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News inserted on 07/12/2020

Reflections on the 175th anniversary of Marie Françoise Perroton’s departure for Oceania


SMSM SistersCelebrating the 175th anniversary of Marie Françoise Perroton’s (1796 – 1873) departure for Oceania 15 November 1845 on the Arche d’Alliance 

Reflections

 

Seeding the call

The vocation of Marie Françoise began and matured over a long period in Lyon, France, the city of her birth.SMSM Sisters

From 1820, Marie Francoise was head of a group of the Propagation of the Faith, founded by Pauline Jaricot (photo).  In reading the letter from “all the Christians of Wallis to the Faithful in Lyon” (cf. APF, 1843, vol. 15) asking them to send “some devout women to help the women of Ouvea”, she heard a call in her heart.

From 1825 to 1845, Lyon saw the departure of many missionaries, men and women.   If Marie Francoise did know something of their way of religious missionary life, she must have known in her heart that this was not where God was calling her.  For her, as for us, her vocation remains a mystery of God’s gratuitous love.

 

SMSM SistersA call to go beyond

To set out on mission is like the call of God to Abram: “Go, leave your country, your family …” (Gen 12:1), and Jesus’ sending of the Eleven: “Go into all the world, and preach the good news to all creation”. (Mark 16:15)Go, leave your country is never easy! Setting out as Marie Françoise did calls for letting go and adapting to new situations.  As she wrote to Captain Marceau:  I do not wish for anything else than His Glory and the salvation of those good people of Oceania for whom I will willingly sacrifice myself if that is what God wants of me.” (Letter 1, §1)

 

Living intimate union with GodSMSM Sisters

This expression is not found in the letters of the Pioneers, but we do see something of the quality of their personal relationship with the Lord in whom they found joy, courage, strength and consolation.  They also knew that while union with God demands an effort, they also knew that it is first of all a gift of God, a grace to ask for. 

Marie Françoise wrote to Father Julien Eymard, asking for « dear and loving sisters” to come to (her) aid lest (she) be left behind on the path of love of God. (Letter 2, §4) “My gratitude to God should be as great as the ocean […] and when I cram repeated acts of love of God into a few words, I say to Him: my God I tell you that I love and adore you as many millions of times as there are drops in the ocean.”   (Letter 2, §4)

 

SMSM SistersWellsprings of inner energy and fidelity

What were the sources of Marie Francoise’s strength to carry out God’s design for her … to make the gift of her life for mission?

The Eucharist was central to her life.  “What would become of me if I did not have the adorable Eucharist near me?” (Letter 56, §3) This love goes back a long way, to the day of her first communion, the anniversary of which she celebrates, 61 years later, with deep emotion. (cf letters 33, §6; 49, §3).

 

Learning from Mary 

There is also her love for Mary and her confidence in her, recalled and invoked in so many different ways.  It is with a special feeling of attractiveness that she speaks of Our Lady of Fourvière for “there it is especially consoling to pour out your heart into that of our loving

Mother who is pleased to listen to the requests of her devoted children and makes it a duty to grant them.” (Letter 10, §8)

Marie Francoise was a Marist and belonged to Mary.     Hail Mary, full of grace …. (prayer)

 

In trial and sufferingSMSM Sisters

Marie Françoise learned perseverance in the ordinariness of daily life - climate, poverty, illness, but she never lost her sense of humour. Like many another apostolic worker, she had to learn to work at God’s pace rather than her own. Occasionally in her letters, we get glimpses of the human struggle where the Spirit of God is mysteriously at work, inviting her to enter into deeper waters, and to surrender in deeper faith.

The Marist priests on Wallis were aware of her suffering and admired her courage.  Her strength of character enabled her to persevere on Wallis for eight years, and in August 1864, she left the island. 

 

SMSM SistersIn solitude and loneliness

Marie Françoise’s missionary vision was intimately linked to her deep faith (cf Letters 1, §1; 9, §2) However, in one of her first letters from Wallis, she speaks of “her vision weakening, and often thick mists obscure her view of it”. (Letter 5, §1) For someone who lived in such solitude, with the disappointments and discouragement she faced, these mists must have come in menacing waves at times. Some of the emotional cost of such loneliness is expressed in her letter to Father Favre: “For twelve years I was alone... ” (Letter 9, §2)

 When three Tertiaries arrived in May 1858, she was full of joy and gratitude, but within a few years, she found herself alone once more.  In 1871, Sr M Rose came to be with her in the final years of her life. 

 

A woman of her timesSMSM Sisters

Marie Françoise shared the beliefs and attitudes of other missionaries of this pre-ecumenical era, when the missionary and the ecumenical vocation were a long way from being seen as intrinsically one. (cf. John 17:21) Relations between churches were marred by competition and even hostility. Her greatest concern was for the education of women and children. She is motivated primarily by “the glory of God and the salvation of souls” – a fundamental theme for the early Marists.

From her rock in Kolopelu, her heart remains open to the world: she prays for the Holy Father and the universal church, for countries at war, places of political and social unrest.

 

SMSM Sisters               A new era

M. F. Perroton

S. M. du Mont Carmel

09.08.1873

Kolopelu, Futuna

Right up to the last moment, she maintained a full and entire awareness; she would often think of the Church and of the Holy Father, offering generously her suffering and her life to God.”  Hervé (Kolopelu) – Poupinel (Lyon) 11.08.1873, Appendix 1 p. 155

Without knowing it, Marie Françoise was called to open new pathways in Oceania not only for the women of Wallis and Futuna, but also for those who followed her missionary endeavour.  She was happy and proud « to have launched the movement ». (Letter 9, §12)

For more than 150 years, with the mysterious aid of the Holy Spirit, her vision has continued to inspire women who have followed her in Oceania and beyond, in a great diversity of religious and cultural contexts.  She continues to show us the way of openness to the calls of God. Her life and mission, like that of the other ten pioneers, remains for SMSM a source of unity and a focus of authenticity for each new generation.  There, we find our missionary, Marist and religious roots.

Marie Françoise had her doubts, uncertainties and difficulties, but no regrets. Her faith, her courage, her growing confidence …  remain for us a call and a source of hope.

 

Based on S. M. Ancilla and S. M. Emerentiana, Rome, 2001.   Introduction (pp 1-6) to the Letters of Marie Francoise Perroton / Sister Marie du Mont Carmel from 1845-1873,  TOMMO Vol. 1 Nos 1-60.

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