Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey
Born in 1779 into a deeply Christian home, the oldest daughter of the Javouhey family enjoyed a happy childhood in the village of Chamblanc in Burgundy. The French Revolution would soon try to destroy the Catholic faith. Young Ann taught catechism to the village children, and helped the hunted priests to escape capture by night. In the garden of her home there was a little oratory and here Anne spent many hours in prayer, feeling a call growing within her. On the night of 11 November, in the presence of an outlawed priest, her family and trusted friends, she consecrated her life forever to God.
The Revolutionary fury had destroyed all the convents. Anne Javouhey set out in search of a place where she could begin her mission, first in Besancon where Jeanne-Antide Thouret was attempting to revive the Sisters of Charity, then in La Trappe in Valsainte, Switzerland. where she met Dom de Lestrange. When she realised that her mission was not to be found there, she once more took up her search attempting various works: catechism, care of orphans, small free schools…. and she experienced failure after failure, living in poverty, one might say misery.
In 1804 Pope Pius VII, who had come to France for the coronation of the emperor Napoleon, stopped in Chalon-sur-Saône. Anne and her three sisters had an interview with him and he encouraged them in their vocation. As other young women joined them, Anne went to the Bishop of Autun who advised her to draw up a Rule of Life and then apply to have Statutes for the young Society. These were approved by the Emperor on 12 December 1806..
On 12 May 1807, nine young women pronounced their vows of religion before the Bishop of Autun in St. Peter’s Church, Chalon. “Now we are religious!” wrote Sister Anne Marie who from now own could give free rein to her dynamic spirit. She obtained permission to use the Autun seminary which had become national property and there she educated young girls and trained them for manual work. Wounded soldiers from the war in Spain returned to France in large numbers and the Sisters became nurses at their bedside. After three years another house was needed and Balthasar Javouhey bought for his daughters the former Recollets Convent in Cluny. Soon the name Cluny, linked to that of the Sisters of St. Joseph, would be known in the five continents.
MISSIONARY EXPANSION :
As God’s call continued to reveal itself little by little, the Cluny Sisters were dispersed far beyond the plains of Chamblanc. The departure for Bourbon, a little- known distant island, was both Anne Marie’s response to that call and the realization of her desire to respond to the needs of her day, no matter how great the difficulties might be. Before her death, the five continents would see her Sisters arrive toBefore the death of their Foundress, they arrived on the five continents to educate, nurse and evangelize poor and rich, children and adults, blacks and whites, all “children of a common Father”.
IN FRENCH GUIANA:
“To break unjust fetters, to let the oppressed go free” Is. 58
In Mana, a village was built, land was cleared for agriculture, runaway slaves were welcomed, lepers were installed in a verdant environment, and slaves were prepared for emancipation. Convinced that she was doing “God’s Work” Mother Javouhey was able, in spite of opposition and criticism, to train hundreds of slaves to live peaceful lives.
Ardent and intrepid, quick to love and to forgive, filled with a goodness that knew no limits or barriers, Mother Javouhey lived a life of intense union with God which strengthened her in times of trial and was the driving force behind her unconditional service of children, those sick in mind and body, those who were despised, all the poor who came her way.
Her prophetic intuition, her natural talent for teaching, her daring initiatives, her creativity, all had their origin in her unshakeable confidence in God and her conviction that He had called her. Her heart was always filled with thanksgiving. 1950. Anne Marie died on 15 July 1851 and was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 15 October, 1950.
THOUGHTS OF BLESSED ANNE MARIE JAVOUHEY
- May God be glorified in everything and everywhere may His Holy Will be done.
- I would like to be everywhere where there is danger and suffering.
- When one seeks God alone ,one makes no mistake.
- The difficulties which one thought insurmountable need but a firm will to be overcome.
- Let us love the good God with all our heart and let us fear nothing.