St. Mary Euphrasia
It has been well said that of all great hearts, the greatest is the heart of a Saint.
Saint Mary Euphrasia (July 31, 1796 – April 29, 1868) was born Rose Virginia Pelletier. She founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, more commonly known as Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
She was born on an island off the coast of France where her parents had been exiled by the French Revolutionaries. She was christened Rose Virginie Pelletier.
At the age of 18, Rose Virginie joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Tours, France, and received the name Mary Euphrasia. The Order of Our Lady of Charity cared for girls and women in difficulty. Some of the girls were abandoned by their families or orphaned, some had turned to prostitution in order to survive. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity provided shelter, food, vocational training and an opportunity for these girls and women to turn their lives around. Mary Euphrasia was appointed superior of the convent at Tours at age 29.
Mary Euphrasia forms the Magdalens
While superior at Tours, Sr. Mary Euphrasia formed a contemplative group of sisters, the Sisters Magdelen (now known as the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd), for penitent women who wished to live a cloistered life. The Sisters Magdalen earned their own way with intricate embroidery of priest vestments and production of altar bread.
In 1829, St. Mary Euphrasia traveled to Angers at the request of the Bishop to establish a home in his Diocese. Soon bishops from other cities started requesting that Good Shepherd Sisters establish communities to minister to women and girls in their Diocese. To respond readily to these requests to save souls and expand the apostolate to wherever needed, St. Mary Euphrasia envisioned a governing structure that would allow Good Shepherds to carry on a global ministry.
She appealed to Rome for approval to establish a new religious congregation that would be under one general government. She was given permission to found the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and on April 3, 1835 she became the first Superior General of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd of Angers. From that day forward all houses were to be under one general government, the Motherhouse of the Good Shepherd at Angers.
Mary Euphrasia was Mother General of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for 33 years. By the time of her death in Angers, France, in 1868 she had established 110 Good Shepherd convents around the world. Mary Euphrasia was beatified on April 30, 1933 and canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1940. Her feast day is April 24.
The full text of the biography The Life of Reverend Mother Mary of St. Euphrasia Pelletier is available online as a free download. British writer Anne Clarke wrote the book in 1895 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of St. Mary Euphrasia’s birth. The book has been carefully scanned to make it discoverable online. It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain.
In the book’s preface, the author states:
It is, therefore, a fitting tribute to her memory that her daughters in England should publish a biography which will make her better known and which, by setting forth the history of her inner life, will touch and instruct the hearts of many who burn with love for the work of the Good Shepherd.
Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Singapore-Malaysia have produced The Story of St. Mary Euphrasia, an electronic booklet about St. Mary Euphrasia. It is available as a free download.