"Each of us has a mission on earth. It is simply a question of seeking how God can use us to make His Gospel known and lived." — Saint Marie Eugénie
The Founding of the Religious of the Assumption
Saint Marie Eugénie Milleret founded the Religious of the Assumption in Paris in 1839. Her essential vision was one of transforming society through education. From the first community of five young women, the congregation quickly spread throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Marie Eugénie taught that our faith in Jesus impels us to love the world and all its peoples. She believed that all action should flow from a life of love and prayer and tasked us with responding to the urgent needs of our times. Today we can be found in the inner city and in the suburbs, in the rural Southwest and in the urban Northeast. We teach in colleges and run after-school programs for children; we advocate for immigrants and teach English as a Second Language; we work in parishes and offer faith formation programs; all this and more we do with Christ for love of the world.
Saint Marie Eugénie Milleret's Early Life
Anne Eugénie Milleret, later to become Sr. Marie Eugénie of Jesus, was born in Metz, France on August 26, 1817. She grew up in a family that had no interest in religion or Jesus Christ, but that was passionate about politics and social justice. They deplored the injustices of a class system and the misery brought on by the rise of industrialization. For them, however, there was no connection between these concerns and Catholicism, the traditional religion of the French people. They instead found hope in the cry of the French Revolution for liberty, equality and fraternity. Marie Eugénie's First Communion at the age of 12 was a life-changing experience of grace. Throughout her life she spoke often of this moment because she recognized it as the original grace from which everything else flowed.
When she was fifteen, Marie Eugénie's parents separated and she moved to Paris with her mother and brother, only to see her mother die of cholera shortly afterwards. Her father then sent her to live with relatives whose great interests proved to be money and pleasure. Alone, far from her brother who had been her constant companion, Eugenie wondered about the meaning of life and love. She had lost everything except her fervor for social and political questions and the desire to do good for others.
Her father then sent Marie Eugénie to live with very Catholic cousins in Paris. He wanted her to take her place in society like other young women of her age by marrying. She found the cousins piety narrow and stifling. She had no real objection to marriage, but she rejected all suitors.
Discovering Her Calling
One day, her cousins invited her to the cathedral to hear a Lenten sermon preached by a priest famous for his eloquence and influence with the youth. His way of speaking of Christ and the Church led to her conversion.
She discovered that the ideals of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ who is the universal and definitive Liberator, and that the Church possesses the secret of doing good here on earth. While there will always be suffering and difficulties, God wills to establish a social order in which no human would have to suffer from the oppression of others. (Letter, 1843)
Less than a year later, a priest in the confessional, recognizing that Marie Eugénie had intelligence and a passion that could make a difference in society, asked to see her. He convinced her that the religious life and education were her vocation.
Marie Eugénie prepared herself by study and prayer and, at twenty-two, with four other young women, founded the Religious of the Assumption. Her life and work spanned most of the nineteenth century and quickly spread internationally. She taught that our faith in Jesus impels us to get involved in contemporary social issues and that all action should flow from a life of love and prayer.
In 1898, Marie Eugénie died on March 10th, now her feast day. She was beatified in 1975 by Pope Paul VI and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on June 3rd, 2007.
For information on the life of Marie Eugénie, download: Press Kit For the Canonization of Mother Marie Eugénie of Jesus.