Perrine Thulard, a woman with heart ablaze
Perrine Thulard is a woman of prayer and invincible faith. When she is about 18 years old her parents insist that she marry the man who is asking for her in marriage even though her deepest desire is to become a religious. She obeys them, as one did in the 17th century. Widowed, she gives herself once again to prayer, to reading and to meditating on the gospel while at the same time helping the girls in her village to learn to “read, write and count” as the saying of the time goes. Her desire to become a religious resurfaces. But, “religious life” equals “monastery” without any direct link with the people. Those around her, in particular the priests already formed in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis de Sales, help her to reread her way of life. She is already totally given to God and to others through the children for whom she cares. Her aptitude as a teacher was soon to be combined with the care of the sick in their own homes. To live out the gift of oneself to God through serving the poor is characteristic of apostolic religious life. The 17th century recognised this form of commitment but without using those words. They were referred to as “the society of Daughters of Charity.” Here Perrine discovers her vocation.
Other young women are quick to join her and the ancient chronicles tell us that: “this highly esteemed widow, no more than 28 years old, finds herself in charge of a poor society dedicated to education and the care of the poor.” From 1682 onwards, Perrine Thulard is at the “ head of a society which she has brought into being.” The foundation for all her activity is contained in the First Rule of 1709: “to serve Jesus Christ poor in the person of the poor.” This expression is the fruit of her reflection on Matthews Gospel chapter 25: “whatever you do to the least of my little ones you do it unto me.”
Perrine Thulard’s spiritual testament: “conserve among us charity, simplicity, union, humility”, continues to give direction to the way we live. To follow this woman with heart ablaze in living out the Gospel is to be open and available to God and others in ordinary everyday living as was Jesus: “ He went about doing good”, Acts 10, 38. As sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Evron we continue to give of ourselves and this gift is nourished by frequent meditation on the Gospel and an awareness of the needs of our world. We live out this gift in the service of education, health and social welfare in all the countries where we are present.