The foundress of the Marist Sisters – Jeanne Marie Chavoin, was an ordinary woman, who responded in an extraordinary way to the grace of God in her life. She was born into a Christian family, noted for their fidelity to the Catholic faith throughout the religious persecution associated with the French Revolution, Her young adult life in the aftermath of the Revolution saw the revival of parish life, and it was in her native village that the seed of her religious vocation was sown. She immersed herself in village life, while at the same time nourishing her youthful spirit with divine energy in prayer. Long before she was invited to join the Marist project, she had decided to serve God in a life of prayer and service, but she turned down several invitations to join existing religious congregations.
Then at 31 years of age, the Society of Mary as a multi-branched enterprise was presented to her as the “work of Mary” Enlightened by inner wisdom, she understood in an intuitive way that this project held for her the possibility of the form of religious life to which God was calling her – a form of vowed life lived in community combined with service in the midst of people. Her insight, her spirit of faith, her openness to God combined with many hidden gifts, known only to the Giver of good gifts, all were fashioning her to become the foundress of the feminine branch of the Society of Mary.
It is fitting that this year – 2008 – the 150th anniversary of Jeanne Marie’s death, Marist Sisters all over the world are celebrating the life of their foundress, a courageous woman, who despite many obstacles, has left us a blueprint for an apostolic life inspired by a spirituality suited to an active life.