Sister Marie enters the seminary, learns much more about serving Christ and receives her first assignment to the House of Mercy in the north of France where she assumes more duties than expected.
Sister Marie’s second step in the daughters Community life was the seminary in 1858, led by a Sister well-trained in the charism of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise Marillac and centered upon apostolic life. St. Vincent developed his spiritual life upon service to Jesus Christ in the person of the Poor. She was taught to serve Christ and contemplate Him in every poor person she found suffering, hungry, lonely, thirsty or dying.
To aid in pursuit of this goal, she was given the example of the first country girls who left their families to become Daughters of Charity. How joyfully and gratefully they took to love Christ in service.
People back in 1800 had often talked about published books on the revelations given to a Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich on the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Life of the Blessed Mother. Sister Marie became familiar with one of the books, expressed interest in mysticism and read and spoke about it. It eventually became a motivating factor in her life at Smyrna.
Sister Marie’s devotion to the Blessed Mother was greatly strengthened through Vincentian spirituality while she attended the Seminary. Seven years prior to the birth of Sister Marie, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a new novice in the chapel where she worshipped. The novice was told to have a medal struck to honor her Immaculate Conception, to open their chapel to the public, and invite people to pray at the altar and seek graces which Our Lady wished to pour out upon all who asked for them. The novice was told to inform the director of the Daughters of Charity to begin a new association and name it “The Children of Mary.” And there was much more, like the need for exactness of obeying rules; devotion to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Sacred Eucharist and St. Joseph. Then there was one additional and appreciative message given to the novice. Mary said to her, “The Community – how I love it.”
In the very year of Sister Marie’s attending the Seminary (1858), the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Lourdes. When Bernadette Soubirus asked Our Lady her name, Mary answered, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
It took great effort and time for Sister Catherine to get any of the requests filled. One of those revelations did impress Sister Marie, one that formed the focal point of her apostolic life: the Children of Mary.
Inside the Seminary, Sister Marie and the other Daughters of Charity lived a quiet, regulated life with rigorous exactness. Outside, however, they could hear some of the noise caused by Communards who created neighborhood uprisings. But the sisters had no first-hand experience with its problems – except when they might accompany a sister to tend to the harmed and injured. Part of Sister Marie’s was to respond immediately to a call from Christ by the numerous people who arrived to seek assistance. Little public record on the information of Sister Marie had been left behind, but it was known that she had to adjust to an entirely new way of life. She was deemed ready within the year for her first mission assignment.
Sister Marie arrived at Aire-sur-la-Lys, a small town on the banks of the Lys and Laquette rivers, in the north of France, on 10 May 1858. She immediately was assigned several responsibilities since only six sisters were attached to the House of Mercy.
Twelve years later, she would be in the midst of the Franco-Prussian War.
Sister Marie’s jobs included the pharmacy, the dispensary, the Office of Benevolence and she handled the tasks of visiting bedfast patients at two small neighboring villages.
In her first mission, Sister Marie seriously strove to fulfill each apostolic work on her schedule. There were fifty-five orphans in the House of Mercy and they, along with sixty young girls from the outside, maintained a nice sewing workshop.
Sister Marie also was responsible for the Children of Mary, their singing class as well as the organization of games for their patronage and their child-care services for the poor. Then during the holidays, she also took on the added tasks of rehearsals for plays and other festive activities.
Because of Sister Marie’s spontaneity, enthusiasm and good will, the youth responded joyously and gratefully. Because of her dedication and handling of the children, some parents were unable to keep them at home, so they lodged complaints and asked authorities to dismiss her. The children actually preferred to stay with Sister Marie, who received full support from her superiors. They responded to the parents with great conviction.
“All right then,” they told them, “do at home for your children what the sisters do and your children will stay with you.”
Segment 4: Sister Marie sets an example for devotion to the children.
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" I am not a priest and cannot bless them, but all that the heart of a mother can ask of God for her children, I ask of Him and will never cease to ask Him." ~ Sister Marie