Our Foundress: Sr. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier
(1796 - 1868)
In 1641, a French priest by the name of John Eudes founded a missionary order to provide love and shelter for young girls who were confused and needed guidance. His reason for such an action was because Mother Mary had appeared to him in all her divine glory, and revealed to him that he was to start a religious order of women dedicated to her who were to be called “Daughters of My Heart” and who were to wear white.
On 31 July 1796, Rose Virginie Pelletier (St. Mary Euphrasia) was born at the height of the French Revolution, on the island of Noirmoutier, France. Her father, Julian Pelletier, was the local doctor. He and his wife Anne formerly lived on Soullans on mainland France, but were imprisoned for three months on the island of Noirmoutier in 1794, along with other Catholics who would not relinquish their attachment to the church.
In 1814, at the age of 18, Rose Virginie entered the order “Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge”, commonly known as the “Refuge Sisters” in
Tours, the order founded by John Eudes. As a sister, Rose Virginie was given the name Sr. Mary Euphrasia, which means ‘beautiful speech’. Sr. Mary Euphrasia showed remarkable understanding in helping girls and women in distress. When she was 29 years old, she was elected as community leader.
Her first major innovation was to find a contemplative group of sisters within the Order. Their role was to be one of prayer for all those in need. Then she founded the convent at Angers. In the beginning, there were only bare walls but Sr. Euphrasia found generous and faithful benefactors who supported her not only financially, but also became lifelong friends.
Many different groups of women and children found refuge in Angers. There was also a group of contemplative sisters there and many young girls who aspired to become Sisters. This enable Sr. Mary Euphrasia to accept many more requests to find new convents throughout France and beyond.
She also believed that iw as necessary for the Congregation to centralize its administration in order to facilitate the expansion of the work. This resulted in a painful separation from the Refuge Sisters. With courage and vision, in the face of many difficulties, she set about unifying and revitalising the Order under the protection of the Good Shepherd. The new congregation “Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd” (Good Shepherd Sisters) was approved in 1835 by Pope Gregory XIV.
Sr. Mary Euphrasia was the Superior General of the new congregation until her death. In the space of thirty three years, she had founded 110 communities around the world. She died at Angers on 24th April 1868 at the age of 72, leaving behind her legacy of love. On May 2nd 1940, Pope Pius XII declared Mary Euphrasia Pelletier a saint.
Sr. Mary Euphrasia’s spirit lives on in the Good Shepherd Congregation. It adopts its constitutions and policies to the needs and problems of troubled teenagers. Tested and effective methods are utilised, but above all, a Good Shepherd sister depends on prayer and giving loving guidance, because now, as always, “One person is of more value than a world.”