Story of Anne Marie Javouhey
Anne Marie Javouhey, born on 10 November 1779 in a village in Burgundy, heard the Spirit’s call to proclaim God’s love for all people without distinction of race, religion or social status.
Childhood and Vocation
Born in 1779 into a deeply Christian home, the oldest daughter of the Javouhey family, Anne enjoyed a happy childhood in the village of Chamblanc in Burgundy. The French Revolution would soon try to destroy the Catholic faith. Young Anne taught catechism to the village children, and helped the priests who were being hunted to escape capture. Anne spent many hours in prayer, in the family garden oratory, discerning what God was asking of her. On the night of 11 November, in the presence of an ‘outlawed’ priest, her family and trusted friends, she consecrated her life forever to God.
To discover God’s will Anne, guided by the Holy Spirit ,set out for a religious community. All convents were closed by the Revolutionary fury. She courageously defied the revolutionary authorities and gathered children where she secretly taught them their religion and prepared them for the sacraments, In Besancon, Jeanne –Antide Thouret, Sister of Charity, in reopening a convent accepted Anne. Here as a result of a prophetic vision,Anne decided to return home. Continuing her search, Anne entered Valsainte, Switzerland . Guided by Don de Lestrange Anne left to continue her search elsewhere. Assisted by her sisters, she undertook various works: catechism, care of orphan, small free schools.
Foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny
In 1804 Pope Pius VII, in France for the coronation of Napoleon, had an interview with the four Javouhey sisters and he encouraged them in their vocation. As other young women joined them, Anne went to the Bishop of Autun who advised her to draw up a Rule of Life and then apply to have Statutes for the young Society. The Emperor approved these on 12 December 1806 and encouraged them to pursue their vocation.
On 12 May 1807, nine young women pronounced their vows of religion before the Bishop of Autun in St. Peter’s Church, Chalon. “Now we are religious!” wrote Sister Anne-Marie who from now on gave free reign to her dynamic spirit.
She obtained permission to use the Autun seminary which had become national property and there she educated young girls and trained them for manual work.
Wounded soldiers from the war in Spain returned to France in large numbers and the sisters became nurses at their beside. After three years, another house was needed ,and Balthasar Javouhey bought for his daughters the former Recollets Convent of Cluny. Soon the name Cluny, linked to that of the Sisters of St. Joseph, would be known in the five continents.
As God’s call continued to reveal itself little by little, the Cluny Sisters were dispersed far beyond the plains of Chamblanc. The departure for Bourbon, a little known distant island, was both Anne-Marie’s response to that call and the realization of her vision and desire to respond to the needs of her day, no matter how great the difficulties might be. Before her death, the five continents would see her sisters arrive to educate, nurse and evangelize poor and rich, children and adults, blacks and whites, all “children of a common father”.
In French Guiana
“To break unjust fetters, to let the oppressed go free” Is.58
In Mana, a village was built, land was cleared for agriculture, lepers were settled in a lush area, and runaway slaves were welcomed and prepared for emancipation. Convinced that she was doing “God’s work”, Mother Javouhey was able, in spite of opposition and criticism, to assist hundreds of slaves to live their lives in freedom and peace.
Blessed Anne-Marie Javouhey
Passionate and fearless, quick to love and to forgive, filled with a goodness that knew no limits or barriers, Mother Javouhey lived a life of intense union with God which strengthened her in times of trial and was the driving force behind her unconditional service of children, those sick in mind and body, those who were despised; all the poor who came her way.
Her prophetic intuition, her natural talent for teaching, her daring initiatives, her creativity, all had their origin in her unshakable confidence in God and her conviction that God had called her. Her heart was always filled with thanksgiving. Anne-Marie died on the 15 July 1851 and was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 15 October 1950.
In December 1841 the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny came to Ireland.