Hello friends! This post is the first in what will likely be a few posts about Marianist women throughout history. Lately, Sr. Caitlin and I have been doing a lot of reading about Marianist History, especially about some Marianist women–two in particular– Marie Therese de Lamourous (who helped found the Bordeaux sodality with Fr. Chaminade) and Adele de Batz de Tranquelleon (foundress of the Daughters of Mary). As we keep learning cool stuff, it seems important to share. So, here are five things you (probably) never knew about the first Marianist woman we are highlighting: Marie Therese de Lamourous.
Marie Therese taught Adele how to run the Marianist Sisters
In 1816, Adele decided the time was right to finally begin the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. However, being only 27 at the time, both Adele and Fr. Chaminade were unsure that Adele was experienced enough to begin a religious community. So Fr. Chaminade asked Marie Therese to come to Agen to help Adele begin this new religious congregation. Since Marie Therese was a close collaborator in the women’s section of the Bordeaux sodality and had already lead the Misericorde, a refuge for reformed prostitutes, for over a decade, Chaminade knew MT would have the experience it took to begin a religious congregation. For six weeks, MT showed Adele how to run a religious congregation, and having complete confidence in the young woman’s abilities, Marie Therese returned to Bordeaux.
The Misericorde and the Marianist Sisters had strong connections from the beginning
The Misericorde was the house for repentant prostitutes that Marie Therese founded and dedicated her life to running. However, few people know of the close relationship that existed between the Marianist Sisters and the women of the Misericorde. When Marie Therese helped Adele begin the Daughters of Mary, she brought from Bordeaux to Agen one of the filles (as she called them) of the Misericorde as an assistant, a woman named Barbara who used to be a “woman of the street.” In 1817, when there was a famine in France, the FMIs in Agen provided refuge and assistance to the women of the Misericorde, leading Fr. Chaminade to consider having the FMIs take up caring for repentant prostitutes as one of their ministries (which never came to fruition). Lastly, at least two filles of the Misericorde later joined the Marianist Sisters.
The filles of the Misericorde supported themselves by making cigars
Cigar making was a lucrative business in France at the time, and the Misericorde was famous for the quality of their cigars. Equally interesting is the filles‘ foray into chocolate making. This was a failed endeavor, however, after they sent a shipment from Bordeaux to a customer in Paris, and, due to the summer heat, the chocolate became infested with worms. After that incident, their chocolate clientele declined. They decided, rightly so, to stick with what they knew and keep making cigars.
Marie Therese was shunned by many people in Bordeaux for working with prostitutes
Prostitution was an especially unseemly business in 18th/19th century France, so when Marie Therese first began the Misericorde, she was maligned by many in Bordeaux for her close proximity to these “fallen women,” some even thinking she was a prostitute herself. Marie Therese would go door to door begging for food and money to support the Misericorde, and often she had doors slammed in her face and people berating her.
Marie Therese would get Jesus’ attention…by knocking on the tabernacle
This is a more famous MT story. Often when the Misericorde didn’t have bread or money, Marie Therese would go into the chapel, knock on the tabernacle, and ask Jesus to come to their aid. And sure enough, her faith and prayers of petition were often answered in the kindnesses of strangers who would show up with alms for Marie Therese and her filles.
(Note: all information from this blog post comes from the incredibly thorough biography, Marie Therese de Lamourous by Fr. Joseph Stefanelli, SM)