Saint August 26 : St. Joan Elizabeth Lucy Bichier des Âges Founder of the Sisters of the Cross who Wanted to Imitate Jesus in his Poverty
Joan Elizabeth Lucy Bichier des Âges, (French: Jeanne-Élisabeth-Lucie Bichier des Âges) She was born on the 5th of July 1773 and died on the 26th of August 1838. St. Joan was a French religious sister, commonly referred to as Elizabeth Bichier. Together with Andrew Fournet, she founded the Sisters of the Cross, Sisters of St. Andrew, a religious congregation which was established for the care of the poor and the instruction of rural children in the Diocese of Poitiers, France, in 1807. Saint Jeanne Elisabeth Bichier des Ages (1773-1838) - belonged to a family of the French aristocracy residing in the commune of LE BLANC, in Châteaux des Ages. Here she spent a childhood full of joy and warmth, surrounded by the affection of her parents, three brothers and her servants. In Poitiers she completes her studies up to the age of 14. Back in the family, she receives a solid and complete training from her mother, which makes her a perfect hostess.
She is loved, courted, desired: “My dance will be dark and ugly, if Mademoiselle Elisabetta does not come to illuminate it and embellish it with her presence!”. But Elizabeth's heart is elsewhere ...
At the castle she welcomes the poor who pass by with respect and generosity. As soon as she is able, she rides the 4 km that separate her from the church of St Génitour, where she received her baptism. She remains for a long time, in adoration before the tabernacle. She cultivates the secret desire to consecrate herself to God. She reveals a witness: "I know that she had the plan to join the order of the Trappists, but the outbreak of the Revolution did not allow her to realize her dream".
1789. Elizabeth is 16 years old when her life and that of her family are upset by the advent of the Revolution. The assets are confiscated and, in the town square, the noble titles are burned. Her father soon falls ill and dies; two brothers enlist but in opposing armies. Elizabeth must also resolutely oppose the revolutionaries who ask her to represent the Goddess Reason in Le Blanc ... she Left alone with her mother, she knows the misery and humiliation of the prison in Châteauroux, under Robespierre. She will have to go through a difficult process, but in the end, thanks to her great courage, she will be able to obtain recognition of her legitimate rights.
In these years, Elizabeth experiences the vanity of everything and learns the wisdom of the Cross. He writes: "The scene of this world passes ... horrible and terrible as it is today, joyful and attractive as it was some time ago and how it will be, perhaps, tomorrow on this blood and on these ruins ... What does it matter, it is only a ' image to which I would not know how to attach myself. I take the commitment of my Baptism seriously. "Elizabeth prays that Our Lord will show her the way ...
... a meeting and a project!
1797. On the farm of the MARSILLYS, during a Mass celebrated at night in the stable, in the presence of poor peasants who gather in secret to hear the Word of God and receive the Sacraments, the meeting between Father Andrea and the young Elizabeth takes place. he will later say: "My sisters, great things have happened at the Marsillys! It is truly the Bethlehem of the Congregation." And Father Andrea will echo her by saying: "How many midnight masses have I celebrated at the Marsillys!".
Elizabeth entrusts herself completely to the enlightened guidance of this "holy" priest. She begins an active and fruitful collaboration. It is urgent to reawaken faith in the people and to help every kind of material, moral and spiritual poverty.
She writes behind an image of Mary Help of Christians: “I, Giovanna-Elisabetta-Lucia Bichier, dedicate myself and consecrate myself, today and forever, to Jesus and Mary. May 5, 1797 ".
Elisabetta is 24 years old. Together with her mother she left the castle for good and moved to BETHINES, in a country residence called "La Guimetière". The faithful of the town have deserted the parish church for many years due to the presence of a schismatic priest. With her consent, Elizabeth gathers them every evening in her house, when they return from work in the fields. Together they pray and sing. During the day she welcomes children to school, visits the sick, collaborates with priests in missions to the people. You try to reconcile souls ...
Very soon, other young women joined her to share this life of prayer and service. Thus "without knowing it and without wanting it", as Sister Elizabeth would later say, she takes shape as a small community, where the Eucharist is at the center, source of life and mission.
Following the Concordat of 1801, Father Andrea can finally return to his parish after ten years. To be closer to him, the young women move to a rented country house in the town of MOLANTE.
1807. In February, the first five companions - Elisabeth, Marianne, Madeleine, Anne and Véronique - take the religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, adding the promise to dedicate themselves to caring for the sick and educating the poor. They take the name of DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS.
With the poor, the "poor Daughters of the Cross" want to "re-present the life of Jesus and the simplicity of his Gospel", repeating the gestures and words of Jesus: "teach and heal". Sister Elizabeth will write: “I bless the Lord, because to instruct the poor and cure the sick is to imitate the Master himself!”.
The small community began to expand quickly, and the schools began to multiply where the Daughters could exercise their ministry to the poor and needy. In 1816 the community received ecclesiastical approval. By 1820 they had expanded again, and a former monastery of the Order of Fontevrault was obtained in La Puye, where their motherhouse was established. It still serves as the congregation's headquarters. Within ten years, there were over sixty communities of Sisters of the Cross. In 1850 they established their first foreign foundation, in Bilbao, Spain. Bichier died in 1838, at which time there were about 600 Daughters of the Cross serving in some 100 communities. Veneration Bichier was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
Her remains are enshrined at the motherhouse in La Puye.
Having reached a high number in membership of some 3,100 at the start of the 20th century, with 430 houses, today, they number about 600 members. They currently serve or have served around the globe in France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, China, and Thailand.
Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150529091930/http://www.figliedellacroce.it/Figlie%20della%20Croce/Fondatori.aspx and Wikipedia Excerpt