Give in, compromise, press on?
Founder endured stiff opposition to found the Good Shepherd
By Tony Staley
St. M. Euphrasia Pelletier
Feast: April 24
Often, when someone has an idea for doing something new or
differently, they meet opposition -- even bitter opposition. They
must then decide whether to give in, compromise or press on.
St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier chose to press on when her plan to
start a new order of women religious met stiff opposition.
Eventually, she won, as did the countless women -- and society as a
whole -- who have been helped by the Institute of Our Lady of
Charity of the Good Shepherd.
St. Mary Euphrasia was baptized Rose Virginia after her birth on
the island of Noirmoutier off the Brittany coast in northwest
France. In 1814, after studying at Tours, she entered the Institute
of Our Lady of Charity, which St. John Eudes founded in 1641 to
care for prostitutes.
When she was 29, she was elected superior of the community at
Tours. She immediately tried to start a new community at Angers,
where she managed the Good Shepherd House of Refuge. But after
meeting opposition from the clergy and others in the community, she
returned to Tours.
That didn't mean she gave up. She continued to negotiate and
eventually became prioress at Angers.
But the difficulties she encountered convinced her to start a
new order that would have a central authority and a common
novitiate, rather than a network of independent houses.
Again she was opposed. This time by bishops, priests and her own
sisters, who accused her of acting out of personal ambition, as
well as being insubordinate and rashly innovative. But others who
knew her cited her charity and trust.
Eventually, she succeeded and in 1835, received papal approval
to found the Good Shepherd Sisters at Angers.
In instructing her sisters on how to live, Mary Euphrasia urged
them to "live by love" because it "inspires confidence, joy and
peace." Fear, she wrote, "is marked by anxiety" and "should never
be allowed to disturb and oppress our hearts. It is not in the
spirit of fear that the Good Shepherd wishes us to serve him."
In urging trust, she said, "Be like the fisherman who keeps
casting his net always hoping to catch a fish. Then allow God to do
the rest. He knows better than we do what is for our good."
By the time Mary Euphrasia died in 1868, there were 2,760 Good
Shepherd sisters serving around the world.
Her life is a good model for us when we face opposition and also
a reminder to exercise caution when opposing someone we think is
too innovative, ambitious or insubordinate.
(Sources: Dictionary of Saints, Lives of the Saints II and Voices of the Saints)