Rejoice with us today as we celebrate the Anniversary of Sister Marie's rescue of Mary's House on November 15, 1892. From this date forward, for love of Our Lady, Sister Marie spent her life restoring and protecting Mary's House for all God's children...a little earthly treasure overflowing with heavenly graces. Thank you Sister Marie for answering God's call in so many ways in your life as a Daughter of Charity. And especially today we thank you for your great act of charity given to all mankind for love of Mary: Mary's House...hope for peace, way to Jesus. Sister Marie you are a sign pointing the way on the path to peace. Please pray for us as we follow you across the threshold of hope into Mary's House.
To understand why Sister Marie, as a Daughter of Charity, was able to purhcase and rescue Mary's House, it is necessary to understand the vows a Daughter of Charity takes. A Daughter of Charity makes four vows: Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Service to the Poor. However, unlike other religious, her Vow of Poverty allows her to retain personal funds and inheritances held by her at the time of her entrance into the Community. She exercises her Vow of Poverty by seeking permission to use funds for the Poor and works of faith.7 Sister Marie as a Daughter of Charity coming from a well-to-do family is therefore able to use God’s abundant gifts to her to, in turn, give abundantly to others. Now we have insight to understand what happens next.
Sister Marie provides the revenues to purchase the House. After travelling home to France to request of her father the necessary funds, Sister Marie, through the charity of her own resources, would buy the whole mountain on which the House of Mary stands on November 15, 1892.
Just before the turn of the century, Turkey was very unsettled with religious and political tensions. Prudence dictated that Sister Marie should safeguard the interests of Mary’s House and all of Panaya Kapulu in the midst of the many involved parties with as many diverse intentions. Although Sister Marie desires that the property go to the Children of St. Vincent (Poulin, 1999, pp.81) she understands the restrictions of the law.
Retired Archbishop Giuseppe G. Bernardini of Izmir, Turkey, the very bishop to grant an Imprimatur for the Sister Marie prayer card on October 6, 2004, was kind enough to explain the circumstances to us all in a telephone interview in November of 2008. He explains that Turkish law, both then and now, does not ever permit a religious order to have ownership of any property. It simply does not recognize religious orders of any faith. He further explains that property may only be owned by an individual and must be listed in a person’s name. Therefore, out of love and devotion to Mary and to protect Her House for all pilgrims for all time, Sister Marie acts decisively to safeguard the House and has the House put in her name.
In time, when thanks to the efforts and finances of Sister Marie, the area was renewed and there was a fairly consistent peaceful co-existence of all parties involved, Sister Marie hands over ownership and legal title to her trusted long time friend Father Eugene Poulin, Vincentian, on May 11, 1910. In some way, then, she is able to fulfill her dream of leaving Mary’s House to a Child of Saint Vincent, if not the entire Order. She toils tirelessy in all planning and completion of restoration projects and remains responsible until her death for all expenses involved in the restoration.
Eventually the ownership of Mary's House is passed to Fr. Joseph Euzet, also a Vincentian and devotee of Panaya, on October 23, 1926. After some beleaguered judicial struggles regarding ownership due to war and law codes, Father Euzet finally receives the title in 1932. In 1952 Father Euzet passes ownership of Mary's House to the Dernek. The Dernek of Mother Mary (Hazreti Meryem Ana Evi Dernegi) is an association begun in 1951 byt the Archbishop of Smyrna, Monsignor Joseph Descuffi. From then until now the Dernek has owned Mary's House and its immediate surrounding which are separate from, but located within, forest land owned and overseen by Turksih state authorities; a precious and holy jewel; a diamond in the rough.
In 1955, George B. Quatman made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Ephesus, tracing the steps of St. John and Mary. When he arrived in Ephesus, he was appalled at the poor condition of Mary’s Home, the Church of Mary (site of the 431 A.D. Council), and St. John’s Basilica. Mr. Quatman formed the American Society of Ephesus shortly thereafter to assist in the upkeep and restoration of these three sacred sites, hiring architects, archaeologists and others. An agreement was struck with the Turks to permit this restoration work. The Society has continued this work into the 1990’s, including the erection of a large statue of Our Lady of Ephesus on Bulbul Dag Mountain, dedicated in 1991 for the 100th Anniversary of the discovery of Mary’s House. Today, the Society continues to assist the resident priests and nuns at Meryem Ana, and to work with the local officials on related projects.
Currently, the Capuchin Franciscans take care of the House and welcome the pilgrims from all over the world of many faiths including Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, received the kind hospitality of the Capuchins in the Rectory where he stayed on his most recent visit.
So as we can see, the acquisition of Mary’s House is followed by the restoration and other works which continued until 1894, all financed by the revenues of Sister Marie and all benefiting from her tireless attentive work and her endless prayers. God chose Sister Marie. She did not fail Him. Father Poulin is the author of the book The Holy Virgin's House: The True Story of Its Discovery. In it he writes a most profound testimony to tell the world of Sister Marie’s selfless generosity, her valiant persistence and dedication, and his debt of gratitude to her that he entreats us to share with him and all of Christendom.
He writes in his journal the very fist testimony on behalf of Sister Marie:
The Lord, who sees and organizes things, had taken care to put before us a soul in love with beauty and goodness, who was ready to give herself to everything good. A great soul, devoted, ardent, pious, and generous; the noble Sister Marie de Mandat- Grancey. She was, God had chosen her to be, the terrestrial Providence, like Panaghia’s Mother! [sic] For twelve years she has been charged of this valiant religious enterprise; she has never failed.
Oh! How happy I am to give her all the respect she merits! Also, could these writings make known to posterity, long after us, to whom France, the Catholic church are in debt for Panaghia! The Lord gave me this opportunity to say loudly what I had in my heart for a long time, to acquit what I deemed to be a serious debt. It is done. Praise be to God! (Poulin, 1999, pp.70-71)
Thank you Sister Marie for answering God's call in so many ways in your life as a Daughter of Charity; the early years in selfless service to the poor, sick, and abandoned children of God, and the later years continuing those same selfless works of merciful charity with the addition of rescuing and restoring Mary's House. Especially today, November 15th, we thank you for this gift given to all mankind for love of Mary: Mary's House...hope for peace, way to Jesus. Sister Marie you are a sign pointing the way on the path to peace. Pray for us as we follow you across the threshold of hope into Mary's House.