Perrine Thulard, a woman from Maine
Perrine Brunet was born in Chapelle au Riboul in Mayenne on the 6th November 1654. In spite of her desire to enter religious life, she marries Rene Thulard, a royal notary and possibly a merchant in the area, in accordance with the will of her parents. Widowed and childless at the age of 25, Perrine resumed what she had begun as a young girl: “teaching reading, writing and counting” to the village girls. Her desire to become a religious resurfaces. She realises this project by consecrating herself to God while teaching and going to visit the “sick and poor in their own homes.” Other young girls become associated with her project. Thus, in 1682, the “Society of Daughters of Charity” comes into being, dedicated to teaching and the care of the sick, while at the same time becoming more open to God.
The “Society” continues to grow until the French Revolution, by which date there are about 100 communities in Maine. But, in 1794, two sisters are guillotined; the group is dispersed. However the sisters manage to keep in touch with each other. In 1803: the authorities in Maine ask for the sisters to come back in order to teach and nurse the population. The foundation house in Chapelle au Riboul has been wrecked and given over to the local government. The Prefect of Laval gives the Benedictine Abbey in Evron for the sisters’ use: the Benedictine monks had been expelled from France during the Revolution. In the 19th century: young girls in great numbers enter religious congregations. The sisters are present everywhere in Maine and beyond, in “little schools”, boarding schools and “caring for the sick” at home or in the public hospitals and hospices.
In 1904 – 1905: the separation of Church and State.
This ordeal opens the congregations’ horizons: first of all Belgium, and then England in 1904. In 1909 the first sisters arrive in Canada, at Trochu in Alberta.
In 1957: a new opening this time in Africa, in Ivory Coast, then Burkina Faso in 1986. With the beginning of this new millennium, the congregation undertakes a new challenge: in 2003 four sisters leave for Peru, to live in a poor quarter of Lima.
Today, just as in the time of Perrine Thulard, we continue to move forward in unchartered waters together with the One in whom we have put our faith.