Patron Saints of Our Schools
Feast day: 24 April
Vocation: Religious sister
Schools in Singapore
Rose Virginie Pelletier was born the eighth child of Dr Julian and Anne Pelletier, on an island off the coast of France, where her parents had fled during the French Revolution. Her father died when she was ten. Four years later, her mother placed her in a boarding school; her mother passed away three years afterwards.
The boarding school was a convent of the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, founded by St John Eudes, caring for homeless girls and women who had been abandoned, orphaned or prostituted. The Sisters provided food, accommodation and vocational training for them. Despite her guardian’s reluctance, Rose joined the order at the age of 18, with the provision that she did not make her vows until she was 21. She made her profession in 1816, receiving the name Mary of Saint Euphrasia.
As the majority of the sisters had been imprisoned during the French Revolution, Rose entered when only tired elderly women remained. Eight years later, she was appointed superior of the community in Tours.
Later that year, she formed a group of contemplative nuns, the Magdalen Sisters, for penitent women who wanted to live a cloistered life but were unable to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity because of their chequered pasts. They are now known as the Contemplative Communities of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, providing prayerful support for the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (Good Shepherd Sisters).
Four years later, the Bishop of Angers asked the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity to establish a house in his diocese. As each convent was autonomous, with no way of transferring personnel or sharing resources, Sister Mary decided to apply to Rome for permission to found a new order. Thus, the Good Shepherd Sisters came into being.
Sister Mary Euphrasia was Mother-General for 33 years. At her death in 1868, she left 2067 professed sisters, 384 novices, 309 Touriere sisters (non-cloistered), and 962 Sisters Magdalen, caring for 6372 women and 8483 children. During her lifetime, 110 Good Shepherd convents were established throughout five continents – this rapid expansion is why she is now considered a patron saint of travellers. Sister Mary Euphrasia Pelletier was declared a saint on 2 May 1940 by Pope Pius XII. She told her Sisters, “One person is of more value than the whole world… If you always love one another, if you always uphold one another, you will be capable of working wonders!”