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of the Day

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 18, 2003 Issue 

Give in, compromise, press on?

Founder endured stiff opposition to found the Good Shepherd Sisters

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor
Saint of the Day graphic

St. M. Euphrasia Pelletier

When: 1796-1868

Where: France

Feast: April 24

Canonized: 1940

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)

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