Saint February 7 : Blessed Eugénie Smet (Mary of Providence) who had a Great Devotion for the Souls in Purgatory

Eugénie Smet was born on March 25, 1825, the third of six children of Henri Smet in Lille, in the north of France.
Eugénie was a bright, lively child who was deeply in love with her faith from a young age.
She was filled with great concern for the souls in Purgatory since the image of the suffering in Purgatory smote her heart.
As Victor Hugo charts in Les Miserables, the France in which Eugénie was living was a time of great misery and poverty in the years leading up to the Revolution of 1848. Eugénie, however, safely ensconced in the boarding school at Sacré-Coeur in Lille, remained unaware of these great sufferings.
 Slowly, she began to minister to the poor around her in her small French village of Loos. She asked her father for permission to take the fallen fruit from his orchard and give it to the hungry of the village.
The Catholic Church, formerly very influential in France before the revolutions, had become a remnant of its former self. The Church was rebuilding itself by reaching out to the poor and offering material, charitable assistance. Eugénie threw herself into this work of charity and into the sacramental life of the Church. She began to attend Mass daily and dedicated her life to God.
Interestingly, her greatest efforts of aid were directed to the poor who were not physically present in France. For example, she assisted the bishop in raising money for missions in China, and she held the strong belief that the souls in Purgatory were in great need of prayers.
Eugénie felt the call to create a religious order that would dedicate itself solely to praying for these poor suffering souls. As Eugénie prayed and sought the necessary permissions to create her order, she received great encouragement from St. John Vianney, which she took as a sign to continue. Eugénie met with Abbé Largentier, a priest in Paris who had started a small community dedicated to praying for souls in Purgatory.
Eugénie was hopeful Abbé Largentier could help her begin a religious order of sisters to pray for souls in purgatory, but Abbé Largentier insisted that Eugénie’s order could only succeed by starting a school. Eugénie was dissatisfied with this, and she prayed for direction. In 1856, she found a house in Paris that was for rent, and she persuaded the owner to let the house to her, despite having no liquid assets.
Eugénie took the name Mary of Providence and she became the head of the community, The Helpers of the Holy Souls. The Helpers began to go out into the suffering community around them and prayed with and cared for the men and women in the inner city of Paris who suffered from alcoholism, abandonment, and great physical and mental duress. The Helpers offered up their charity work for the souls in Purgatory, thus hoping to alleviate two forms of suffering at once. Their rule was formally accepted in 1859.
Eugénie’s order was bursting with new vocations, and she opened several other houses. In 1867, a brave cohort of thirty sisters traveled to China to begin a house of Helpers there.
Eugénie died on February 7, 1871, in Paris. Her movement has spread throughout the world and continues to minister to the souls in the Body of Christ—both those on earth and those who have departed this world.
Blessed Eugénie Smet, helper of all Christian souls—pray for us!