and the salvation of souls –this is my life”
St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier
The Good Shepherd Congregation was founded in Angers, France in 1835 by St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier. Born Rose Virginie Pelletier in 1796 on the island of Noirmoutier off the coast of France, the future foundress was influenced by the deep faith of her parents in the midst of the French Revolution. As a school girl in Tours, France, Rose Virginie’s compassionate heart reached out to the girls and young women in the care of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity whose monastery was closeby. At the age of 18, Rose Virginie entered this monastery and was given the name Sr. Mary Euphrasia. The Order of Our Lady of Charity was founded in Caen, France in 1641 by St. John Eudes for the care of girls and women in difficulty who wanted help to reform their lives. Each monastery was autonomous.
Sr. Mary Euphrasia became superior of the monastery in Tours at the age of 29. In 1829, during her time as superior, she responded to a request to found a monastery in the city of Angers. In 1831, at the end of her term as superior in Tours, she went to Angers to become superior there. At this time, Sr. Mary Euphrasia founded a contemplative community within the same monastery. Known today as the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd, their mission is to pray for those to whom the apostolic Sisters minister and for the salvation of persons throughout the world.
Requests for the foundation of other monasteries of Our Lady of Charity continued to arrive at the monastery in Angers. Unable to respond to all of these requests from the resources of a single monastery, Sr. Mary Euphrasia was inspired to request from Rome the founding of a Generalate which would link the monasteries together. In this way, there could be a sharing of Sister-personnel as well as other resources. Rome approved her request in January, 1835. With the foundation of the Generalate, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd was born. All communities founded from the monastery in Angers were part of this new Generalate as well as any monasteries of the Order of Our Lady of Charity who wished to join.
The Congregation grew enormously. Without telephone, fax, e-mail or air travel, Sr. Mary Euphrasia founded in her lifetime 110 houses on every continent. She died in Angers on April 24, 1868. Her beatification took place in 1933 and her canonization in 1940. Today the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd serve in 74 countries, embracing the world with their zeal for the salvation of all people.