The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Venerable Sister Mary of Saint Euphrasia Pelletier

Saint Mary Euphrasia PelletierArticle

Among those who are most to be pitied are the victims of seduction. The Church has never been wanting in zealous persons who have exerted all their energy in successful combat against this pest of souls. In the seventeenth century, about 1680, Blessed John Eudes founded a congregation of women entitled “Sisters of Our Lady of Charity,” whose object was to devote themselves entirely to the conversion of fallen women. In the nineteenth century the Congregation received a new life and a broader development from the Venerable Sister Mary of Saint Euphrasia Pelletier.

She was born of God-fearing parents on the island of Noirmoutier, off the coast of Vendee, 31 July 1796. The reading of the life and writings of Saint Teresa excited in her young heart a fervent enthusiasm for everything ideal and especially for the saving of souls. Hence the vocation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity proved most pleasing to her, and when she was nineteen she joined these self-sacrificing souls at Tours. Only a few years later they elected her superior on account of her prudence and zeal.

An important event in her life was her call to Angers in 1829 for the purpose of establishing there the work of her Congregation. For she soon perceived the great disadvantage arising from the want of connection between its individual houses. Often these individual houses had no one capable of directing their difficult work. The plans of Sister Pelletier won the assent of the ecclesiastical authorities and in 1835 Gregory XVI sanctioned the reorganization of the Congregation under the title “Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.” Sister Mary of Saint Euphrasia was the first superior-general. Charity is ingenious. Mother Pelletier was ever on the alert for new means to restrain the vice which ruins both body and soul. For the penitents who after conversion showed an inclination toward religious life, she founded a special branch of her Congregation, the “Magdalens,” who take the three religious vows, but live according to their own rules separate from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. For others who, afraid of relapse into sin, have no desire to return to the world and no inclination for religious life, she organized the institute of the “Consecrates,” or those who without vows solemnly consecrate themselves to the Mother of God. These live with the children called “Preservates” and efficaciously support the work of the Sisters.

It is always best to endeavor to secure prevention of the vice. Therefore the wise superior-general opened institutes for girls who were in danger. Finally she extended her work to orphanages and also to prisons for female convicts.

It can not be told in a few words how much good Mother Pelletier effected and still works through her daughters, who, animated by her spirit, labor in all civilized countries. Hundreds of thousands of poor creatures, who would have been doomed to the greatest misery, both temporal and eternal, have been regained to human society and to the Church by this work of charity. And especially in our own day, when depravity of morals is so shockingly widespread, the work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd is eminently apostolic and suited to the needs of the times. It needed the enlightened zeal of a saint to give it vigorous organization and to impart to others the necessary enthusiasm and spirit of self-denial. “After listening to our Mother,” said one who heard her speak, “one would go to the end of the world to save only one soul.” Without doubt it was the personal sanctity of Venerable Mother Pelletier that drew down so many blessings upon her work both before and after her death. Her earthly life came to its end on 24 April 1868. Her many services for the salvation of souls have assuredly won for her glorious reward in heaven.

MLA Citation

  • Father Constantine Kempf, SJ. “Venerable Sister Mary of Saint Euphrasia Pelletier”. The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, 1916. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 March 2018. Web. 30 November 2020. <>