St. Claudine Thévenet
Claudine Thévenet (1774-1837)
Claudine Thévenet was born in Lyons, France on 30th of March 1774. She was the third in a family of seven. ‘Glady’ as she was affectionately called, enjoyed a happy childhood with her brothers and sisters. The first twelve years of her life correspond to a peaceful period in France. However, when the French Revolution broke out in 1789, the Reign of Terror did not spare the Thévenet family. Her brothers Louis-Antoine and Francoise-Marie were put into prison because of their fight in defence of the City of Lyons. During the anxious days of her brothers imprisonment Claudine, with the help of a disguise, managed to get into the prison and was able to visit her brothers and bring them food and clothing. Later, however, Claudine witnessed the execution of her two brothers. This left a marked impression on her. She never forgot their last words – “Forgive Glady, as we forgive”.
At the death of her brothers, Claudine was 19. This event was a decisive turning point in her life. The experience of forgiveness made her aware of the goodness of God and so she decided she was going to spread this message of God’s goodness. The misfortune of those who live and die without knowing God was her greatest sadness. After the French Revolution there were many children and young people wandering the streets of Lyons with no one to care for them or guide them.
One day Father Coindre, the Parish Priest, found two orphans shivering alone in a church porch. He brought them to Claudine and asked her to look after them. She accepted this challenge. The first “Providence” or home was founded. During this time other young girls were attracted to the work Claudine had begun and many joined her. Little by little more homes were opened for abandoned children. Here the children were taught weaving, sewing and in general were prepared for life.
Then in 1818 the call of God became clear – to form a community whose aim would be a Christian Education for young people of every social class. And so began the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
The work developed rapidly and houses were opened in other places outside Lyons. Claudine always held a marked preference for the poor and those with greatest needs.
Claudine Thévenet died on the 3rd February 1837. Her last words were “How Good God is”. After her death the Congregation of Jesus and Mary spread to India. The Jesus and Mary sisters arrived in Ireland in 1912 and began their work in Co. Mayo. They later moved to Counties Sligo, Galway and Dublin. Today they can be found in 27 Countries.