Today we celebrate the 176th anniversary of the founding of the Religious of the Assumption. Thanks be to God!
We reprint below an account of this day in 1839 when Anne Eugenie Milleret, a young twenty-one year old French woman, began this great adventure of the Assumption with our first Sisters.
April 30, 1839
(excerpt taken from "Marie Eugenie Milleret: A woman's spiritual search in 19th century France" by Helen Marie Bories, R.A. , translated from French by Joan Weber and Nuala Cotter, R.A.)
On April 30, 1839, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Anne Eugenie Milleret and Anastasia Bevier met in a small apartment on rue Ferou, a tiny lane near Saint Sulpice. It was appropriate that they came together on such a day, for Catherine had been someone who had combined an active life in and for the Church with the deepest contemplation. Now, in the evening, as the great bells of Saint Sulpice joined all the other bells of the capital to ring in the month of Mary, they realized that the day was equally appropriate for a congregation dedicated to the Assumption. year after, Marie Eugenie would celebrate that anniversary by recounting once more the amazing deeds of God:
"Our Congregation had such weak and powerless beginnings, so disproportionate to the good things God has been pleased to derive from it, that we would not even dare to recount them if it were not for the fact that it is precisely in the absence of any human strength and wisdom that the works are shown to be more truly of God. It is the disproportion which makes us see and believe our Creator and Jesus Christ, the one who wanted from us only a total and loving dependence on Him."
Religious life, given its rhythm by the sound of the bell, was really beginning for the Assumption: the little community prayed, studied, and attended to the household chores, its members always carrying the great project in their hearts. Times for Office, silence, spiritual reading and prayer were decided so that they could savor, moment by moment, the joy of pleasing God....
....The door of 15 rue Ferou was often pushed open by friends and benefactors who helped the community in many ways. But they received help for themselves as well. The little apartment was an oasis of prayer in the heart of Paris; anyone who wanted to "come away for a while," to drink from its wellspring and rest in its shade was welcome. Young people, attracted by this new kind of humble yet bold religious life, pushed the door open and asked to stay....
....Rue Ferou was a kind of "school of poverty," a tiny apartment where the sisters slept on straw mattresses and ate at their meager table sitting on the few chairs the house could boast....
....Fifty five years after these events, in 1884, Marie Eugenie remembered how their life was, and spoke too about what it meant:
"Going back to those first days and seeing everything the Lord has done for us, I was struck by a thought I need to express to you. It is that in our work, everything is from Jesus Christ, everything belongs to Jesus Christ, everything must be for Jesus Christ...We began in a poor little apartment, then in rented houses. We were a few poor girls without a place on the earth. God gave us everything...Everything comes from Him; everything, therefore, belongs to Him and must return to Him!"