Five Things You Never Knew about Marie Therese de Lamourous…


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.


Marie Therese de Lamourous in 1816. This is the only portrait of her in existence.

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.


An old photo of the Misericorde in Bordeaux, which was housed in a former convent

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)

Praying Becomes Our Way of Living…and today we plumbed


“When you Sisters are here, the bathrooms look great!”

I feel so proud of this fact.  When the Marianist Sisters show up, bathrooms are cleaned for women and children to use, perhaps for the first time in many days or weeks.

This might seem like the beginning of a silly reflection to some of you, but for me today my experience at ‘La Casa’ was really profound.  This very simple task of cleaning bathrooms is extremely gratifying.  In part, this is because it is a task that is able to be accomplished and the result is measurable.  Within about an hour a soap scum filled tub, clogged sink, filthy toilet and dirty floor are cleaned and different than when we arrived.

This small action is a way for me to love Jesus.

Loving Jesus.  This is really what my vocation is all about (in fact it’s what each of our vocations is all about, just manifested in different ways).  Sweeping, cleaning toilets, washing clothes are simply the ways I am called to love Jesus in my volunteer ministry right now.

This lesson in loving Jesus extends beyond my volunteer ministry though.  I am called to love Jesus in the women in my community, in my Brothers, in my family, in my neighbors, in the students in our institutions, in the people of God who I encounter each day. This lesson of small things with great love is a good reminder for me of how to best grow in holiness and virtue. This song by Danielle Rose captures well this desire.


“Aqui, nos trata muy bien!” (Here, [in this place] we are treated very well!)

This phrase was shared with me by a woman who will be staying at ‘La Casa’ for a bit longer time than most.  She arrived here with no family or friends and has taken, in her stay, to helping prepare the home for more guests and has really become a friend to all. She lovingly embraced a women from another country today who is taking off for her new home. She says she is grateful and treated well here, but she is also treating others well.  She is sharing her gifts in order that ‘La Casa’ be a place with even greater hospitality.  She is teaching us how to love Jesus better.


“We should just call you Sisters whenever we have plumbing needs!”

Today at ‘La Casa’ Sr. Gabrielle and I plumbed.  Now, before you get too excited, we just did some very basic toilet and clogged sink trouble shooting, but we did have to get under the sink.  (Thanks Mom for making me learn how to plumb when I was a kid, I had no idea how handy that skill would be!)  In our bathroom cleaning adventures we unclogged two sinks.  Sr. Gabby did the honors in the first sink, cleaning out the u-trap to find 2 toothbrushes and a pair of rusty tweezers that were preventing water from flowing freely down the drain.  This occurred after we tag teamed getting a lotion lid out of the drain with a wire hangar.  My honor was emptying the u-trap in the second sink and trying to stop the hot water from perpetually running.  While under the sink, impromptu songs about loving Jesus were shared with all and the stench from the u-trap was a reminder of just how many women and children have come through ‘La Casa’ in search of a safer life.



This little sign is above the door of the kitchen in ‘La Casa’.  This has been what Novitiate has been about for me; how to grow more and more into a person of prayer so that it becomes my way of living.

Tomorrow, the Novitiate 3 are headed for a week on retreat, for a time of encounter with God in prayer. Thank you for holding us and our time in your prayer! We will certainly be praying for you and for the needs of our world.  If there are any special prayer intentions we can bring before God, please message any of us. Thanks and many blessings!

Happy 200 Years! Here’s to 200 more…


First of all…sorry for our delay in postings. Sometimes we get caught up in our typical Novitiate things and all of a sudden we find ourselves saying “Oh yeah…our blog…who’s turn is it?” Apologies, friends!

Tomorrow, May 15, 2016, Marianist Sisters from all around the globe will be holding celebrations for our Bicentennial (which is technically on May 25). Almost 200 years ago, on May 25, 1816, a small group of Sisters in France–including Mother Adele–began the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. And somehow, by God’s grace, we are still here! We have never been a large congregation (we are currently around 400 world wide), but God has blessed us in our smallness and has seen us through some very difficult times.

All Sisters

Marianist Sisters in Korea


Novices in India

Japan Postulants

Postulants from Vietnam in Japan

Recently, I wrote a paper for my Marianist History class about some of these difficult ages for the Marianist Sisters. I won’t get into all of the details, but in the course of my research, I was bowled over when I found out how the Sisters commemorated their centennial. Exactly 100 years ago, when the sisters were celebrating our first centenary, they were in the middle of the brutality of World War I. Our motherhouse was in Belgium and the rest of the congregation was in France and Spain. Since Belgium was occupied by Germany, the entire war passed with almost zero communication between the general superiors of the FMI in Belgium and the rest of the congregation. At times, the rest of the sisters didn’t know if their motherhouse was even in existence. As you can imagine, such dire circumstances cast a shadow on commemorations of the first 100 years of the congregation. But the sisters leaned into God, trusting in Providence. As one sister in Belgium said, 100 years ago:

The situation is a sad one, but it is not desperate. We are living this May 25, 1916 in an invaded city, occupied by the enemy. Providence…envelops in its care the least of the beings it has called into existence. It watches with great love over our little family.

By God’s grace, we weathered the storm and we now inherit their legacy. One hundred years ago, the Marianist Sisters were barely surviving in three countries where their existence was extremely vulnerable to the ravages of war and religious persecution. Today, we are in 14 countries–France, Spain, United States, Italy, South Korea, Japan, India, Togo, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile–and we are soon to add 2 more with our planned foundations in Vietnam and Malawi. Our communities in each of these places may be small, but as you can see, we have taken Mother Adele’s command to follow God to the “ends of the earth” quite literally!


Venerable Adele, Foundress of the Marianist Sisters

Speaking of Mother Adele, this week, I was overjoyed to learn that the Vatican has approved a miracle attributed to Adele. This should clear the way for her Beatification. What exciting times we live in! In light of all of these things, I can’t help but agree with this anonymous sister in Belgium that yes, God is watching with great love over our little family.

Please pray for our congregation tomorrow as you go about your day! And thank you for your support and continued prayers. Happy Bicentennial!

The Way of the Cross


We stand at the cusp of Holy Week, a most sacred, emotionally exhausting time of entering into the last days of Jesus’ life.  On Wednesday I had the unique opportunity to accompany a woman, I’ll call her Lupe, and her 8 year old son, I’ll call him Carlos, otherwise anonymous travelers on their pilgrim journeys.

Lupe and Carlos are from El Salvador, a country devastated by gang and cartel violence.  During the War (The El Salvadoran Civil War:1980-1992) El Salvador was violent, many people were killed at the hands of guerrillas, but the violence in Lupe’s town has actually gotten worse since the War because now it is more indiscriminate.  Gangs abduct and force into submission or kill nearly all the boys who are 10 years old and older.  Since Carlos is 8 years old and is a handsome boy, Lupe was forced to make a choice to leave her country, her cosmetology career and her entire livelihood to travel north to save the life of her son.

Lupe and Carlos began their journey on foot, and traveled many miles this way.  Occasionally they we able to hitch rides with other pilgrims traveling north, but they were never fully sure who they could trust.  They had little money, for fear of getting robbed, and never fully knew the way.  They just kept traveling north.  They boarded trains, rode on top or in between the cars and always were forced to get on and off while the train was still in motion.


In the South of Mexico they began traveling with a woman who had two children a 4 year old and a 4 month old baby.  The five traveled together for many days.  Lupe recounted that Carlos really struggled with the journey.  They didn’t sleep well for days at a time and so Lupe often took Carlos by the hand and nearly dragged him forward as he sleep walked along. The mother with the two children dragged her four year old along and held her infant as she journeyed.  One evening at dusk the five pilgrims encountered a cartel group of bandits.  The cartel abducted the five and held them at gunpoint.  They forced them to walk and crawl up an unpaved road, up a craggy mountain.  The cartel demanded money from the women, who had nothing to offer.  The men threatened to rape the women and kill the children if they did not turn over their money.  The women stammered and sobbed that they had nothing.  Then the cartel told the women to put their children in the position, they were going to kill them.  So Lupe and the other mother spread out their children’s arms and lay them hysterical on the ground.  Carlos and the other two children were so exhausted that they didn’t even fully recognize what was happening, they just whimpered from confusion and exhaustion.  The women were then told to assume the position as well, and they did.  Realizing they had no money, the men tormented the families for a while, before letting them go.

Lupe, Carlos and the other woman with her two children were free to continue their journey.  They continued northward for about 2 more weeks before reaching the US border.  Lupe and Carlos were accosted by Border Patrol agents and put in the Dilley Detention Facility where they lived and were processed for 15 days.  I met them upon their release from detention, having passed the ‘credible fear’ interview, they were headed to another US city to be with family and await their court date for a hearing.

I accompanied them to the airport, where Lupe shared with me her story.  She told me about family members who left during and shortly after the war and how her greatest hope and joy was in seeing them again.  They had not returned to El Salvador again to visit, because they said that the pain of leaving again, of ‘abandoning’ their family once again would have been too difficult.  These family members had been in the US for so long that they had never met Carlos.  Lupe was so excited to introduce her family to Carlos, she is so proud of him.

She asked me what happened to women and children who didn’t pass their interview if they got deported, to which I was forced to explain that if she hadn’t passed she and Carlos too would have been deported.  She left El Salvador with no real sense of the process, simply traveling north to ensure that her son did not get abducted by the gangs in her town.  This really made an impression on me, she had no idea who to trust or how to get information about what was going to happen to her.  She was asking me all sorts of questions about the process of meeting with her immigration officer when she arrived in her new city, and the only thing I could do was explain to her that it would really be beneficial for her to meet with the officer and try to obtain her work VISA and eventually a green card so she wouldn’t live in constant fear of deportation.

She told me that she couldn’t tell her family about what happened to her and Carlos in the south of Mexico, how they had been almost killed.  She said it would be too much for them.  She said the journey was just terrible and she didn’t want to burden her family with it, because it was just so horrific.  I shared with her that what happened to them, on their 6 week journey, was a trauma to her heart and that she should seek out some help from a psychologist and social worker when she arrived in her new city.  I told her she has to process this trauma in her heart, in order to heal herself and be whole again, and especially that she couldn’t carry this burden alone.

I realized after sharing this with her, that I had been entrusted to help her carry her burden.

Lupe and Carlos boarded the plane and began the next part of their pilgrim journey.  They were going to begin the next phase of life together with their family, still plagued with fear of the unknown, but a different type of unknown than they left behind in El Salvador.

My experience with them has been a powerful reflection for me on my call to walk the Way of the Cross.  There were many times in Lupe’s recounting of her journey that left me feeling like I had been punched in the stomach.  I imagine this is how Mary, Simon, the women on the road and the bystanders felt in accompanying Jesus on his Way of the Cross.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Lupe’s life and the life of Mary of Nazareth who fled in haste at the birth of her Son, to protect his life and who walked with him to his execution.

My own life has been brought into the mysterious union of God with Lupe and Carlos. It was easy for me to see how Lupe’s life mirrored that of the Blessed Mother, and even in the midst of that parallel,  I found myself reflecting and drawing on the strength and example of Mary and the Beloved Disciple whose enduring presence accompanied Jesus through his most difficult hour.

My Marianist vocation places me in situations where I will accompany the marginalized, even sometimes to their own cross.  While I wasn’t there and present with Lupe and Carlos when their life was threatened by the cartel, they offered me part of their burden through sharing their story.  Lupe told me that she is sure of the presence of God, because only God could have brought her and Carlos through this horror.

Part of helping bear their burden is in telling their otherwise anonymous story.  This Holy Week I challenge you to think about how you are called to accompany, as Mary and the Beloved Disciple, those who are heavy burdened.

I leave you also with a poem for reflection by RS Thomas, called “The Coming”


And God held in his hand

A small globe. Look he said.

The son looked. Far off,

As through water, he saw

A scorched land of fierce

Colour. The light burned

There; crusted buildings

Cast their shadows: a bright

Serpent, A river

Uncoiled itself, radiant

With slime.

On a bare

Hill a bare tree saddened

The sky. many People

Held out their thin arms

To it, as though waiting

For a vanished April

To return to its crossed

Boughs. The son watched

Them. Let me go there, he said.

Words of Wisdom #21


“In accordance with their objectives, both [Marianist] orders aim at raising their respective members to the summit of Christian perfection, which is the most perfect possible resemblance to Jesus Christ, the Divine Model. The orders invite their members to follow the Savior, who was poor, chaste, and obedient even unto his death on the cross, and to do so by obliging themselves with the exalted holiness of vows to poverty, virginal chastity, and evangelical obedience.” from Letter to the Retreat Masters of 1839 by William Joseph Chaminade

Words of Wisdom #20


“The church is Christ’s true body insofar as it is a discipline, that is, a way of inscribing bodies into certain practices. It is not relegated to some ghostly interior realm of the soul as separable from bodily practices—gathering, feeding, judging, reconciling” from Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh

Words of Wisdom #18 and 19


“Experiencing the unconditional love of God is what prayer, in the end, is all about.” from Prayer: Our Deepest Longing by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

“[One] could not say without sin that politics is so dirty that [one] won’t get in it. Just because it’s dirty and because it’s yours, because it’s the common good…you must get into it, you must stay with it and then as soon as you stay with it you must change it because it’s dirty” from Social Charity by Fr. William Ferree, SM

Words of Wisdom #17


“Only a revived, purged–and lived–form of ‘ascetic’ life will rescue the churches from their current theological divisions and incoherences over ‘sexuality’; and only the same authentically ‘ascetic’ life will be demanding enough to command the respect of a post-Christian world saturated and sated by the commodifications of desire. When the ascetic life works, and works well, it unifies, intensifies, and ultimately purifies desire in the crucible of divine love, paradoxically imparting true freedom precisely by the narrowing of choices.” from The New Asceticism by Sarah Coakley

Words of Wisdom #15 and 16


“Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation stirs the emotions and inspires deep, God-given desires.” from The Ignation Adventure by Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ

“I’d say that what touches me the deepest, maybe because I’m becoming myself more vulnerable, is the discovery of the vulnerability of God, who doesn’t oblige. The other element, which is…linked to that, is that the only thing that’s… important for myself is just to become a friend of Jesus and nothing else.” Jean Vanier, in his interview for the NPR show On Being 

Words of Wisdom #13 and #14


Okay…I’ve been slacking a bit on these. But re-commitment is something we must always do! So, to make up for lost time, I will post two short things every day this week. Here’s for today:

“Recollection does not mean we concentrate so much on one thing that we are insensitive to everything else. Recollected people are not unaware. In fact, the opposite is true…True recollection increases our presence to others rather than diminishes it.” From Growing in the Virtues of Jesus by Fr. Quentin Hakenworth, SM

“When Mary conceived the Savior in her virginal womb in the order of nature, she also conceived spiritually in her soul, by her love and her faith, all Christians as members of the Church, that is, of the mystical body of Christ.” From the Marian Writings of Fr. Chaminade