over the years;
  • The diversity of charisms, and the depth of what unites us.

We also give thanks for our founders for:

  • Their faith, their humility, and their docility;
  • Their innovations, their ability to truly revolutionize the thinking of people;
  • Their ambition to “remake a people for Jesus Christ” (Pernet);
  • Their desire to be women and men of their time, in tune with their century;
  • Their ability to combine contemplation and action;
  • Their freedom and their friendship.

Finally, we thank the sisters, brothers, and friends who helped us during this colloquium:

  • The archivists: Giselle Marchand (Little Sister of the Assumption), Hughes-Emmanuel d’Esparron and Claire Rabitz (Oblates of the Assumption), Thérèse-Mayliss Toujouse and Clare-Teresa Tjader (Religious of the Assumption), Marie-Jacques Sevenet and Anne Huyghebaert (Orants of the Assumption), and Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet (Assumptionist).
  • The Preparation Committee: Cristina Maria Gonzalez (Religious of the Assumption), Bernard Holzer (Assumptionist), and Louis Secondy.
  • The speakers, particularly Louis Secondy.
  • The Organizing Committee, particularly Marie-Claire Debionne, Marie-Claude Prat (Little Sisters of the Assumption), and Jean-Michel Brochec (Assumptionist) for the museum.
  • The Animation Committee: Louis Secondy, Bernard Holzer (Assumptionist), Christine Foulon (Religious of the Assumption), Luisa Drago (Oblate of the Assumption), and Eliane de Montebello (Little Sister of the Assumption).
  • The Committee in charge of drawing up the Acts: Blandine Fougerat (Religious of the Assumption), Luc Fritz (Assumptionist), Catherine Lesage (Oblate of the Assumption), and Bernard Holzer (Assumptionist).
  • The community of the Little Sisters of the Assumption which has received us so well.

Many thanks to everyone. Let us go in the peace of Christ.

Father Richard Lamoureux Superior General of the Augustinians of the Assumption

55, Via San Pio V 00165 Rome Italy


Religions (Sisters) of the Assumption

Bernoville, Gaetan, Les Religieuses de l’Assomption. Grasset: Vol. I – La fondatrice – 1948 Vol II – Lóeuvre et l’esprit – 1951 Bories, R.A., Hélène-Marie, Marie-Eugénie Milleret, fondatrice des Religieuses de L’Assomption, Presses européennes, offset 1991. Les Origines de L’Assomption—Souvenirs de famille, Mame:
Vol. I and II—1898 Vol. Ill —1900 Vol. IV—1902 Mère Thérèse-Emmanuel, cofondatrice des Religieuses de l’Assomption, Une mystique au XIX siècle, by a Religious of the Assumption, Bonne Presse, 1934. Poinsenet, R.A., Marie-Dominique, Feu vert au bout dun siècle, editions St. Paul, 1971.


Acts of the Colloquium on the Centennial of the death of Mother Marie-Eugénie Milleret – 1998, Marie-Eugénie Milleret, fondatrice des Religieuses de L’Assomption, Don Bosco, Paris, 1999.

Correspondance de Mere Marie-Eugénie, 40 typewritten volumes presented for the Beatification, Auteuil; vol. VII (1841–43) and VIII (1844–45): to Father d’Alzon.

Instructions de Chapitres de Mere Marie-Eugénie de Jesus, de 1872 a 1889.719

Notes intimes de Mere Marie-Eugénie de Jesus, 1997, Tipografica Leberit, Rome.

Textes Fondateurs—Religieuses de L’Assomption, 1991, Tipografica Leberit, Rome.


Claire-Madeleine, R.A., La pensée de Mere Marie-Eugénie sur notre mission educatrice, Auteuil, 1971.

Jeanne-Marie de PEucharistie, R.A., Quelques constantes de la spiritual ite de Mere Marie-Eugénie (Sources et textes)f Auteuil, 1976.

Lafrance, Jean, Un regard tout en Jesus-Christ, Essai sur la spirituality de Mere Marie-Eugénie, Auteuil, 1976.

La spiritualite de L’Assomption d’apres les ecrits de Mere Marie-Eugénie de Jesus, le Val N.D., Antheit, 1947.

L `esprit de L’Assomption dans Veducation et Venseignement—1910, Desclee et C,e.

Madeleine de la Croix, R.A.:
Les ailes s’ouvrent, Auteuil, 1978.
Quand Dieu fait la route, Auteuil, 1980.
Un long chemin a deux, Auteuil, 1980.

Marie-Antoinette, R.A., L’education du caractere d’apres Mere Marie-Eugénie de Jesus, Lanore, rue d’Assas, Paris, 1946.


Toujouse, R.A., Thérèse-Maylis, Research in the Archives of Auteuil:

  • L’adoration a L’Assomption, maisons d’adoration et de pri-ere, 1984.
  • Centenaire de la maison de Lourdes.
  • No. 1: Aux origines, formation de la spiritualite de l’Assomption, 1984.
  • No. 3: Anne-Eugénie Milleret, Un unique regard: Jesus-Christ et l’extension de son Regne, 1988 (appeared in Vie Spirituelle, no. 666, 1985).
  • No. 4: Marie-Eugénie et le Père d’Alzon, Intuitions communes, influence reciproque?, 1988 (talk given during the d’Alzonian session in Rome at the Assumptionists in 1988).
  • No. 5: Pour une société regeneree par l’Evangile: Un projet educatif au 19e siècle, (appeared in Cahiers de l’I.S.P., 1988).
  • No. 6: La priere de Mere Marie-Eugénie.

Un chemin de saintete, 1989. Conversations de Mere Marie-Eugénie – 2002 – Auteuil. Prier avec Marie-Eugénie Milleret, ed. du Signe, 1997.



”Que ton Regne vienne.”

Aujourd’hui, les Religieuses de L’Assomption, Tradition vivante, 1986.

Une femme de foi, une femme d%action. Marie-Eugénie Milleret, fondatrice des Religieuses de L’Assomption, Bayard Presse, 1974.

Augustinians of the Assumption


Bernoville, Gaetan, Emmanuel d’Alzon, Bayard Inc., Canada, 2003, 256 pages.

Colloquium on history directed by René Rémond and Emile Poulat, Emmanuel d’Alzon dans la société et l’Eglise du XIXe siècle, Paris, Le Centurion, 1981, 334 pages.

D’Alzon, Emmanuel, Correspondance, 20 volumes, Paris/ Rome, 1923–2005.

Deraedt, A.A., Desire, De fortes etudes. Une conviction tres ferme du P. d’Alzon, Rome, 1997, 18 pages.

Deraedt, A.A., Desire, Le Père d’Alzon et les principes de 1789, Rome, 1989, 17 pages.

Dufault, A.A., Wilfrid, The Spiritual Legacy of Emmanuel d’Alzon, Milton, MA, 1988, 209 pages.

Foy, O.A., Thérèse-Marie, Emmanuel d’Alzon. Une vie che-valeresque, Paris (motherhouse of the Oblates of the Assumption), Brussels, 2000, 275 pages.

L Esprit de l’Assomption d’apres Emmanuel d’Alzon, several authors, Rome, 1993, 101 pages (translated into 6 languages).

Lamoureux, A.A., Richard, Catholic Higher Education as Response to the Revolution, Worcester, 1989, 27 pages.

Lamoureux, A.A., Richard, D’Alzon on Education and the Transformation of Society, Worcester, 1997, 12 pages.

Lamoureux, A.A., Richard, Emmanuel d’Alzon: To Educators at Assumption. Some Writings of Emmanuel d’Alzon on Education, Milton, MA, 1988, 134 pages.

Lamoureux, A.A., Richard, Emmanuel d’Alzon’s Vision of Higher Education, Proceedings of a Workshop for Trustees of Assumption College, October 1988, Milton, MA, 1988.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, “Emmanuel d’Alzon” in Dictionnaire historique de [`education chrétienne d’expres-sion frangaise, Paris, editions Don Bosco, 2001, pp. 21–22.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, “Le Père d’Alzon, un familier d’Augustin” in Itineraires Augustiniens, 1992, no 7 DD 25–32.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, Le P. d’Alzon au jour le jour, selected extracts, to be published in 2006. Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, Le P. d’Alzon par lui-meme. Anthologie Alzonienne, Rome, 2003, 287 pages (translated into several languages).

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, Prier quinze jours avec le P. d’Alzon, Paris, Nouvelle Cite, 2003, 121 pages (translated into several languages).

Postulation, Dossier Vie et vertus du P. d’Alzon, Rome, 1986, vol. I (Summary), 138 pages; vol. II, 1083 pages. Sauzet, Robert, “Emmanuel d’Alzon, un pretre cevenol croise de Vultramontanisme” in Les Cévennes catholiques, Histoire dune fidelite XVIe-XXe siècle, Perrin, 2002, pp. 317–320. Serie du Centenaire du P. d’Alzon 1980, Paris-Rome, 1978–1983, 7 booklets.

Session d’Alzon Inter-Assomption, 11 different contributions, Rome, 1988.

Séve, A.A., Andre, Christ Is My Life, The Spiritual Legacy of Emmanuel d’Alzon, New City Press, New York, 1988. S6ve, A.A., Andre, Thirty Minutes for God, New City Press, New York, 1986, 125 pages.

Tavard, A.A., Georges, La Foi et le Royaume, Paris, Le Cerf, 2003, 179 pages.

Tavard, A.A., Georges, Le Père d’Alzon au fr Concile du Vatican, Rome, 1996, 66 pages.

Tavard, A.A., Georges, Le Père d’Alzon et la Croix de Jesus. Lettres aux Adoratrices, Rome, 1992, I 14 pages. Tavard, A.A., Georges, Textes spirituels d Emmanuel d’Alzon, Paris, Le Cerf, 2002, 217 pages.

Tavard, A.A., Georges, The Weight of God, the Spiritual Doctrine of Emmanuel d’Alzon, Centennial Series No. 5, Tipografica Leberit, Rome, 1980, 113 pages.


Acts of the Colloquium on history held in Valpré 2000, L `aventure missionnaire de l’Assomption, Paris, 2006.

Deux siècles d’Assomption, le regard des historiens, several authors, U.E.A., Rome, 2003, 237 pages.

Fortin, A.A., Robert, Windows on Assumptionist History, Bayard Publications, 2002, 373 pages (selections taken from Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet, Notices biographiques).

Guissard, A.A., Lucien, The Assumptionists from Past to Present, Bayard Publications, 2002, 140 pages.

Heritiers de l’Evangile. Prier trente jours avec les religieux de l’Assomption, several authors, Bayard Editions, Centurion, 1999, 192 pages (translated into Spanish).

L `Assomption et ses CEuvres, 1980, no. 601, special centennial issue, 64 pages.

L’Assomption et ses CEuvres, 1989, no. 639 (Que ton Regne vienne), 32 pages.

Les Assomptionnistes, des hommes de foi en pleine vie, (booklet published by the Congregation), editions du Signe, 1993 (translated into 10 languages).

Memoire Assomptionniste, Ecrits au fil des ans 1850–2000, several authors, editions Du Bugey, 2000, 181 pages.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, Agenda. Ephemerides de l’Assomption, Rome, 2002, 366 pages.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, “Assomptionnistes,” in Guide pour I’histoire des Ordres et des Congregations religieuses, France XVle-XXe siècles sous la direction de Daniel-Odon Hurel, Brepols, 2001, pp. 280–81.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, Notices biographiques des Religieux de l’Assomption, Rome, vol. I-V, 2000–2001, 3356 pages, plus appendices.

Périer-Muzet, A.A., Jean-Paul, Petit Manuel. Histoire de l’Assomption, Tipografica “Leberit,” Rome, 2003, 185 pages.

Session held in Nîmes 1995, “Identite et Vie assomptionniste” in collection Rencontres assomptionnistes, U.E.A., no. 3, Paris (Denfert), 153 pages.

Several Assumptionist provinces and/or regions have published a certain number of books or articles on the Congregation as a whole or on their regional, national, continental or linguistic specificity:


Missions des Augustins de l’Assomption, 1954, no. 26, pp. 25–27. Withdrawal in 1963.


François de Paule Blachere, A.A., Genesis de la Asuncion Argentina (Assumptionists, 80 years of service to the Church of Argentina: 1910–1990), 1990 (booklet).


Austin Treamer, A.A., The Mission of the Augustinians of the Assumption in Australia 1860–1876, mimeographed text, 1988, 176 pages.


Arthur Jallet, A.A., Un siècle de presence assomp-tionniste en Belgique, Brussels, 1992, 24 pages. Articles by Father Daniel Stiernon in the bulletin Belgique-Sud Assomption.


A Familia Religiosa Assuncionista, 1980 (booklet). Also:

  • 25 ans de l’Assomption a Andradas, 1995 (booklet).
  • Emanuel Van Der Stappen, 60 ans de l’Assomption au Bresil: 138 assomptionnistes travaillant pour le Regne, 1996.
  • Emanuel Van Der Stappen, Nos Freres defunts 1935–1995, edit. 1996.
  • François Le Marec, Une page de l’histoire de l’Assomption bresilienne, in U.N.A., March 1998, pp. 39–44.


cf. Near Eastern Mission. Video “Garder la memoire.” Documentation for the postulation of the cause of the Assumptionist Bulgarian martyrs; Journal du P. Galabert, edit. Charles Monsch, vol. I, Sofia, 1998, 602 pages, and vol. II, 2000, 348 pages ; Bernard Holzer and Jean-Baptiste Michel, Les rideaux rouges de Sofia, Bayard Editions, 2003, 172 pages; Jean-Noel Grandhomme et Didier Ranee, Catholiques de Bul-garie, 2002, 327 pages, collection Temoins (Aide a I’Eglise en detresse).


Yves Garon, Les Assomptionnistes au Canada, Sillery, 1997, 163 pages.


Fernando Aliaga Rojas, Religiosos Asuncionistas. 100 anos al servicio de la Iglesia en Chile, 1890–1990, Santiago, 1990, 247 pages.


Justin Munsch, L’Assomption en Mandchourie, Rome, 1983, 144 pages in Serie du Centenaire no. 8. Withdrawal in 1945.


Venga tu Reino (booklet, 1996: 50th anniversary of Assumptionist presence in Columbia). Bulletin: d’Alzon de los Andes.

Congo, Democratic Republic of the:

Lieven Bergmans, Cinquante ans de presence assomptionniste au Nord-Kivu (1929–1979). Marc Champion, Religieux defunts (1929–1994) Province du Zaire, edit. ABB, Butembo, 1994. Marc Champion, Un siècle d’evangelisation de Butembo-Beni, edit. ABB, Butembo, 1998.


Fondation a Riobamba in A A Info, 1996, no. 153.


l’Assomption et ses oeuvres, 1954, pp. 8–11; 2002, no. 688, pp. 4–7.


Assomptionnistes (booklet prefaced by Ren6 R6mond), 1992. Le Segretain,’’ Les Augustins de l’Assomption’’ in Religieux et moines de notre temps, Le Cerf, 1980, pp. 211–221.


“l’Assomption en Allemagne” in Missions Assomptionnistes, 1963, no. 559, pp. 38–43.


``L’Assomption en Grece’’ in Missions des Augustins de l’Assomption, 1962, no. 63, pp. 63–64. Actes du colloque Mgr. Petit (Rome, 1997), edit. Bernard Holzer, in the periodical Orientalia Christiana Analecta, Rome, 2002, 229 pages.


Giuliano Riccadonna, L’Assomption en Italie, 2004, pro ma-nuscripto, 2 pages.

Ivory Coast:

News in bulletin Mission des Augustins de l’Assomption, later Missions Assomptionnistes. Bulletins of the former Province of Lyons: Rhin-Guinee, Lyon-Assomption. Withdrawal in 1988.


Gervais Quénard, Pages d’Archives, 1961, no. 13, pp. 415–430.


Bulletins Assumption East Africa and The Assumptionist. Lebanon: cf. documentation on the Near Eastern Mission (the Orient). Withdrawal from Charfe in 1958.


Maurice Laurent, 50 ans de presence assomptionniste a Madagascar, Togliara, 2003, 28 pages, and Ephemerides Assomption Madagascar, Fianarantsoa, 2003, 124 pages. Mexico: Bulletin La Asuncion en Mexico, 1995.

item[Near Eastern Mission:] Gervais Quénard in Pages d’Archives, 1957, no. 6, pp. 129–148; 1959, no. 10, pp. 345–367; 1965, no. 6, pp. 417–474. Julien Walter, The Assumptionists and their Near Eastern Apostolate (1863–1980), no. 6 in the Centennial Series, 1980, 80 pages. Pouvons-nous vivre sans I Est? U.E.A., 1994, 206 pages. I’Assomption et ses CEuvres, autumn 1994, no. 659.


Arno Burg, L’Assomption aux Pays-Bas (pro manuscripto), 2004, 20 pages. New Zealand: I’Assomption et ses oeuvres, 1974, no 578 pp 26–29.

Orient: cf. Near Eastern Mission


Bernard Steff, Notre presence assomptionniste en Rou-manie depuis les origines, 26 pages. Bernard Steff and lonel Antoci, Vie imparatia ta. Augustinienii Asumptionisti 1850–2004, 80 ani de prezenta in Romania 1923–2003, Blaj, 2004, 1 15 pages. Didier Ranee, Courage et fidelite. L `Eglise greco-catholique unie en Roumanie, collection AED temoignages, 1994, 332 pages.


Acts of the Colloquium of 2003, Les Assomptionnistes et la Russie, Bayard, 2004, 319 pages. Antoine Wenger, Rome et Moscou, D.D.B. 1987, 682 pages. Gervais Quénard in Pages d’Archives, 1955, no. 3, pp. 37–52; 1959, no. II, pp. 369–384. Robert J. Fortin, The Catholic Chaplaincy in Moscow, A Short History: 1934–1999, Brighton, MA, 2004, 89 pages.

South Korea:

Frans Desmet, Adresses successives des AA en Coree, 2001, pro-manuscripto, 3 pages, News in AA Info. Spain: L ‘Assomption et ses ceuvres, 1972, no. 570, pp. 10–11 ; 1980, no. 604, pp. 8–9.


Bulletin Assumption East Africa and The Assumptionist.


François Dorner, La vie des catholiques en Tunisie au fil des ans, Tunis, 2000, 643 pages. (Les Assomptionnistes, pp. 572–574.) Withdrawal in 1964. Turkey: Xavier Jacob, Liste des missions de l’Assomption en Turquie, 2004, pro manuscripto, 2 pages. Bulletin Missions des Augustins de L’Assomption.


Henry Moquin and Richard Richards, Assumptionists in the United States, Worcester, 1994, 118 pages plus photos.

Yugoslavia (presently Serbia):

L’Assomption et ses ceuvres, 1976, no. 585, pp. 19–21. Withdrawal in 1982.

Not included in the above are particular bibliographies concerning particular communities, places or activities, e.g., Bayard, ecumenism, education, formation, etc.

Periodicals and bulletins:

Bulletin Officiel de L’Assomption (1946–1975), followed by Documents Assomption, Rome, 1976 to today.

ART Informations (1969), followed in 1990 by AA Info (translated into 4 languages).

L’Assomption et ses OEuvres, Paris, 1897 to today.

Bulletins of the various Assumptionist Provinces.

Bibliography drawn up by Jean-Paul Perier-Muzet, September 2005.

Oblates of the Assumption


Alzon, d A.A., Emmanuel, Lettres a Mere Emmanuel-Marie de la Compassion et aux premières Oblates de l’Assomption, Brussels (provincial house), 1993, 490 pages.

Clavier, O.A., Marie des Anges, La septieme petite pierre brute. Souvenirs de la fondation des Oblates de l’Assomption, Paris (motherhouse), 1965, 39 pages.

Colloque Marie Correnson et les premières Oblates 1865–1926, Paris-Nîmes, 2000, 230 pages.

De Crisenoy, Maria, Les Oblates de l’Assomption. De l’Orient desole et des Chrétientes d’Occident a I’essor des Eglises noires (1865–1954), Grasset, 1955, 257 pages. Collection: Les grands Ordres monastiques et Instituts religieux, vol. XLV.

Dupeyron, Canon E. M., and Reichter, Gil, Les Reverendes Meres Franck fondatrices des Religieuses Augustines de Notre Dame de Consolation, Bordeaux, 1945, 157 pages. Ephemerides des Oblates de l’Assomption, Paris (motherhouse), 2000 edition, 53 pages.

Foy, O.A., Therese-Marie, Emmanuel d’Alzon. Une vie chevaleresque, Paris (motherhouse)-Brussels, 2000, 275 pages.

Garde, O.A., Mireille, Mere Emmanuel-Marie de la Compassion [Marie Correnson], Paris (motherhouse), 1989, 38 pages. Lettres de Mere Emmanuel-Marie de la Compassion Correnson, cofondatrice des Oblates de l’Assomption et premiere Superieure generate 1842–1900, Brussels-Paris (motherhouse), 2005, 324 pages. Marie Correnson (Mere Emmanuel-Marie Correnson) co-fondatrice et premiere Superieure generate 1842–1900, Extracts from correspondence and summaries of Chapters, Paris (mother-house), 1987, 28 pages. Oblates de l’Assomption. Centennial 1865–1965. Paris (mother-house), 175 pages. Oblates of the Assumption, Ainee(s) Fondatrice, Orsay Session, July 1990, 63 pages. Les Oblates de l’Assomption, (booklet of introduction in 8 languages), it. Du Rameau, Paris, 33 pages. Roux, O.A., Jacqueline, “Oblates de l’Assomption” in Guide pour l’histoire des Ordres et des Congregations religieuses France XVIe-XXe siècles, edited by Daniel-Odon Hurel, Brepols, 2001, pp. 364–365. Touveneraud, A.A., Pierre, and Marichal, O.A., Marie-Leonie, La fondation des Saeurs Oblates de l’Assomption, Rome (Assumptionist General House), 1978, 36 pages, 1980 Centennial Series, no. 4.

Periodicals and other publications of the Congregation

L `Assomption et ses OEuvres, Paris, 1897 to present.

Annates des Oblates de l’Assomption, religieuses missionnaires, Paris (motherhouse), 1936–1940. Le Royaume, Paris (motherhouse), 1952–1980.

Nouvelles Breves, followed by Nouvelles Internationales (bulletin of the Congregation) beginning in 1969. Various provincial bulletins.

Series Pages d’Oblation, Memorial et souvenirs (biographies of deceased sisters), 17 volumes: Vol. I, 1867–1921, Paris (motherhouse), 1957, 271 pages.
Vol. II, 1922–1939, Paris (motherhouse), 1960, 299 pages.
Vol. III, 1940–1945, Paris (motherhouse), 1964, 282 pages.
Vol. IV, 1946–1953, Paris (motherhouse), 1968, 283 pages.
Vol. V, 1953–1961, Paris (motherhouse), 1978, 272 pages.
Vol. VI, 1962–1966, Paris (motherhouse), 1981, 258 pages.
Vol. VII, 1967–1971, Paris (motherhouse), 1983, 296 pages.
Vol. VIII, 1972–1978, Paris (motherhouse), 1986, 357 pages.
Vol. IX-X, 1979–1983, Paris (motherhouse), 2003, 169 pages (new edition)
Vol. X, 1982–1985, Paris (motherhouse), 1988, 101 pages.
Vol. XI, 1986–1987, Paris (motherhouse), 1990, 97 pages.
Vol. XII, 1988–1989, Paris (motherhouse), 1991, 115 pages.
Vol. XIII, 1990, Paris (motherhouse), 1991, 98 pages.
Vol. XIV, 1991–1992, Paris (motherhouse), 1994, 66 pages.
Vol. XV, 1993, Paris (motherhouse), 1995, 54 pages.
Vol. XVI, 1994–1998, Paris (motherhouse), 1999, 205 pages
Vol. XVII, 1994–1998, Paris (motherhouse), 2003, 191 pages

Monographs on the Oblates of the Assumption (Centennial Series 1980), 24 volumes:

Book format: 8.25" x 11.5"

Marichal, O.A., Marie-Leonie, Survol des champs d’apostolat des Oblates de l’Assomption, Parts 1–3, Paris (motherhouse), 99 pages.

Marichal, O.A., Marie-Leonie, Survol des champs d’apostolat des Oblates de l’Assomption, Parts 4–5, Paris (motherhouse), 84 pages.

Book format: 8.25" x 6"

Trooster, O.A., Angele des Anges, Les Oblates de l’Assomption, Dutch Province, Paris (motherhouse), 1979, 41 pages.

Gemma, O.A., Les Oblates de l’Assomption, Italian Province, Paris (motherhouse), 1979, 67 pages.

Several authors, Les Oblates de I `Assomption a Belgrade, Paris (motherhouse), 1980?, 9 pages.

Marichal, O.A., Marie-L6onie, Les Oblates de l’Assomption en Rus-sie, Paris (motherhouse), 1980, 9 pages.

Bergmans, A.A., Lieven, Les Oblates de l’Assomption au Zaire, Brussels, 1980, 70 pages.

A.B., Les Oblates de l’Assomption en Roumanie, Paris (mother-house), 1980, 133 pages.

Marie-Teresa, O.A., Les Oblates de l’Assomption en Belgique, vol I, Paris (motherhouse), 1980, 117 pages ; vol. II, pp. 118–174.

Marie-Antoine, O.A., Les Oblates de l’Assomption au service de I unite, en Bulgarie, Paris (motherhouse), 1980 ?, 106 pages.

Marie-lmmaculee, O.A. and Genovefa, O.A., Les Oblates de l’Assomption en Angleterre, en Irlande, Paris (motherhouse), 1980 ?, 143 pages.

Marichal, O.A., Marie-Leonie, Les Oblates de lAssomption en France, Paris (motherhouse), 1980 ?, vol I, 32 pages ; vol. II, 81 pages.

Marichal, O.A., Marie-L6onie, Les Oblates de l’Assomption en Rus-sie (1906–1908), en Terre Sainte (1935–1957), en Espagne (1967–1969), Paris (motherhouse), 1982, 22 pages.

Madeleine-Emmanuel, O.A. and Dantele du Christ, O.A., Les Oblates de L’Assomption au service de la presse catholique, Paris (motherhouse), 1982, 60 pages.

Marichal, O.A., Marie-Leonie, Les Oblates de L’Assomption en Tur-quie, Paris (motherhouse), 1983, vol. I, 78 pages.

Les Oblates de L’Assomption au Rwanda, Paris (motherhouse), 1997, 19 pages.

Les Oblates de L’Assomption au Chili. Disponibles para extender el reino de Dios, Paris (motherhouse), 2000, 10 pages.

Les Oblates de L’Assomption en Cote d’lvoire, Paris (motherhouse), 2000, 41 pages.

Les Oblates de L’Assomption au Bresil, Paris (motherhouse), 2000, 11 pages.

Les Oblates de L’Assomption en Coree, Paris (motherhouse), 2001, 16 pages.

Les Oblates de L’Assomption en Irlande Eire, Paris (motherhouse), 2004, 12 pages.

Orants of the Assumption

Madeleine de Dainville, Isabelle de Clermont-Tonnerre, Comtesse Henri d’Ursel, fondatrice des Orantes de L’Assomption (1849–1921).

Mere Marie de la Compassion (Marie Dubron) Assistante generate des Oblates de L’Assomption, Notes et souvenirs (1859–1931), Bonne Presse, Paris, 1932, 148 pages (Chapitre IV: Au berceau des Orantes).

E. Lacoste, Le P. François Picard, Second superieur general de la Congregation des Augustins de L’Assomption, Bonne Presse, Paris, 1932, 552 pages.

Jacqueline Decoux, François Picard, Vengagement d’un Homme pour’’ Faire en toute chose la volonte de Dieu,’’ Editions du Signe, Strasbourg, 2003, 128 pages.

Adrien Pépin, A.A., Chronologie de la vie du P. François Picard 1831–1903, Chronologie de la vie du P. Vincent de Paul Bailly 1832–1912, Curie Généralice assomptionniste, Rome.

Initials and Abbreviations

A.A. & Augustinians of the Assumption (Assumptionists)

ACR & Assumptionist archives

A.R.T. & Adveniat Regnum Tuum (motto of the Assumption)

BVM & Blessed Virgin Mary

CM. & Congregation of the Missions / Lazarists

C.R. & Congregation of the Resurrection (Resurrectionists)

C. SS.R. & Redemptorists

D. C. & Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

D.R.C. & Democratic Republic of the Congo

D.S. & Dieu Seul (God Alone) (Marie-Eugénie of Jesus)

F.S.C. & Brothers of the Christian Schools (Christian Brothers)

L.S.A. & Little Sisters of the Assumption

M.A.E. & Maria Assumpta Est (Mary Assumed to Heaven)

M.Afr. & Missionaries of Africa (formerly known as the White Fathers/W.F.)

M.S.A. & Missionary Sisters of the Assumption

O.F.M. & Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

O.F.M. Cap. & Order of Friars Minor Capuchins (Capuchin Friars)

O.L.J.C. & Our Lord Jesus Christ

O.A. & Oblates of the Assumption

O.Carm. & Order of Carmelites (Carmelite Fathers and Brothers)

Or.A. & Orants of the Assumption

O.M.I. & Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Orat. & Oratorians

O.P.& Order of Preachers (Dominicans)

O.S.A. & Order of Saint Augustine (Augustinians)

O.S.B. & Order of Saint Benedict (Benedictines)

R.A. & Religious [Sisters] of the Assumption

S.J. & Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

S.J.A. & Sisters of Saint Joan of Arc

S.M. & Marist Fathers

S.M.A. & Society of African Missions Index

305.  You have only to open the websites of the Religious of the Assumption to see how each has its own version of the charism and spirituality of the Assumption.

306.  Instructions de Chapitres (Chapter Talks) of Mother Marie-Eugénie: March 3, 1878.

307.  “The apostolate (une pensée de zèle) was the dominant idea behind the foundation,” letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie to the Father Gros, ecclesiastical Superior, no. 1504, November 1841.

308.  Ibid., Irreligion, Unbelief, Indifference. Cf. same letter.

309.  Cf. Introduction to the Constitutions, Father Combalot; Letter of Mother Marie-Eugenie to Father d’Alzon, no. 1555, July 6, 1842.

310.  Letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon, no. 1590, August 27, 1843

311.  Letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon: “It is strange that we have supporters who are poles apart. The friends of monastic antiquity claim that we are resurrecting the ancient religious studies once the custom in large monasteries They like us because of our knowledge and respect for the old customs; whereas elsewhere, we are liked as a kind of innovation. You who now know our ideas, you understand that, in fact, we must have this double character.” (Letter no. 1592, September 12, 1843)

312.  Or else, according to an Ignatian expression taken up again in 1954 by Mother Marie-Denyse, Superior General from 1953–1970: “Contemplatives in Action” (November 1, 1954 Circular Letter).

313.  Notes Intimes of Mother Marie-Eugénie, nos. 175/01 and 178/01, August 1841.

314.  Notes Intimes, no. 238/01, March 31, 1890.

315.  Chapters, February 24 and May 5, 1878.

316.  Letter of Mother Marie-Eugenie to Father d’Alzon, no. 1592, September 12, 1842.

317.  Notes Intimes, No. 188; Letter to Father d’Alzon, no. 1586, April 18, 1843.

318.  Letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father Lacordaire, c. 1844; Foundation Texts [English trans] p. 72.

319.  Notes Intimes, no. 234, September 1878; no. 237, May 1886; Chapters: October 16, 1870 (unedited), December 3, 1882.

320.  Cf. also the following Chapters: December 14, 1873; April 14, 1878; November 17, 1878.

321.  “ ... the aim of our Congregation is to communicate to others a life filled with Jesus Christ or, better said, contemplata tradere ...” Notes Intimes, No. 217, September 26, 1856. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa IIa IIae Q188, R6

322.  Chapter: May 12, 1878.

323.  Chapter: March 3, 1878.

324.  Mother Marie-Eugénie chose the version of the Ladies of the Good Shepherd, a translation approved by Pope Gregory XVI in 1826, which itself was a text inspired by the Rule of the Augustinians. In the version chosen, in the chapter on Obedience, the expression “Superior General” replaces the word “priest,” which is important in reference to the way government is understood in a congregation.

325.  Chapters: February 24, 1878; July 13, 1879; August 1886, 1853 (unedited) and 1870 (unedited)

326.  Chapter. September 1, 1882.

327.  Chapters: January 12, 1875; April 7, 1878; May 27, 1881, June 18, 1886.

328.  Foundation Texts, p. 371.

329.  Chapter: June 13, 1884.

330.  There is a joyful accent on the “all” of God, in contrast with the “nada” (nothing) of St. John of the Cross. Cf. Chapter: May 19, 1878.

331.  Chapter: Febraury 24, 1878.

332.  Chapter: May 2, 1884

333.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 130. Also, Foundational Documents, Milton, MA, p.78.

334.  Letter no. 3635, VII to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, July 17, 1869.

335.  Letter no. 5842 XII to Mother Jeanne de Chantal Dugas, January 30, 1877. Also, Écrits Spirituels, p. 1199.

336.  Letter no. 2493, V to Madame Doumet, April 21, 1865.

337.  Letter no. 2342, V to Mademoiselle Marie Correnson, October 4, 1864.

338.  Letter no. 4009, VIII to the Oblates of the Assumption of Nîmes, April 28, 1870

339.  Rule of Life of the Oblates of the Assumption, no. 63.

340.  Letter no. 4039, VIII to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, May 15, 1870.

341.  Letter no. 3004, VI to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, May 17, 1867.

342.  Letter no. 5731, XI, September 10, 1876. Also Écrits Spirituels, p. 1198

343.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 136, Closing of the General Chapter of 1868.

344.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 144.

345.  Letter no. 3742, VIII to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, November 17, 1869. Also, Écrits Spirituels, p. 1270.

346.  Letter no. 2847, VI, August 6, 1866.

347.  Letter no. 2494, V, April 22, 1865.

348.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 624.

349.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 626.

350.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 123.

351.  Letter no. 3912, VIII to the Oblates, February 20, 1870.

352.  Letter no. 3915, VIII, April 28, 1870.

353.  Letter no 5164, X, December 24, 1874

354.  Letter no. 5142, X from Father d’Alzon to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson December 27, 1874. Also Écrits Spirituels, p. 1195.

355.  Rule of Life of the Oblates of the Assumption, no. 58.

356.  Letter no. 5713, XI, September 10, 1876. Also Écrits Spirituels, p. 1198.

357.  Écrits Spirituels, pp 303–304.

358.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 1210.

359.  Letter no. 6664, XIII: Latin inscription found in a letter to Emmanuel-Marie Correnson on April 2, 1879.

360.  Écrits Spirituels, November 17 1868, at the end of the General Chapter, p. 144.

361.  Letter no. 3742, VIII to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, November 17, 1869.

362.  Letter no. 4799, X.

363.  Letter no. 2868, VI to Mademoiselle Marie Correnson, August 25, 1866

364.  Letter no. 4865, X, August 12, 1873.

365.  Letter no. 6260, XII, March 29, 1878

366.  Letter no. 3331 to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, June 22 1868.

367.  Letter no. 3635, VII to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, July 17, 1869.

368.  Letter no. 1916, IV, February 24, 1863.

369.  Letter no. 5201 to the Oblates, January 4, 1875; Écrits Spirituals, pp. 1196–1198

370.  Letter no. 3784, VIII to Mother Emmanuel-Marie Correnson, December 14, 1869.

371.  General Chapter, September 17, 1868, Écrits Spirituels, p. 131.

372.  Letter no. 3974, VIII, to the Oblates of the Assumption April 3, 1870.

373.  Idem.

374.  Letter no. 3915, VIII to the Oblates of the Assumption, February 28, 1870.

375.  Letter no. 3040, VI.

376.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 1025.

377.  Écrits Spirituels, p. 569.

378.  Letter no 283 to Antoinette Fage, August 26, 1881.

379.  Directory, p. 41.

380.  August 28, 1880, IX, 466.

381.  July 31, 1881, IX, 583.

382.  First Rule – Aim of the Congregation.

383.  Directory, chap. 1.

384.  December 22, 1881, IX, 645.

385.  August 28, 1885, XI, 60.

386.  Letter to Antoinette Fage, January 26, 1865, 1A1C18.

387.  October 16, 1884, X, 14.

388.  January 5, 1893, VI, 23.

389.  June 23, 1892, VII, 193 4.

390.  EP, January 22, 1866, 1A1C, no. 52.

391.  November 14, 1897, III, 588.

392.  Directory, chap. V, p. 20.

393.  July 3, 1892, IV, 503.

394.  Cf. February 12, 1872, IX, 68.

395.  September 29, 1895, V, 390.

396.  Directory, chap. VII, p. 30.

397.  July 2, 1891.

398.  Directory, chap. IX, pp. 36–38.

399.  June 8, 1884, II, 581.

400.  June 8, 1884, II, 581

401.  Directory, chap. X, p. 41.

402.  February 15, 1894, VI, 176.

403.  June 7, 1894, VII, 138.

404.  January 4, 1891, 1, 301.

405.  April 12, 1894, VI, 443.

406.  Directory, chap. VII, p. 29.

407.  April 11, 1882, to the Lady Servants.

408.  June 21, 1885, III, 25.

409.  July 21, 1887, VII, 331.

410.  January 9, 1887, 1, 377.

411.  November 13, 1890, VIII, 373.

412.  August 8, 1878, IX, 236.

413.  January 31, 1889, VI, 116.

414.  December 23, 1880, IX, 521.

415.  Directory, chap. VII, p. 78.

416.  October 19, 1876, IX, 98.

417.  January 27, 1889, I, 467.

418.  January 1, 1899, I, 285.

419.  Directory, chap. II, p. 57 and chap. IX, p. 142.

420.  October 19, 1876, IX, 96.

421.  July 19, 1894, IV, 555.

422.  Directory, chap. II, p. 57.

423.  Directory, chap I, p 8.

424.  January 23, 1898, I, 479.

425.  January 21, 1894, 1, 472.

426.  Talk to the superiors, April 25, 1883, XI, 35.

427.  Talk to the Lady Servants, July 4, 1882.

428.  Talk at Perpignan, January 23, 1883.

429.  4N1, no. 106.

430.  Letter to Mother Marie of the Blessed Sacrament, Superior at Perpignan September 21, 1881, no. 343.

431.  Statutes 1881.

432.  Grenelle, November 26, 1882.

433.  February 1897.

434.  Statutes 1881.

435.  Testimony of Sister Marguerite-Marie, 4N1, no. 106.

436.  EP 4N1, no. 4, May 25, 1884.

437.  4N1, no. 6, April 9, 1893.

438.  Statutes of the Daughters of Saint Monica, 1884.

439.  June 5, 1884, VII, 126.

440.  Talk to the Lady Servants, February 20, 1883

441.  1890.

442.  Talk to the Lady Servants, January 8, 1884.

443.  We follow here the information found in several texts written by Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel, the first Orant after Mother Isabelle:

Souvenirs de la fondatrice des Orantes de l’Assomption, Mère Isabelle-Marie, écrits par Soeur Thérèse-Emmanuel, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection no. 4. Provides the sequence of events beginning in 1895.

Histoire de notre famille religieuse, les dix premières années, Vol. I, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection no. 2, written by Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel and based on the Chronicles of the Congregation. Retraces our history starting with the foundation.

Mère Marie de la Compassion (Marie Dubron), notes et souvenirs, (1859–193J), Ed. Bonne Presse. Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel speaks in chapter IV, “Au berceau des Orantes,” pp. 40–66.

o  M. de Dainville, Isabelle de Clermont-Tonnerre, Comtesse Henri d’Ursel, Fondatrice des Orantes de l’Assomption, 1849–1921, Ed. Lethielleux. A well-documented biography that also provides a lot of information.

444.  Letters DIA/4597 and 4612. There are fewer documents from this period. Correspondence was rare and often dealt with other material questions.

445.  Document no. DN2–01.

446.  See also no. MA 32, September 1, 1896.

447.  Letter from Father Picard to Isabelle, no. PIA 4634

448.  Father Picard, Instructions aux Oblates de l’Assomption, vol. V, no. 44.

449.  The Sisters there were known as “the ladies on the corner” because, coming down the hill from Passy, in front of the present Turkish embassy, rue Berton, at the height of the convent, turned toward the Seine which is nearby.

450.  “Be holy and joyous,” pp. 4–7, Instructions aux Oblates, vol. V, no. 43; testimony of Mother Isabelle at the Chapter of October 4, 1919.

451.  Letters to Father Picard, nos. P391 and P393.

452.  Letter no P395, February 14, 1897.

453.  These sources certainly helped Mother Isabelle to question and structure her own spiritual life, but they never limited her. The interior calls and the demands of a life totally given over to the Lord’s action in her will be so compelling that, very often, after quoting a title or extracting a quotation from a given text, Isabelle continued her own personal questioning according to what she perceived was being asked of her.

454.  The first editions date from 1898 and 1908.

455.  Esther de Mauvise, a Religious of the Assumption, was loaned to the Oblates in 1886 and became their Major Superior. Cf. what is said elsewhere about this situation.

456.  Father Pernet’s report to the benefactors, January 1, 1873 (orig. ms AC PSA 4A1, no. 16.)

457.  Biography of Mother Isabelle by M. de Dainville p. 251.

458.  The former Mother Marie of the Nativity—See what is said elsewhere about Nativity affair.

459.  Fathers André Jaujou, Léopold Gerbier, Claude Allez, Emmanuel Bailly, Marie-Charles, etc.

460.  He remembered that Isabelle’s father had supported the beginnings of the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul.

461.  We have traces of this, at least as of 1886 (letter to Father Picard, P203 P197, etc.)

462.  Father Picard wrote: “I managed to find someone to buy the house in Le Vigan at a very high price. The person who bought it (Countess of Ursel) is very devoted to us ... By encouraging her to buy it, I had in mind ...” (Letters nos. PIA 5103 and PIA 1937)

463.  Letter no. AC.22, March 6, 1905.

464.  According to testimony found in Les Oblates de l’Assomption au service de la presse catholique, p. 27, it seems that the Oblates might have had another perception of some of these visits to our chapel: “three sisters were appointed each Sunday to help the Orants of the Assumption who were newly founded and who were not numerous enough to assure the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed all day long. This day spent entirely in the chapel and in silence was a burden for me.”

465.  The letter she claims to have written to Mother Marie-Eugdnie about this has not been found.

466.  See, for example, the correction of the chronicles, nos. DN 10–12 of 1919 in which she stated that “it was due to circumstances” that she did not join the Ladies of the Assumption

467.  Letter to Father Picard. May 2, 1886, no. P2I0.

468.  Letter to Father Picard in 1872, no. P 003.

469.  Correction of the Chronicles no. DN12–10 and letter P237.

470.  Premières Vues, no. DN1 – Book 1.

471.  Correction of the Chronicles, no. DN12–10

472.  Correction of the Chronicles, nos. DN12–10, June 7, 1919 and DNI, Book I.

473.  12 Premieres Vues, no l)N I, Book I. M Letter no P293, May 14, 1888

474.  Letter no. P293, May 14, 1888.

475.  From the sermons he preached during his first retreat to the Orants in 1902.

476.  Concerning the teaching of Father Picard in his Instructions to the Orants, we follow here the synthesis given by Marcel Neusch, AA, in his introduction to Soyez saintes et joyeuses, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no I.

477.  Announcement made during a lecture to the Oblates of Cours-la-Reine on November 22, 1896.

478.  Draft of the First Constitutions of the Orants of the Assumption, 1906, Rook 1. p 4, no D000I2 on government.

479.  December 9. 1896 to June 14, 1897.

480.  According to a study by Marcel Neusch, A.A., in his introduction to the edition of these Instructions, Soyez saintes et joyeuses, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 1.

481.  Bishop Jean-Jacques Nanquette (1807–1861), bishop of Le Mans from 1855 to 1861, a friend of the Religious of the Assumption and of Father d’Alzon.

482.  Two unknown letters from Mother Marie of the Nativity were given to the OranM of the Assumption during the present colloquium. Extracts can be found in the Annex to the talk given by Marie-Jacques Scvcnct and Anne Huyghebaert, Or. A.

483.  Foundation Texts, Religious of the Assumption, Rome, 1991, p. 105.

484.  Idem, p. 109.

485.  So as not to weigh down the text, we do not quote changes which concerned the mandate of the Superior General, the list of decisions which required the vote of the council, and the age and years of profession of the Superior General and her councilors.

486.  Foundation Texts, op. cit. p. 109.

487.  Ibid, p. 127.

488.  If you are my father, you have to help me in the things which are for the service of God. And before presenting our rule for approval, I will need someone for a lot of problems’’ (Letter to Father d’Alzon. September 18, 1842). Marie-Eugenic had not seen Father d’Alzon since 1838, but a correspondence was already under way. She will see him again in 1843.

489.  See the handwritten copy of the Constitutions in the Assumptionist Archives in Rome, with notes and parallel remarks.

490.  A vow that was renewed formally and definitively in 1854.

491.  Cf. B.2903, October 14, 1851, B. 5624, May 11, 1879.

492.  Foundation Texts, op. cit. p. 271.

493.  Ibid. p. 223.

494.  Problems of spiritual direction between 1846 and 1849; the request for sisters for the mission in Bulgaria; the cooling of relations in 1866; everyday misunderstandings stemming from written communications.

495.  Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon L.3029, August 19, 1864. The questions seemed to bear on the fact of having another Assistant in addition to Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel and an “enlarged” Council of 9–10 sisters. During the Chapter, Sister Françoisc-Kugeme was elected second Assistant once they were assured that Father d’Alzon would not object to seeing her leave Nîmes. Cf. L. 3011, September 6, 1864. It was this Chapter which put off till later the foundation in Bulgaria for lack of Sisters and funds, and also because of a desire to see the hathcri better established in the Near East.

496.  L. 3036, October 6, 1864. The letter of Father d’Alzon which provoked this reply has been lost. Perhaps it was about the question of Sisters for Bulgaria. But both of them realized that things were not going well between them, and that they were hurting one another.

497.  When there was a misunderstanding, they often arranged to speak face to face, which leaves us without documents!

498.  At this moment, there were 131 professed sisters and around 50 novices and postulants.

499.  In his letter of April 30, 1866, Archbishop Darboy, after offering praise, added that he would send to Rome “information and observations when he is consulted.” For further details, see Foundation Texts, Religious of the Assumption, 1991 (English translation, p. 1890

500.  The report of Father Véron was judged in Rome as having “a tone of animosity towards the Institute and especially towards the Superior General.” Ibid, p 190.

501.  The steps needed for the approval of the Institute could now be taken up again more peacefully; they led to the approval of the Institute on September 14, 1867

502.  Cf Vols XIV and XVI of the Correspondence of Mother Marie-Eugénie and the Archives: MSP III For a summary of this very complex history, see the Foundation Texts, pp 188–191.

503.  Cf. L. 3017, June 16, 1864.

504.  Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugénie, Archives FMI C: unpublished letter, June 1, 1868.

505.  This affection as well as the political tendencies of Father d’Alzon made tongues wag in Nimes for a certain time. The parents of pupils at the Priory were afraid that the Father was looking for vocations for the Oblates among their daughters, and some withdrew their children. Cf. Correspondence of Mother Marie Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugenie, Archives FMI C: Unpublished letter October 28, 1867.

506.  She did not make a real novitiate before her vows. When Marie seemed too attached to the ideas of the Ladies of the Assumption, Father d’Alzon took charge himself of her formation. Letter of Mother Marie of Christ to Mother Marie-Eugenie, July 12, 1883.

507.  Father d’Alzon suggested these persons to Mother Marie-Eugenie as prospective lay sisters.

508.  Unpublished letter of Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugenie, April 22, 1868. Archives FMI C

509.  Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugenie, July II, 1873.

510.  Cf. Mother Marie-Emmanuel, “Historical paper with supporting documents, establishing the rights of the Lady Oblates of the Assumption, against the claims of the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption,” p. 10: “In the month of October, the house was opened and we had five pupils the first day: Misses Thérèse Pares, Theolinde Correnson, Elisa Blanc ...” and p. II: Reception of the first boarder May 17, 1875.

511.  Mother Marie-Eugénie to Mother Marie-Gabrielle: “I am delighted that you are in agreement with father d’Alzon, but we must obtain that the Oblates will not use the name of Assumption on anything having to do with this work of education they are undertaking, their prospectus, notes, or anything else ... Anything which could cause confusion between the two houses would be unjust towards us and would harm our work, which is what Father d’Alzon promised would not happen and which will destroy the charity between us through endless explanations that we are not the same work, and that their pupils are not our pupils.” L.5699, Auteuil, August 13, 1873.

512.  Letter of Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie: July 11, 1873.

513.  Mother Marie-Eugénie to Mother Marie-Gabrielle: “He (d’Alzon) is not sufficiently obeyed by the Oblates to be answerable for the direction they are giving to these beginnings.” L.5695, July 14, 1873. Many details about the opening of the school can be found in the correspondence of Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugenie, Archives FMI C. Unpublished letters: July 5, 1873, July 18, 1873, August 2, 1873, August 10, 1873, September 28, 1873, November 19, 1873, and December 26, 1873.

514.  Letter of Father Vincent de Paul, no. 1494, December 13, 1873; Reply of Father d’Alzon, no. 4924, December 14; Reply of Father Vincent de Paul, no. 1496, December 16; Reply of Father d’Alzon, no. 925, December 18, 1873. Father Picard repeats the same criticisms in a letter of October 28, 1882 at the time of the break between Paris and Nimes.

515.  Father d’Alzon found himself caught between the two Congregations. It is difficult to know whether he gave in to Mother Emmanuel-Marie out of real affection and a sort of preference for her, or out of necessity because of the Mother’s character, her unreasonable and childish reactions, and also because of the fact that he had insisted that Marie Correnson be the Superior of the newly formed Congregation. Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugenie, Archives FMI C: Unpublished letter, May 16, 1867.

516.  “Allow me to put a question to you about which you can reflect at Ems and to which you can reply at your leisure. Given that the two Assumptions ought to support one another mutually, what should be, in your opinion, the precise nature of these relations? First, note that once you have disclosed your ideas, it will be possible for us in subsequent conversations to modify them together. Second, note that, since it seems more than likely that Father Picard will replace me one day, it will be easy to come to an understanding with him more than with anyone else. But we must begin to reflect very seriously about these things. Should we be more your fathers than your brothers, or more your brothers than your fathers? What means should we take to avoid the disadvantages? In chatting with Father Picard, several ideas have come to my mind, but we will discuss them.”(August 2, 1867)

517.  Cf. So many letters. Emmanuel d’Alzon October 14, 1851, September 18, 1876, May 11, 1879.

518.  Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie, May 10, 1849.

519.  Father Gay, Father Vitte, Father Stanislas, O.F.M. Cap., etc. Father d’Alzon was not too happy when Mother Marie-Eugénie consulted others than him. Cf. Archives FMI C: Unpublished letter of Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugenie, June 20, 1868.

520.  Letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon: L3143, August 9, 1867.

521.  Acts of the Chapter of 1868. Assumptionist Archives.

522.  We do not know whether the Religious figured among these experiences.

523.  Interesting phraseology! Was the school of the Oblates preparing Oblates for their missionary work?

524.  Acts of the Chapter of 1876, Archives of the Religious of the Assumption.

525.  Letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie, September 18, 1876.

526.  Ibid. “Father Picard had assured me thai (his register contained the transcript of his work. The corrections which he suggested to us went in the opposite direction of your discussion. He might have protested a little too much. Besides, he begged me not to force him to accept the title of delegate.”

527.  Letter to Father d’Alzon, L.3476, September 20, 1876. The question of Rome was important. Marie-Eugenie was conscious of the fact that Rome was reticent about approving this kind of relationship between Congregations of men and women, but she hoped and went ahead. The Fathers did not seem to be really worried about it?

528.  Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon, L. 3476, September 9, 1876.

529.  Unpublished letter of Mother Marie-Se>aphine to Mother Marie-Eugenie, May 1, 1879. Father Pernet: “You might have noticed that there has been a cooling of your relationship with the Fathers. Well, that goes back to your last Chapter. Father Picard felt that you did not give him the place he thought he should have had.”

530.  Letter of Father Picard to Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel, January 10, 1886.

531.  We have no definitive document. However, there might have been three of them: the document of Father Picard which he corrected, the document voted at the Chapter and summarized in the minutes, and the final document for Rome and the Constitutions—if such a document was ever drawn up.

532.  Letter to Mother Marie-Eugenie, October 22, 1876. Also:”My dear Daughter,I am grateful that you are willing to discuss the difference between my ideas and those of Father Picard. Alas! You have kindly given me a twentieth edition of what he has said to me himself, re-edited by Father Vincent de Paul. But that is not the question. The question is to know whether it is belter to proceed with tact or to be uncompromising. What are the results of Father Picard’s way of doing things? ... Unity was maintained. You will see that, like the Jesuits, but with fewer subjects, we will have two novitiates. The inflexibility of Father Picard is what produced this result.” Nimes, October 26, 1876.

533.  According to Father Pernet, there were “only five of ours” [in Paris?]. Unpublished letter from Mother Marie-Seraphine to Mother Marie-Eugenie recounting a conversation with Father Pernet, May 3, 1879.

534.  Marie-Gabrielle of the Redeemer, de Courcy McCarthy, born in Edinburgh, July 15, 1830. She converted to Catholicism in 1853. Entered the Assumption in 1854, vows in 1856, foundation in London in 1857, in Auteuil in 1858, Nimes 1859–64, Lourdes 1865, and Superior in Nimes 1866–79.

535.  It was Father d’Alzon who asked for her as Superior. Letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie, Sept. 4, 1864.

536.  Letters from Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie, September 4, 1864, June 15, 1865, March 14, 1874. He expressed no complaint about Mother Gabrielle before 1879.

537.  Letter from Mother Marie-Eugenie to Father d’Alzon, L.3506. September II, 1877.

538.  Letters to Mother Marie-Eugenie, April I, 1879, March 27, 1879, and to Father Galabert, April 2, 1879. D’Alzon saw her shortcomings.

539.  Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugénie. Archives FMI C: March 19, 1879. This affair of Marie-Paul was the subject of letters between the two Mothers for an entire month.

540.  D’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie, March 24, 1879.

541.  Father Laurent must have exaggerated. Father d’Alzon complained about him in a letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie on July 18, 1879. In another letter to her dated August 10, 1880, he stated that he wanted to send him away permanently from the College and from Nimes because of his eccentricities.

542.  Letters of Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie, March 27 and 30; April 20; July 17, 1879; and to Father Picard, June 7, 1879.

543.  Cf. the Letter from Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon, L.3515, November 6, 1877.

544.  Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Gabrielle, May 6, 1879. The Sisters were refusing to confess themselves to Father Laurent.

545.  Cf. the handwritten letter of Sister Jeanne-Marie Pérouse to Mother Marie- Eugénie in which she recounted what her own mother was saying about the community of Nîmes and the Bishop. Unpublished, RA Archives.

546.  From time to time. Father d’Alzon reproached Marie-Eugénie that the life of the Religious was too contemplative. Cf. the letter of August 22, 1864. According to him, this was due to the influence of Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel which was too great. One never finds this idea expressed within the Congregation.

547.  Emmanuel d’Alzon to Father Picard, August 6, 1866.

548.  In 1868, in a conversation with Mother Marie-Gabrielle, Father d’Alzon reproached Marie-Eugénie for “not acting according to his ideas.” And he put the blame especially on “Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel who has always had a way of thinking that is different from his. Ultimately, if I dare say so, she is the one who is becoming like a wall of separation between you and him ... . He claimed that this had been going on for the last ten years but that the trip to Rome had changed everything” [at a time when Father d’Alzon thought that Mother Marie-Eugénie ought to stay in Rome for the question of the approval of the Rule but, in fact, returned to France]. Unpublished letter from Mother Marie-Gabrielle to Mother Marie-Eugénie, June 20, 1868. Cf. also the unpublished letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie, June 1, 1868.

549.  Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel (May 5 and 8), Mother Marie-Seraphine (May, 3, 5, and 10), Mother Marie of Christ (May 3) to Mother Marie-Eugénie on the subject of conversations with Father Pernet. Unpublished letters.

550.  Letters of Father Emmanuel d’Alzon, Vol. XIII, Rome: 1996. Note I, p 111, Letter of May 11, 1879.

551.  Letter from Father d’Alzon to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly, May 12, 1879.

552.  It concerned the same incident that was reported above in note 47. There was a first conversation, on a train, between the Mothers of the Council, Thérèse-Emmanuel and Seraphine, and Fathers Pernet and Vincent de Paul. This conversation was followed by others and by clarifications between Father Pernet and Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel.
Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel wrote to Mother Marie-Eugénie on May 2, 1879: “He [Pernet] replied that we will follow our Rules, but that it was a question of seeing whether we want the inspiration of their Congregation to push us towards our aim, and whether we want their spirit to preserve ours. All that may be excellent, but we cannot deny a certain fear that we have that they will push us a bit too strongly, given their spirit of initiative and activity, and that they will seize upon us as an instrument of their power to do the works which, according to their idea, are in conformity with our objective, but which could well draw us away somewhat from the life of contemplation and action which we believe is more the particular characteristic of our Assumption than theirs.”

553.  Ibid.

554.  Letter of Father d’Alzon to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly, May 14, 1879.

555.  Letter of Father d’Alzon to Father Vincent de Paul Bailly, May 31, 1879.

556.  Letter to Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel, May 26, 1879

557.  Father d’Alzon to Father Picard, Letter no. 6011, September 9, 1877

558.  Mother Marie of Christ wrote about all the abuses and shortcomings which she found in her new community. A letter to Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel describes a painful situation created around Guitta, the niece of Mother Marie-Eugénie, as well as nasty statements on the part of Father d’Alzon about Mother Marie-Eugénie. As this Superior had a tendency to exaggerate a lot, one hesitates to put too much trust in what she said. Unpublished letter, November 3, 1879.

559.  Mother Marie of Christ to Mother Marie-Eugénie, October 31, 1879: “ ... may God protect us from ever being governed by them [the AssumptionistP” Archives RA: FMI C.

560.  Mother Marie-Eugénie was the sole heir in the wills of her mother and of M. de Franchessin. Her mother added a paragraph to her will asking that Eugenie should be good to her brothers, who apparently did not need money, in case anything should happen to them. In fact, after the ruin of her father, her mother did not leave her very much. In addition, her elder brother Louis helped both the Assumptionists and the Religious of the Assumption several times, and Emmanuel, his son, helped Mother Marie-Eugénie carry out a good business deal—once by way of exception! Because of the will and these services. Mother Marie-Eugénie felt obliged to help her nephew and niece. So the two children of Louis turned to her. Emmanuel got involved in bad business ventures, wasted everything, and, in the end, even misused the name of the Superior General of the Assumption to cover his debts.
There were children of her father’s second marriage, Ferdinand and Georges, who also dared to abuse of her good heart. Mother Marie-Eugénie also made the mistake of letting members of her family come to live at Auteuil. It was her too scrupulous and tender heart that prompted her to act in this way. However, she was never disobedient: she asked the Council to give them some money, she went through the Bursar’s Office, etc. Unfortunately, out of respect for Mother Marie-Eugcnie. the Council did not interfere.

561.  And “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear Mother. You will never know the full extent of my love from the very moment I began to love you.” July 16, 1884. “You are the one I have loved most in the world.” July 23, 1884. See also July 26, 1884, August 25, 1884 and September 9, 1884.

562.  Handwritten letter of Marie of Christ to Father Picard 2SL, no. 65, 1883(7). Date added in pencil by an Assumptionist archivist.

563.  Did the Assumptionist archivist give 1883 as the date because of what was said about the Oblates?

564.  Handwritten letters of Marie of Christ to Father Picard, Assumptionist Archives. The revealing letters are two letters bearing the date of July 6 without a year [1883?]: 2SL, no. 65, 2SL, no. 66; September 18, 1883, no. 70; March 9, 1885(7), no. 76; 1885, no. 82.

565.  A very long handwritten letter, in which Marie of Christ speaks about money, about her difficulties and those of Mother Marie-Séraphine, and about the jealousy of Mother Marie-Eugénie regarding Father Picard’s affection! September 18, 1883, 2SL, no. 70.

566.  Jean Lehec, born in l’Eure on January 25, 1854, Final Vows in 1878, secularized in 1888. He was in Paris from 1883 to 1886.

567.  After the events, Mother Marie-Ceiestine, Vicar of Mother Marie-Eugénie in 1894 and second Superior General, wrote: “After acquiring a lot of influence over Father Picard and winning the overly good heart of Mother Marie-Seraphine, he turned against Our Mother who did not want to be directed by him ... He listened to all the critics as if they were oracles.” (1922)

568.  After the special Chapter convoked to settle a number of contentious questions in 1886, Mother Marie of Christ went to the Oblates (of Father Picard) on loan, either for an indeterminate period of time or for two years [there arc contradictory witnesses). Helene-Marie went with her, and Sister Marie of the Child Jesus (Pissot) joined her later. Mother Marie-Seraphine and Mother Claire-Emmanuel, both Superiors, “returned loyally.” Sister Franvois-Xavier remained in the Congregation while continuing to cause problems, as she had always done, and Sifter Anna-Marie went to Poitiers.

569.  Perhaps she was not aware of what dampened her relations with the Sisters and the Mothers, but it was the warlike attitude she had adopted, even with members of the Council. How can that be remedied?’’ Mother Marie-Eugénie to Mother Marie of Saint John: L. 11566, January 9, 1885.

570.  From Father Picard, May 19, 1888, no. 2443: “By his character, his criticisms, his violence and his irregularities, he forced me  ...” He preferred to leave than to correct himself. “It is not enough to be intelligent to be a good religious. We can do without talent, but we cannot do without a positive attitude.”

571.  Father Jean Lehec to Mother Marie-Eugénie: “Father Combalot was thrown overboard, and the same thing happened to Father d’Alzon. Is the same thing being prepared for Father Picard?”

572.  In a letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie, Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel repeated what Father Vincent had said to her. Later, everything was decided at the Chapter: ``Father Vincent sees things like you do regarding relationships with the Fathers: friendship, freedom, trust, and no authority whatsoever. He deplores what is happening and thinks that the young Fathers (especially Father Jean and Father Alexis) have worked up Father Picard. He says: “You were founded several years before us, and you had your life and your rules before we existed. You have your own Foundress. If God had wanted you to be like us and to be governed by us, like the Oblates and the Pernettes, He would have waited until we existed before founding you” ... “Father Vincent strongly believes that we should have our own life and spirit. He knows that Father Jean wanted to give us their spirit.”

573.  It must be said that we have found no complaints about Father Alexis.

574.  The idea that Mother Marie-Seraphine wanted to replace the Superior General was denied by Mother Marie-Eugénie in her introduction to the Chapter of 1886 (L.I 1718). In March 1886, this idea appeared in the correspondence of Mother Marie-Eugénie: “Here, we still have a sad situation. Father Jean has an irritation that he is sharing with his own. I have learned that his plan was to oblige me sooner or later to submit my resignation (do not speak about this) so that Marie-Seraphine could replace me. The complaints about the government stem from that.” L.I 1685 to Mother Ter*se of the Sacred Heart. And elsewhere: “They are tired of my government.” L.I 1678

575.  A letter from Father Picard to lather Alexis accused Maric-Fugenie of half-truths and of wanting to destroy everything.’’ And he seemingly alludes to the departure of Mother Marie of the Nativity whom he sees as the core of the problem. But he was perhaps mixing a lot of things together in these accusations. December 24, 1885, L.2188.

576.  Letter to Mother Marie-Eugénie, June 15, 1885

577.  Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father Picard, L.I 1613, November 11, 1885

578.  The situation got even more complicated when the Nuncio, pressured by the Russian Ambassador, intervened because of his friendship with the family of Sister Louise-Eugénie.

579.  Though Mother Louise-Eugénie was sent to Spain after the Chapter, Father Picard did not return to Auteuil. Then, on the order of the Archbishop, Mother Louise-Eugénie came back to Paris, but not to Auteuil. Mother Marie-Eugénie was completely cornered because Mother Louise was the General Bursar, and the ecclesiastical authorities—the Archbishop, the Ecclesiastical Superior, and the Nuncio—did not approve of Mother Marie-Eugénie giving in to the demands of Father Picard.

580.  We must point out the great goodness, but also the sensitivity and the heightened susceptibility of Father Picard, like Saint Jerome or Cardinal Newman, that emerge from his letters to Mother Marie-Eugénie. A letter from Father Edmond to Father Picard undoubtedly refers to the situation with the Religious of the Assumption His wishes for the New Year: “That Paris cease a bit to obsess you and to monopolize you to such an extent,” January 7. 1885, no.203.

581.  Letter of Father Picard to Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel, January 2, 1886.

582.  Reply of Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel from Cannes, January 7, 1886: “I cannot hide from you that your last letter moved me profoundly and sadly. It contains things which are so serious that I needed 24 hours of prayer and reflection before answering you.”

583.  Letter of Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father Picard, L.I 1712, undated, but certainly of August 7.

584.  Acts of the Chapter of the Religious of the Assumption 1886. August 4–12, 1886. Archives of the Religious of the Assumption.

585.  Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel wrote to Marie-Eugénie of her desire to have “confessors with white hair.”

586.  Among the complaints of the Sisters, Father Alexis was never mentioned. Me was appointed Delegate for the Religious and the Oblates of Nîmes and of Montpellier.

587.  Letter L 3521 of Mother Marie-Eugénie to Father d’Alzon, December 22. 1877 Sec also: Letters of December 24, 1849; August 12, 1852; December 31. 1854, January 31, 1855; June 2, 1855.

588.  Introduction to the Chapter of 1886, L.l 1718: “For the past thirty years, the Fathers of the Assumption have been in relation with us as confessors, directors, friends, and counselors. Never has the devil been able to cast a shadow on these relationships, which have always been holy and above all suspicion. I believe that it is the Enemy of all good who wants to take vengeance today ... by placing divisions among us  ... . God alone knows the pain I have experienced for the past six months  ... . The question of the breakup of relations with our Fathers is very serious, so is that of our Rule.” Chapter Instructions, 1878.

589.  Letter from Father Alexis to Father Picard while Mother Marie-Eugénie was resting in Cannes at the time of the Nativity Affair: “I have seen very little of Madame the Superior General. She is very affected. We must hope that once this matter is finished she will get over it. It is very difficult to react against the adoration of which she was the object on the part of certain religious, especially at this time of illness which is endearing her to them even more. They were too accustomed to granting her a certain infallibility. And, I repeat, I find that all the more serious that there seems to be almost nothing that can be done about it. Fortunately, what is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” December 31, 1885, ON 797, no. 2873

590.  L11719 [undated paper, seems to be a personal note.]

591.  Mother Thérèse-Emmanuel to Mother Marie-Eugénie: “ ... I must say that everywhere, from time to time, there are chaplains who stir up disagreements. With us, the older Fathers would not do that. With me, Father Picard has always been above reproach.” L.I 106, April 13, 1886.
(Young) Father Jean has been giving Father Picard all types of’’ information’’ he has picked up through third-parties: “ ... this noon Mother Marie-Seraphine told me that all the conflicts have done nothing else at the present time but separate you the mother general. That a recent letter of Mother Marie of Christ about you had provoked this comment ... I will write to you again from here if I learn anything new.” (September 10, I88[5?]).

592.  Reconstruction according to the letters of Father d’Alzon. The exact number of sisters in the community is unknown.

593.  Letter, February 6, 1879, p. 32.

594.  Letter, January 14, 1879, vol. XIII, p. 16.

595.  Letter, March 23, 1879: “You had nothing to do with this sad affair, except to have let yourself he influenced,” p. 67.

596.  Letter, March 20, 1879, p. 64.

597.  Letter March 23, 1863 to Sister Marie-liabriclle de Courcy, vol. XIII. p. 67.

598.  Letter, July 25, 1879: “If I allowed myself to threaten you, it is because for twelve years, at the Priory, I have been repeating the same things and nothing has changed in one way or the other,” vol. XIII, p. 166.

599.  Letter, vol. XII, p. 518: Fathers Faber, Hermann, Capel, R6dier, and Galeran. D’Alzon seems to have deliberately forgotten that, in other circumstances, he had backed the Religious of the Assumption against a certain number of cases of ecclesiastical meddling: Combalot, Véron, etc.

600.  Letter, February 6, 1879 to Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus: ‘I am the Superior of the Priory and therefore I am responsible for it. If I am not able to reform certain abuses, I am ready to pull out.’’ Cf. also p. 42.

601.  Letter, March 20, 1879, p. 64.

602.  Vol. XIII, p. 158.

603.  Vol. XIII. p. 160.

604.  Advice to Father Galabert, vol. XIII, p. 103.

605.  Letter to Sister Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy, vol. XIII, p. 67.

606.  Vol XIII, p. 121 (letter of May 24, 1879).

607.  Vol XIII, p 117.

608.  Letter no. 3860, February 1, 1877 in the Letters of Father Picard.

609.  Letter of June 26 1882.

610.  Letter from Father d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie, October 22, 1876, no. 5764, XI.

611.  Letter no. 4859, X to Mother Marie-Eugénie, August 6, 1873.

612.  Letter no. 4865, X, August 12, 1873.

613.  Letter no. 4867, X, August 13, 1873.

614.  Letter no. 4869, X, August 14 1873

615.  Letter no. 4870, X, August 20 1873

616.  Excerpt from the Semaine Religieuse of February 24, 1893, p 13.

617.  August 20, 1891.

618.  January 19, 1892.

619.  May 1, 1892.

620.  Vol. X, pp. 76, 78, 79, 95, 99, 104, 106, 107, 108, 115, 118, 154, 155. 218, 225, 227.

621.  To Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, July 1 1,1873.

622.  To Sister Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy, July 11, 1873.

623.  To Sister Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy, July 13, 1873.

624.  To Sister Marie-Gabrielle de Courcy, July 25, 1873.

625.  To Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, August 6, 1873.

626.  Letter of Father d’Alzon, August 12, 1873.

627.  To Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus.

628.  To Father Vincent de Paul Bailly, c. December 18, 1873.

629.  L. 5699 Auteuil, August 13, 1873.

630.  July 23, 1884.

631.  July 26, 1884.

632.  L 11566 to Mother Marie of Saint John, January 9, 1885.

633.  Letter no. 76, March 9, 1885?, from the Assumptionist Archives.

634.  2SL no. 82 Mother Marie of Christ to Father Picard. Date: Thursday evening, [1885?] written in pencil by the Assumptionist archivist.

635.  Extract of a letter of Mother Myriam Franck to Father Picard.

636.  D’Alzon, 1980 (Fouilloux, Julian Walter), and Julian Walter, Centennial Series, no. 6, The Assumptionists and their Near Eastern Apostolate (1863–1980), Paris, 1980.
Documentation hiographique sur la vie et les vertus du Père d’Alzon. 1986, vol II, chap. 22, pp. 693–729, and chap. 28, pp. 847–871.
Correnson Colloquium, 2000.
D’Alzon Anthology. 2003, chap. 23, 32, 33.

637.  This is the first mention of the name Oblates of the Assumption in his correspondence, vol. V, p. 149 (September 25, 1864). Clearly, d’Alzon, on his own, was preparing his project which was going in the direction of a separate Oblate Congregation (vol. V, p. 179).

638.  Sources: Note of Father d’Alzon (1865) about the Bulgarian Mission, Mémoire de Soeur Marie des Anges [Clavier] O.A. (March 18, 1911).

639.  Letters, vol. C, p. 436.

640.  Vol. V, p. 189.

641.  February 28, 1865, vol. V, p. 260.

642.  Vol. VI, p. 145.

643.  Letters, vol. V, p. 410, October 7, 1865.

644.  Vol VI, p. 285.

645.  June 20, 1867, Vol. II, p. 135.

646.  No. 3054

647.  No. 3083

648.  No. 3137

649.  This text is quoted in “At the death of Father d’Alzon, the comfort of a religious friendship between the two Assumptions” by Father Pierre Touveneraud (Rome, August 28, 1979). Father Touveneraud died in December 1979.

650.  IAIC, no. 4111.

651.  Letter 4910.

652.  Letter 6008.

653.  1A1B, no. 3218.

654.  Blanche Ottelet (1864–1891), Sister Marie-Adrienne of the Blessed Sacrament, L.S.A.

655.  1AIC, no. 3710.

656.  Mother Marie-Madeleine of the Sacred Heart Tomkowicz, Assistant General and Mistress of Novices.

657.  The reference is to the Ladies of the Assumption.

658.  Father Ernest Lagarde (1826–1882), Vicar General.

659.  1A1C 4114.

660.  Cf. Minutes of the Council of June 29, 1875, approved by Father Pernet on July 2, 1875.

661.  January 1, 1882, IX, 653.

662.  Letter from Father Eticnne Pernet to lather d’Alzon March 2, 1877 (IA 4127) and Minutes of the Council meeting of June 28, 1875.

663.  1A1C 206 (what is printed in italics is underlined by Etienne Pernet in his letter).

664.  Father Quinard (1931–1886), Promoter of the diocese of Paris from 1877 to 1882

665.  Archdioccsan Councils of October 17 and 20, 1876.

666.  Father Jacques Théodore Lamarche (1827–1892), parish priest of St. John the Baptist in Grenelle until 1877; bishop of Quimper in 1877.

667.  Pietro de Luca, Auditor of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars.

668.  February 2, 1877.

669.  Raimondo Bianchi, O.P., Consultor to the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars.

670.  February 3, 1877.

671.  Archbishop François Benjamin Richard de Lavergne (1819–1908), Coadjutor Archbishop of Paris.

672.  IAIC 223

673.  1AIC 4127.

674.  March 2, 1877.

675.  1A1C 233.

676.  Pierre Antoine Goux (1827–1904).

677.  Minutes of the Council meeting of October 10, 1878.

678.  November 19, 1880, 1A1C 4129.

679.  May 2, 1893.

680.  February 11, 1896.

681.  February 14, 1896.

682.  February 13, 1896.

683.  February 12, 1896.

684.  1A1C no. 641.

685.  Souvenirs, April 1, 1896.

686.  1A1C no. 642.

687.  March 11, 1896, IAIC, no. 643.

688.  Council Meeting of April 18, 1899.

689.  Mother Marie of Jesus, September 10, 1876.

690.  Father Picard, February 13, 1896.

691.  Father Picard, February 13, 1896.

692.  Father Pierre Touveneraud, 1973, Beatification Process, Responsio ad alias nova animadversions, Part 111, p. 81.

693.  Letter written by Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Sacred Heart, Tomkowicz; only the signature is in the handwriting of Mother Marie of Jesus.

694.  Marie Tomkowicz, Mother Madeleine (of the Sacred Heart), (1840–1905), Little Sister of the Assumption, Assistant General.

695.  1A1C no. 641

696.  Archives of the Little Sisters of the Assumption.

697.  Letter from Father André Jaujou to Mother Isabelle, quoted by M. de Dainville in Isabelle de Clermont-Tonnerre Comtesse Henri d’Ursel, fondatrice des Orantes de l’Assomption, Ed. Lethielleux, p. 266.

698.  For details regarding the way in which Father André considered himself to have been entrusted with the care of the Orants by Father Picard, cf. Histoire de notre famille religieuse, les dix premières années, vol. 2, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 3, pp. 93–95.

699.  Letter from Mother Isabelle to Father André Jaujou, April 27, 1903, no. AC.8.

700.  Souvenirs de la fondatrice des Orantes de l’Assomption, Mère Isabelle-Marie, cents par Saeur Thérèse-Emmanuel, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 4, pp. 81–82, and Histoire de notre famille religieuse, les dix premières années. vol. 2, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 3, p. 93.

701.  Letter from Mother Isabelle to Father Emmanuel Bailly, April 27, 1903, no. AB.12

702.  The entire letter, which arrived on May 20, and the details of Father André Jaujou’s visit are found in Histoire de notre famille religieuse, les dix premières années, vol. 2, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection no. 3, pp. 99–101.

703.  Taken from our chronicles written by Mother Isabelle and repeated in Histoire de notre famille religieuse, les dix premières années, vol. 2, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 3, pp. 111–112.

704.  Letter from Mother Isabelle to Father Emmanuel Bailly, September 2, 1904, no. AB.I5. This was the first letter to speak clearly about her personal spiritual direction, but previous letters had already contained similar exchanges.

705.  In her letter to Father André Jaujou on October 2, 1903, no. AC.12, Mother Isabelle said to him: ``Not a word from you since you left! However, this is not good because after all, my dear Father, how do you understand our common work if you say nothing to me??? How do you think I can rely on you if there is no exchange of ideas?  ... If you allow me to get into the habit of ruling my little kingdom, who knows if I’ll be able to do otherwise? ... You probably cannot do otherwise, but I’m telling you this ... because I sense the effects it will have on me. It’s already very difficult to speak to someone younger, to confide in him, and, on occasion, to obey him. Don t think that this will come naturally

706.  Continuation of the same letter from Mother Isabelle to Father Emmanuel Bailly, September 2, 1904, no. AB 15.

707.  Letter from Mother Isabelle to Father André Jaujou, October 26, 1904, no. AC.19.

708.  Cf., Souvenirs de la fondatrice des Orantes de VAssomption, Mere Isabelle-Marie, ecrits par Sozur Thérèse-Emmanuel, Congregation of the Orants of the Assumption, Archive collection, no. 4, pp. 95–96: “I always saw Mother Isabelle holding firmly to that principle of supernatural obedience. At times, I would tell her that she was exaggerating this duty to submit and that, as the foundress of the Orants, she had more insight about directing them than did Father Andre. But she did not listen to me. I was thinking humanly. She was right super naturally.”

709.  As secretary to Father Picard, Father Andrd had already been exercising a broad apostolate at the workshops of the Bonne Presse, the communities of the Oblate Sisters, and the Assumptionist chapel on rue Francis Ier. But at this time, because of the religious persecution, he could no longer access these places. Testimony: “He constantly disrupted our schedule, arriving unexpectedly with many penitents whom we had to welcome in our private quarters, support spiritually and also feed physically. In order to listen to Father’s sermon in the morning and to his conference on the Summa of St. Thomas in the afternoon, and in order to receive his spiritual direction in private and to go to confession to him, some of the Orants Outside installed themselves for the day in the small monastery which was always open to them because that was what Father Andre wanted. In this tiny house, we were immediately overwhelmed by this wave from the out-side ...” Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel, Souvenirs, p. 84.

710.  In May 1905, Father André suggested that Father Emmanuel preach a retreat to the Orants, “only to those living inside ... You will be able to close your door to all outside noise ... I will take the opportunity to go somewhere else so as to avoid giving vertigo to the community by changing the pews or by imitating Samson who apparently knew how to take down walls  ...”

711.  Only one of these first Extern Sisters ever became a true Orant. On the other hand, it was by adding the number of Orants living outside to that of those living within that our Congregation was presented to Cardinal Richard for approval.

712.  Letter to Sister Thérèse-Emmanuel Dienne, August 19, 1911, no. RA. 152.

713.  ``One thing that preoccupies me a lot is the difference that exists between father Andre and me concerning the formation of the “work ... No matter what each of us does, I by obeying and agreeing with him, he by not making the situation more difficult for me, we absolutely cannot agree. I am very certain that if he or I disappear, there will be a notable change one way or another.”. Letter no. AB.22 to Father Emmanuel Bailly, Paris, February 14, 1905.

714.  Letter of Emmanuel d’Alzon to Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus, October 22, 1876, no. 5764. The quotation was stated orally during the colloquium by Sister Clare Teresa Tjader, Religious of the Assumption.

715.  This opinion was expressed orally by Father Jean-Paul, the Assumptionist archivist, in one of his talks during the colloquium.

716.  Extracts from Father Picard’s letters to Mother Correnson, April 11 and June 18, 1882, nos. 5104 and 5105.

717.  Extract from Father Picard’s letters of September 1882, nos. 1869 and 1871.

718.  Father Léon Déhon to his friend Father Charles Desaire, St. Quentin, January 18,1873.

719.  A new edition of these Chapters is presently in preparation. The unpublished Chapters that took place during these years as well as those that look place before 1872 and after 1889 will be added to this new edition.

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