Sister St. Vincent Ferrer Gagé : a founding Sister of Providence
Born at Le Mans, France, June 15, 1800, Sister St. Vincent would have been 40 when the sisters arrived in Indiana, making her older than everyone except Mother Theodore (who was two years older).
Sister St. Vincent volunteered for the mission and was appointed as assistant to Mother Theodore, to serve as her replacement if the need should arise. However, when Mother Theodore became ill within the first quarter of their arrival, it became clear Sister St. Vincent could not fill this role.
During the first trying months, she struggled against the desire to return to Ruillé, fearing in her humility to compromise the success of the work. When she told Mother Theodore that should the foundress die, she would return to France, “She took me to task for my want of courage, and said that if I wished to give her pleasure, I should promise to remain.”
Despite her success as a superior in France, despite surviving a cholera epidemic in 1830 where she replaced her superior who succumbed to the illness, despite her piety and devotedness, she struggled with the many adjustments required of the new mission. She had trouble mastering English, which prevented her from aiding in the religious formation of the American novices. She had a natural penchant for quiet and order and wouldn’t tolerate carelessness, a trait which made it difficult to be in charge of the Academy. She struggled in being too demanding of others.
Yet, she persevered. She helped Mother Theodore open the new community’s first mission — a parish school in Jasper, Indiana — and served as its superior. Later, she was assigned to Vincennes, where she was during the troubling years where Mother Theodore was harassed by the (likely mentally unstable) Bishop de la Hailandière. She was a companion and loyal friend during those trials.
An example to the end of the pious, fervent religious, the last stage of her apostolate ended quietly, after a three-day illness in 1874.
(Originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of HOPE magazine.)