Marie Poussepin
14 October 1653 - 25 January 1744

A brief biography.

Marie Poussepin was born at Dourdan, near Paris (France), 14 October 1653, and  belonged to a relatively well-off family but her father ended up bankrupt. Marie, who was still young had to take charge of her father's business (manufacturing stockings) to meet the needs of her family and to help keep up the financial situation of her village. As director of the business she introduced new machinery; she hired young people without having them pay their apprenticeship training which they needed to become master tradesmen.

While assuming her responsibility as business manager, Marie Poussepin was also involved in a Fraternity of Charity in her village, followed by her membership in a Dominican Third Order Fraternity in 1693. As a member of these groups, she found herself taking on leadership roles in visiting the sick, the widows, the beggars.
Touched by the misery she encountered in the countryside and particularly by the status of the orphans, the widows, the sick women. Generally by the condition of the poor women of her time, Marie set up a Dominican Fraternity in 1695 to whom she bequeathed all of her personal belongings.

Set up in a small village (Sainville), this Fraternity was very different from any other because the members lived together according to Dominican tradition in order to radiate their charity, but without a monastery. She thus responded to the double challenge of combating misery and living religious life to its fullness.

In Sainville she organized a small school for girls. Her community grew and other communities were soon established to serve the poor. the sick, the orphans. Before her death, there would be twenty such communities in the Parisian area alone. The Bishop of Chartres caused her many problems, for he did not want to recognize the congregation that Marie had established. He demanded that the sisters renounce all ties with the Dominicans. Marie had no choice but to accept. Links with the Dominicans would be renewed in 1897.
Marie Poussepin placed charity at the heart of religious life. Work became a way of living religious poverty. Work was a major consideration for Marie; it was seen as a true discipline and a communal commitment to achieve the goals of the Congregation.
 

Mother Poussepin died in Sainville on 25th January 1744 and was buried in Tours.
In 1813 the mother-house was established at Saint-Symphorien near Tours. In 1897, the congregation was affiliated with the Order of Preachers, and became formally known as the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Tours. Marie Poussepin was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 20 November 1994.

Marie’s Sisters continue today as the oldest and largest Dominican congregation of apostolic life in the world. (1)

Mother Henri Dominique

More than one-hundred years later and also in France, a sister from Marie Poussepin’s congregation, Mother Henri Dominique, collaborating with the  Dominican Marie-Jean-Joseph Lataste, made a remarkable dream come true.

Both were standing in the tradition of the Dominican order about Mary Magdalene (2).

Jean-Marie Lataste (4 September 1832 - 10 March 1869).

Jean-Marie Lataste was born 4  September 1832 at Cadillac, near Bordeaux. He enters the seminary at Bordeaux (3 November 1841), the college at Pons (1846) and was graduated as Bachelor of Theology on 6 August 1850. He enters the Dominican priory at Flavigny on 11 November 1857 and received the name Marie-Jean-Joseph. After studies he was ordained a priest 8 February 1986, and celebrated his first mass in the cave at La Sainte-Baume, the shrine of Mary Magdalene.

"He preaches the first course of spiritual exercises at the Cadillac female prisons 14-18 September 1864, and proclaimed the Gospel to them using the example of Mary Magdalene as his starting point. He moved the hearts of the prisoners and so his somewhat “crazy dream” began to take up more and more room in his heart.

He tells of his experiences preaching to the women prisoners: “As soon as mention was made of their past faults, the women prisoners could be heard sobbing.... But if one spoke to them of God's great mercy, of his love, of his particular affection for fallen souls that are truly repentant, for souls who seek to love him as Saint Magdalene did, then they could be seen gently raising their heads...”. His “crazy dream” was to provide a welcome for these converted prisoners, at the end of their sentence, and mix them in with other Dominican Sisters, in such a way that no one would know about their past." (2)

Sister Henri Dominique: The Dominican nuns of Bethany, 1866.

After many difficulties, Lataste and the Dominican Sister Henri Dominique of the Presentation of Tours Congregation, founded by the Dominican sister Marie Poussepin, created theDominican Congregation of Saint Mary Magdalene, known as nuns of Bethany, and also as the “Dominican Sisters of the Prisons” on 14 August 1866 at Frasne-le-Château (Besançon).

21 November 1866 the approval of the Bethany community by the bishop of Besançon.

10 March 1869 Lataste died at Frasne-le-Château.
In January 1870
the nuns of Bethany move from Frasne to Montferrand-le-Château, and take with them the exhumed body of Lataste.

In 1884 Bethany becomes a formal congregation.
On 1 November 1888 the formal affiliation of the congregation by the Dominican order.

1937 The process for Lataste's beatification commences.
2007 Pope Benedict XVI approves Lataste's heroic virtues.

Sources:

(1) In their brief Rationale ‘Dominican Women’s Contributions to Social Ethics’ the Dominicans Ruth Caspar and Toni Harris noted on 7 December 2007 about the Dominican sister Marie Poussepin and mother Henri Dominique.
 
(2)Guy Bedouelle, OP: Mary Magdalene - The Apostle of the Apostles and The Order of Preachers from Dominican Ashram, Vol.18, no.4, 1999, pp157 - 171.

Internet


Philately

Honouring the 250th year of Marie Poussepin's death, (14.10.1653-24.01.1744).
In Colombia the sisters care for a colony
of  lepers in Aqua de Dios.

Colombia 1994, Mi 1931, Sc 1089.

 


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