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Sister Mary Xavier Lerée : a founding Sister of Providence


The first academy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from Sister Maurice Schnell’s sketch book.

Sister Mary Xavier was the last of the foundresses to die, after 57 years of quiet, mostly hidden service. She was childhood friends with Sister Liguori. Both came from Fougeres, France and were inspired to religious life by their parish priest. Both entered the novitiate at the same time.

Sister Mary Xavier was an extremely talented seamstress. She was dedicated to saving the Congregation money through her frugal and thorough mending of garments. She served for a short, unsuccessful time as superior at the Vincennes mission. Later, she had a much more successful experience in the orphanage there. Mother Theodore wrote many letters to her there, counseling Sister Mary Xavier on meekness and self-command.

It was Sister Mary Xavier who was with Mother Theodore when she was detained at Vincennes by the bishop. And it was Sister Mary Xavier whom Mother Theodore entrusted the keys, money and papers for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, sending her on to report the events to the sisters there.

Sister Maurice Schnell, a gifted artist in the Congregation who documented the early days in her paintings, wrote to Sister Mary Xavier, “The older I get, the more I appreciate your kindness to me on that certain day at Vincennes when I was 16 years old. I will forever thank you in heaven once I get there.”

Also a victim of consumption, Sister Mary Xavier’s last years contained great suffering, borne out patiently and beautifully. She died in 1897.

(Read the full profiles from the original article at HOPE.sistersofprovidence.org)

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Rosie Blankenship

Rosie Blankenship is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She previously served in positions for the Sisters of Providence as the web site manager and annual giving manager.

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