Blessed Marie Rose Durocher

October 6: Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, Virgin—USA Optional Memorial

1811–1849
Patron Saint of sick people and those who have lost a parent
Beatified by Pope John Paul II May 23, 1982
Liturgical Color: White

I am always united with you in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Let us extend a hand to one another, to help surmount the difficulties, which occur.
We await with confidence the help of God and of the Blessed Virgin.
Be confident that the one who protects you will never abandon you.
Never forget to meet with God in prayer.
Take courage, God will not abandon you.
Let our charity be a bright and burning light, pointing out the path of virtue to all who surround us.
~Quotes attributed to Blessed Marie Rose Durocher

Eulalie Mélanie Durocher was the tenth of eleven children born into a well-to-do and devotedly Catholic farming family in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, an agricultural village located in the Montérégie region of Quebec, Canada, about thirty miles northwest of Montreal. Three of her siblings died young, one of her sisters became a nun, and three of her brothers became priests. Though her village had been under British rule since 1763, it maintained a strong French-Catholic identity, with the local church the social, educational, and spiritual gathering place.

As a child, Eulalie manifested a strong Catholic faith, good morals and judgment, and was friendly and well loved by those who knew her. Until the age of ten, she was homeschooled by her grandfather. When her grandfather died, she was sent to a boarding school run by the Congregation of Notre Dame in Saint Denis, just across the river. At age twelve, after receiving her First Holy Communion, she was once again tutored at home by a local priest for about four years, due to poor health. During that time, her sister Séraphine had moved to Montreal to attend a boarding school run by the sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, with the intent of entering their congregation when she completed her schooling. Eulalie, desiring to follow in her sister’s footsteps, went to the same boarding school at the age of sixteen. Though Séraphine ultimately entered the congregation, Eulalie struggled with chronic illness and had to return home after two years, ending her opportunity to enter the congregation as a religious sister. Though heartbroken, she maintained her strong faith and good character.

In 1830, shortly after Eulalie returned home from Montreal, her mother died, and Eulalie was thrust into the position of maintaining the household at the age of nineteen. A year later, when her brother, Father Théophile, became pastor of Saint-Mathieu parish in Belœil, fifteen miles south of the family home, he convinced his father and siblings to move in with him. For the next twelve years, Eulalie not only cared for the family, she also worked for the parish as her brother’s secretary, was attentive to the poor and sick, and helped organize many parish activities, including the education of the young. Her time working in this busy parish was fruitful in many ways. She saw firsthand the many issues facing the people of the parish and wider communities, especially the grave lack of formal education. This filled her heart with an ongoing desire to, once again, try to enter religious life. She especially became aware of the need for sisters who would dedicate themselves to the education of children, including the poor and those in rural communities. For her first ten years at the parish, her desire to fulfill this vocation grew within her.

In 1841, Eulalie was made aware of an attempt by the neighboring pastor in Longueuil to bring the teaching order of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary from France to the diocese. Eulalie saw this as her opportunity, and she and a friend offered to join the congregation as soon as they arrived. However, the sisters ultimately declined the invitation, deciding to remain in France. 

Since the need for teaching sisters remained a high priority, the bishop of Montreal decided to start his own congregation. After meeting Eulalie, he was convinced that she would be an excellent first candidate. Eulalie agreed, and she and two other young women formed the beginning of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Quebec. They not only used the same name as the congregation in France, they also adopted their rule of life.

On February 28, 1844, at the age of thirty-three, Eulalie became a novice, was clothed in the habit, and took the name Sister Marie-Rose. Joining her were two other women who took the names Sister Agnes and Sister Marie-Madeleine. They spent the next several months in formation under their spiritual director, Father Jean-Marie François Allard, a member of the Oblates of Mary who had recently arrived from France. On December 8, 1844, the novices took their first vows, and the bishop appointed Sister Marie-Rose as mother superior.

For the next six years, Mother Marie-Rose navigated many difficulties, including local church politics and calumnies, but remained steadfast in her commitment to raise up a congregation of sisters who would provide for the needs of the youth. She saw education and religious formation as the most pressing needs at that time and helped guide other young women in that mission.

At the time of her death, in 1849, from chronic ill-health, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary numbered thirty teachers, seven novices, and seven postulants in four convents where they taught 448 students. After Mother Marie-Rose’s death, the order continued to expand. In 1944, a century after its founding, there were 3,367 teaching sisters in 212 institutions around the world, serving 57,299 students. In 1927, the informative process for the Cause of Mother Marie-Rose began, and in 1979, Pope John Paul II beatified her, paving the way for a future canonization.

Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher saw a need within her local community, sensed God calling her to address it, and acted upon His will once the time was right. Though she might have seen her initial inability to join the Congregation of Notre Dame as a roadblock, God used it as an opportunity to found a new religious order that would share the faith across Canada, the United States, and around the world.

As we honor this holy woman, ponder any roadblock you have experienced in life that, at first, was a disappointment. Entrust it to our Lord, and know that this might be nothing other than a detour to a more glorious way in which God wants to use you for His glory and the salvation of souls.

Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, your heart longed to educate the young in the faith and to teach them the many life lessons they needed to become good and faithful Catholics. Though your initial hopes of joining religious life as a teenager did not come to be, God later used you for so much more. Please pray for me, that my heart will burn with a desire to serve God and make Him better known, and that every obstacle I face will not be the cause of discouragement, but of hope in God’s greater plan. Blessed Marie-Rose, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.


Further Reading:

Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary

Catholic Encyclopedia

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Faith ND

Catholic Culture

Catholic Saints Info

Wikipedia


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