"Little Franciscans of Mary"

By Fay Daigle

FAS  329 Web CT Course

Final Project   The topic for my final project in "Franco-American Women's Experiences" is the Little Franciscans of Mary, a religious order that has many roots in the Fort Kent area of Maine, and beyond. Their story augments course readings about the Ursulines of Quebec City, Sisters of Charity/Grey Nuns of Hotel-Dieu, Montreal, and all of the other religious orders mentioned in our readings. The Little Franciscans of Mary followed the example of Saint Francis of Assisi. Their dedication to God, their determination, and their perseverance are the things that kept them going in extremely difficult times. The Little Franciscans of Mary began in 1889, with a dedicated group of women. Some of the women from the religious order would go on to become known as the eleven founding Foundresses.  In short, the readings mentioned the fact that few religious communities have known as many difficult and tragic hours, which tested the Little Franciscans of Mary's faith, hope, and charity beyond anyone's imagination. The Little Franciscans of Mary would always hold steadfast when they were experiencing wavering religious support, misunderstandings, and even some rejection. We must always remember those aspects, when reading about their journey towards their ultimate goal, which was to be recognized as a religious community. Thus, for me, it is important to tell about their commitment to Maine, along with the history of their religious order, Little Franciscans of Mary.
 The history of the Little Franciscans of Mary was originally written in French but eventually translated into English. "The Annals of the Foundation" from 1889-1900, which are the hand written records of their works, are preserved in the archives of the Congregation at Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, Canada. Whenever Mother Marie-Joseph, Superior, and Mother Marie-Anne-de Jesus, Superior General were together at Baie-Saint-Paul, they spent hours putting together their recollections and notes, so that one could trace the beginnings of the Congregation with accuracy. The history of the Congregation was not published until after the passing of the last founding Foundress, and now the founding Foundresses are almost legendary figures to those who knew about them. Mother Marie-Anne-de Jesus wrote in her private journal: "I pray Saint Francis to enlighten the one among our Sisters who will be charged with writing the History. Her mediation, maternal and touching, hopefully has prepared the author to recount the facts with the same sentiments that were present when the Foundresses lived them".
 Their story begins in Manchaug, a village 15 miles from Worcester, when the community was celebrating the month of Mary devotion, which had been organized by two teachers of Sainte-Anne's School. The visiting priest, Father Alexis Delphos, who celebrated Mass every Sunday for the congregation, was impressed with the planned celebration, the service, and the children's participation in the celebration. The teachers would request one wish from their pastor, and that was for the pastor to grant them the privilege of making their simple religious vows, and wearing the holy habit of the Third Order of Saint Francis, therefore making their intention public to the community around them. The two teachers went on to receive their holy habit, and proclaimed their vows for one year, which was the tradition for the religious. The initial plan for the Sisters would be towards education and charitable work. No Catholic institution existed at the present time to care for or educate the unfortunate children in Worcester, and the surrounding area. The Sisters worked hard to make the school a success, then their pastor, Father Delphos, and Father Joseph Brouillet, the pastor of Notre Dame-des Canadiens, wanted to join together to save the orphans in the area by planning to establish a school and orphanage in Worcester. The two Sisters would help in their present school and the planned orphanage, but realized it would be too much for just the two of them to manage, to train, and to instruct the children in this planned orphanage. Also, Father Brouillet came to the conclusion that he would need a continuous supply of Sisters to staff the facility, so he decided that he needed a religious community, and would recruit candidates from among the Franco-American girls in the Worcester area. Father Brouillet would recruit and train the applicants himself, because nothing else existed in New England for him to draw applicants from, and he knew what he wanted for qualified novices. The applicant's novitiate would last one year, and then they would go on to declare their religious vows after their initial year of training. 
 Father Brouillet first went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Remi Rondeau to discuss the awful conditions of the poor and the children, and in turn tell them how the homeless were being neglected in the community.  I'm sure in the back of his mind he knew they had an eighteen (18) year old daughter whom he wished to recruit for his planned orphanage. At that time, their daughter Marie Louise was in Canada receiving her education, which Father Brouillet had every intention of putting to use while teaching and caring for the children.  Marie Louise would become the first novice, after Father Brouillet had answers to all of the objections her parents raised during his discussion with them.  As in our other course readings, the word of the parish priest was associated with the word of God himself, so the family felt an obligation to comply with their parish priest's wishes. He would have answers to families' objections many times during the coming years of recruitment. Mary Louise/Sister Marie-Joseph would become one of the major participants in the congregation of the Little Franciscans of Mary, and eventually would become the first Superior for the group.
 When he recruited Marie Louise this would start the process where other women were recruited for the religious order, which would eventually become known as the Little Franciscans of Mary. At the time of the applicants' investitures the novices began the custom of taking the name of "Mary" which the Sister would add to her own distinct religious name. This tradition would be carried on with the later recruits, at the time of their investitures.  The two original Sisters from Sainte-Anne's School did not comply with the new custom of adding the name Mary to her religious name, when they participated in their investiture ceremony.
 Over the next year Father Brouillet would have investitures as the candidates/applicants presented themselves, and the needs of the congregation arose. The applicants ranged in age from eighteen (18) years to forty-eight (48) years, with some being very dedicated to their profession, while others decided the religious life was not for them. Father Brouillet would become the Father Superior to the Little Franciscans of Mary, and Father Zotique Durocher, Father Brouillet's assistant, would become the group's chaplain.  All of the girls came from good Canadian families and each Sister brought her own unique background and capabilities. This led to Father Brouillet wanting to show publicly what rapid growth he was making with his recruitment efforts, and how they were helping the community through their efforts at the orphanage he started in Worcester. 
 The orphanage was started in 1889, in a three-story building, which housed the chapel on the top floor and the old bakery area on the ground floor that was divided into classrooms. The second floor was converted into living quarters for the residents, with the Sisters and children living together. This entire building had to be cared for by the eight (8) religious novices. The home was totally without conveniences, and the admitted orphans and elderly women required complete care. The house needed to be completely furnished with needed supplies of furniture, food, and clothing. The duties were divided among the Sisters for the cooking, sewing, washing, teaching the children, and caring for the sick, but we must remember that the Sisters also had their daily begging of alms to do, so that they could obtain the necessary supplies for the school and orphanage. Thus, the Sisters being dedicated to the care of the penniless knew that their first duty was to ask for charity in their community, and the daily begging would be their primary source of income and supplies. After four weeks, the orphanage had twenty (20) orphans and two (2) very sick women. The Sisters worked from dawn until very late into the night, but their exhaustion would be replaced with their individual enthusiasm for their work. Almost every family home in the community welcomed the Religious and donated needed supplies for their growing orphanage. Father Brouillet would remind his Canadian parishioners each week, from the pulpit, of the needs for the orphanage, and the fact that they should be generous, and support the orphanage when the Sisters came to their homes seeking donations.  The Sisters even got support from the Irish in the community because they knew that the Sisters would take in some of their children, in turn realizing the Sisters admitted all who came to their door seeking help. It was mentioned that even some Protestant philanthropists contributed towards the Sisters needs.
 In the fall of 1889, the Sisters had to build a two-story annex that would enlarge the orphanage, and provide much needed space. With this addition, it brought more concerns about raising enough funds to finance the project, and the Sisters wondered if their prayers would help to bring in the needed supplies and money necessary to run the orphanage.
 During this time, problems had been surfacing with the two original Sisters from Sainte-Anne's School, and in January, 1890, the Sister Superior did not show up for Mass. The other Sisters went to her room after Mass, and they found her religious habit lying on her bed, and she was gone. The other Sister from Sainte Anne's was also coming up to the time when she would take her final vows, but the Bishop would not give her the needed permission to obtain her final vows. He knew of the ongoing conflicts with the new recruits, plus the way she had managed the orphanage. Father Durocher, the Sisters' chaplain, would have to go in and explain to the upset remaining Sisters, that the first two tertiaries were no longer obligated to their first year vows. Thus, the required permission had been denied to the remaining Sister, from Sainte-Anne's School, for her to take her final religious vows.
 Therefore, with the departure of the two original Sisters, major decisions had to be made concerning the Sister's religious congregation, and who would replace the departing Superior. The Sisters who had always been very obedient to Father Brouillet disagreed with his choice for a replacement for Superior, and by the time Father Brouillet left the convent that day, the Sisters had made known their own choice for a new leader. The decision of the Sisters was that Sister Marie-Joseph would be Superior, and her assistant would be Sister Marie-Anne-de-Jesus. Thus, Sister Marie-Joseph, at the age of nineteen (19), would become the first novice and Superior, being endorsed by the entire community, and her assistant Sister Marie-Anne-de-Jesus had originally been a dressmaker in Manchaug. The dressmaker had quickly put her skills to work in the orphanage and in making religious habits for all of the new novices was now the assistant to the new Superior. The readings mentioned that both of the Sisters were intelligent, capable, and most important of all virtuous.
 The New Year would bring two new ventures for the Sisters, which had been suggested by Father Brouillet. The first request was for the Sisters to staff an additional orphanage in Fall River, Massachusetts, and the second request involved the Sisters going to a farm in Stoneville, present day Auburn, MA. It was mentioned that if things did not work out in either place the Sisters would be allowed to return to Worcester. At Stoneville the Sisters were to begin the Saint Francis Nursery. At this point we must remember that there were only fourteen (14) novices to share all of the duties for the three projects. It became impossible for the few number of Sisters at Fall River to bring the dilapidated house into something clean and livable, take care of the babies who were still in cradles, and educate the older children, while still being responsible for the daily begging of alms. It was mentioned that their salary for a year would be $50.00. The Sisters labored day and night trying to satisfy the pastor, and caring for the children admitted to their care. Eventually the decision had to be made that the two Sisters of Charity would come from Quebec, and take over the operation of the Fall River orphanage. Lost in the process and turmoil would be two recent Sisters belonging to the Little Franciscans of Mary Congregation.
 The second venture, Stoneville, was just as disastrous for the Sisters, who would certainly bear their Cross in each day's activities. The house had two stories with chickens having been kept on the second floor of the house. This, like the nursery in Fall River, needed major work done to make the building acceptable to live in, plus there was no drinking water near the farm for their consumption. The Sisters had to do their own farming, care for twenty small babies, and do their daily begging, which led to decreased time for prayer. The Sisters especially missed the opportunity to participate in doing their spiritual exercises, which had helped the Sisters, in the past to endure their newly found lifestyle and burdens.
 With the lack of drinking water came major illnesses and even death for some of the children, which could not be stopped even with care from a physician who provided this care free of charge to the Sisters and their babies.  As autumn approached, the cracks in the house became more apparent, and the barn where one of the Sisters had been doing the washing six days a week was totally unacceptable. Father Brouillet strongly opposed their return to Worcester, but the group returned to Worcester anyway, risking major disfavor from their pastor. 
 These two disastrous adventures would seem minor in comparison to what was facing the Sisters in the future. The Sisters had the loyalty of Father Durocher, their chaplain, but conflicts were growing steadily between the chaplain and Father Brouillet. As the Sisters' first year was coming to a close they quietly planned for the incorporation of their order, the Little Franciscans of Mary, with the encouragement of Father Durocher. When Father Brouillet learned of Father Durocher's participation in the activities of planning the incorporation with the Sisters, his position, as Father Brouillet's assistant and the Sisters' chaplain, would be put to the test and challenged many times over. 
 It was decided that the Sisters present their case to Bishop O'Reilly in Springfield, without Father Brouillet knowing anything about it. When the Bishop returned from Europe the Sisters went to meet with him. The Bishop apparently knew nothing of their existence, and did not want another religious congregation in his Diocese. The Bishop only remembered giving Father Delphos permission for the two teachers of Manchaug to receive their religious habits, and now he knew the two teachers had left the religious congregation. The Bishop saw only three possibilities for the Sisters: they could go back into the world, they could join an already existing Franciscan congregation, or they could establish their Mother House in Canada. If they chose one or the other of the last two alternatives, he would approve the Oblates in the Diocese of Springfield. He also added his approval of the project to incorporate, because he didn't consider the project a religious one. Therefore, the Bishop told them it was their civil right to be incorporated if that was what they wanted for the group. Bishop O'Reilly also told the group he would see Father Brouillet himself, but that wasn't necessary, because Father Brouillet was waiting for the Sisters when they arrived back in Worcester.
 The Sisters did go on to receive the charter for their incorporation, but the Sisters were causing continuous unrest for Father Brouillet, so tensions mounted on both sides, plus Father Durocher would be dismissed as the congregation's chaplain. Father Brouillet even wanted to have Sister Marie-Joseph dismissed from her position as Superior, because he felt she was responsible for the Sisters wanting to incorporate. It turned out that only one Sister shared Father Brouillet's viewpoint, so Sister Marie-Joseph was not dislodged from her position. The Sisters would again returned to see Bishop O'Reilly, and Sister Marie-Joseph was to be the spokesperson for the group, because she spoke English more fluently than the other Sisters. The Bishop advised the Oblates to separate themselves from Father Brouillet, and open an orphanage elsewhere, so that they could continue with their work/ministry.
 On the advice of Bishop O'Reilly, the oblates could leave the orphanage of their own free will, but Sister Marie-Joseph refused to leave resulting in Father Brouillet and Sister Marie-Joseph going head-to-head, so to speak. In the end, the Sisters secretly made plans to move into another building, they notified the Bishop of their decision and plans, and on a Monday morning a moving van arrived at their back door. Enough furniture and clothing for seventy-five children and the Sisters were loaded onto wagons before Father Brouillet showed up with a deputy sheriff, and the moving abruptly stopped while the house was locked up in the name of the law. Fifteen Sisters and three boys would be the only ones who would escape. 
 Some Sisters who were still at the "old" orphanage refused Father Brouillet's request to take off their religious habits before they left the building, so those Sisters were the ones locked in the building. Some of the remaining Sisters sought refuge in Father Durocher's mother's home. A lawyer who had been involved with the Sisters, drawing up their incorporation documents intervened for the Sisters, and with the local sheriff's help all of the doors were unlocked. The Fifteen (15) Sisters would be reunited with the others. One Sister would remain behind in the orphanage because she was a widow, and her two sons were also at the orphanage. She had all of her life savings tied up in that orphanage, so didn't feel that she could leave the orphanage. The Sisters sought solace with Mme. Durocher, and she gave them loving care while understanding their great sadness. 
 Many parents had been unaware of the misfortunes facing the Sisters until the Worcester Telegram published the entire story of the past two days' events. Worcester's French-Canadian and Catholic newspapers did not publish anything about the happenings. The Sisters were called publicly, "Father Brouillet's Rebels", and it was not considered an honor to be a Brown Nun, as they were.  No longer was there the opportunity for spiritual discussions where the Sisters could gain renewed strength, and in turn they faced the task of finding a new home. Father Durocher would continue as the Sister's spiritual advisor, but at great sacrifice to himself. It was also voted that Sister Marie-Joseph would continue to be Superior for the group of Sisters.
 The Sisters would eventually find a new house to rent that was in wretched condition, with the house being very dirty and showing signs of decay. It was mentioned that refrigeration would not be necessary because of the temperature in the house. The one saving grace was that the Sisters would once again be living as a community, and that was important to the Sisters. In this tumbledown house the Sisters would have an old borrowed stove, a small amount of wood and coal, and a few blankets and pillows. They would not be allowed anything else from the temporary quarters they had moved into. There were fifteen (15) Sisters and four orphans, three boys and one girl, in this house, with no tables, cupboards, dishes, cooking utensils, only one bed, and no money in their pockets.  The one bed was given to the three boys who had a room to themselves, and the others slept in other rooms rolled up in blankets on the floor. For the one Sister who was sick, she slept on a bundle of straw, so that she would be partially protected from the cold. Eventually a few touches of comfort would be added due to the generosity of their relatives and friends. The Sisters now had more time for prayer, but did not forget to visit the sick and beg daily for alms. 
 The Sisters would get a letter from Bishop O'Reilly informing them that they must remove their religious habit, and if they wanted to stay together why didn't they enter a real religious community? The Bishop told the Sisters if they chose a religious order he would help them, and even pay their traveling expenses along with paying their required dowry. The Sisters would refuse to leave the community.  The Bishop finally did concede with one of the Sisters' request, and let the Sisters wear the veil they had proposed, because we must remember that the Sisters had cut their hair, and they didn't want to expose that fact to the community. 
 It became public knowledge that Bishop O'Reilly had severely punished the Franciscans who had dared to separate themselves from Father Brouillet, while the Sisters had felt the Bishop had given them some encouragement when he told them "Continue". "Courage my Children. How I pity you" 
  Father Durocher would also be relieved of his duties as assistant pastor at Notre Dame-des-Canadians Church. 
 If it had not been for their courageous chaplain, Father Durocher, the abandoned sheep wouldn't have had encouragement to persevere in both prayer and patience. There would be many days of fasting and prayer, but some provisions would find the way to their home. The Sisters wouldn't be allowed to go to confession or receive Holy Communion for two months, because of Father Brouillet's opposition. The sisters would again go to Bishop O'Reilly, who recommended that maybe they should seek another parish in town, or go to the Jesuit College where a French priest would consent to receive them. The Sisters would eventually be welcomed for Mass and Holy Communion in the Jesuit Chapel, and Father Durocher would go to New York, where he had been assigned another post. Both Father Durocher and the Sisters would face many trials and tribulations, and eventually Father Durocher signed a paper renouncing his rights to all functions that could be considered harmful to the Sisters. Their newly appointed Father Superior, Father Fafard, would deliver this paper and an explanation to the Sisters.
 The Sisters eventually moved from their "House of Misery", as it was called, to another large house and use two of the apartments in the building. The house had grounds where the children could play and enjoy the outside. The Sisters finally had the luxury of beds, which were mattresses on the floor, but only after providing mattresses first for the orphans. The new Franciscan Home opened its door to anyone presenting in need, and they took over all four apartments eventually in the house. They would have between 20-40 little children, all of them hungry, and in need, so the Sisters needed to continue their daily begging rounds in the community. Thankfully, they still got contributions from friends and family, although there was never any surplus of money to maintain the Home. The congregation would go on to lose three Sisters during these difficult times, for various reasons. 
 Father Fafard, the Sisters new Father Superior, was thinking about ways he could provide care and shelter to the poor and aged population in his parish, in Canada. Father Fafard would go on to purchase a house close to his parish in Baie-Saint-Paul, Canada, and announce from the pulpit that he had found a house where the destitute could be cared for. In the meantime, it was his hope that he could count on the charity of his parishioners for food, clothing, and maintenance of the building. Sainte-Anne's Home would become incorporated, and Father Fafard would sign a contract with the government to care for fifty feeble-minded patients. Through Father Fafard's endeavors would enter the Oblates of Saint Francis of Assisi, who were still struggling in Worcester. There would be correspondence between Father Fafard and Father Delphos, who had known the Sister since the Manchaug days. Working with the feeble-minded would be different than working with the children, but the Sisters would go on to accept the challenge presented to them.
 Superior Sister Marie-Joseph, who was 20 years old now, and her companion Sister Marie-Anne-de-Jesus, who was 25 years old, made the trip to Baie-Saint-Paul to answer questions as to the qualifications of the Sisters. The outcome was that the Sisters would start a new novitiate, under the direction of Father Fafard, making their congregation a real Diocese Institute. The Mother House and the novitiate would be in Baie-Saint-Paul, Canada, while the house in Worcester would continue its independent operation, but would be affiliated with the group in Canada. 
 Three or four Sisters from Worcester would become Regular Tertiary Novices, while working at the new Saint Anne's Home in Baie-Saint-Paul. This would satisfy the Bishop's demands for the Sisters, and in turn enable their Institute to take roots in Canada. One of the Sisters remaining in Worcester saw her own Sister leave for Canada, while she remained in Worcester. The four Sisters going to Canada were part of the eleven founding Foundresses. Father Fafard would always communicate with Father Delphos, in Manchaug, about the progress the Sisters were making in Baie-Saint-Paul.
 Bishop Begin, in Quebec, wrote in one letter to Father Fafard, his feelings about the Franciscan Sisters: "Do not put too much trust in the postulants who come from Worcester. There are some among them who, in their young institute, have shown…reprehensible tendencies that may be hidden for some time but they may reappear later. For this reason it is wise to watch these foreign recruits closely and never give in to their whims".  Of course Father Fafard had thought that the long trial of Worcester had succeeded in separating the chaff from the wheat, so to speak, and was willing to accept the group of postulants. 
 The Sisters faced long hours of work in Canada keeping the new home clean, while feeding and clothing their new charges, but this was no different that it had been like in Worcester. In fact, some commented that they didn't miss the bickering going on in Worcester, while they enjoyed the peace and calm in Canada. There continued to be on going communication between the Sisters in Worcester, and the Sisters in Canada, telling each about everyday life for the Sisters living in each community.
 In Worcester the Sisters would go on to lose one of their own, Sister Marie-de-Bon-Secours. During her illness she would ask that her tunic, and her Franciscan cord be placed on her bed, along with her crucifix. Before her death Sister Marie-de-Bon-Secours had asked if she might be buried at the Mother House in Canada, because she wouldn't have the opportunity of going there while alive. Father Fafard honored that request and mentioned that even the cemetery would be opened by one of the founding Foundresses. After a lengthy illness and eventual death, the remaining Sisters would note a mark on her right foot in the form of a rose. They had not noticed this before her death, and wondered if this might be a special sign of some kind. After her death, four Sisters from Worcester would accompany her body to Baie-Saint-Paul. When the Sisters opened the casket at Baie-Saint-Paul they were afraid they might see a badly decomposed body, because it had taken them two months to get the body to Canada, but what they found was her body perfectly preserved. Father Fafard would have three physicians examine the body, because they couldn't believe what they saw, and these physicians came away agreeing they had been in the presence of a phenomenon, that they considered outside the ordinary order of things. 
 The whole village would come to touch the marvelous rose on her foot with their own religious articles. Another "miracle/phenomenon" would happen when a crippled village girl, by the name of Marie-Anne Girard, rubbed her crippled legs with the soil from Sister Marie-de-Bon-Secours' grave, afterwards she would walk away from the cemetery plot on her own. 
 During this time, the home in Worcester would face some changes, but the Sisters would always accept children from all nationalities, and was recognized as the first Catholic orphanage in Worcester. The Worcester group of Sisters cared for the elderly as well as children while Baie-Saint-Paul Sisters just cared for the elderly. The Sisters in Worcester continued to experience uncertainties and hardships, because they didn't know if they would be leaving Worcester or not, so each day was a challenge for them, and also caused them to be very apprehensive.
 In February 1895, troubles would again resurface for the Worcester group of Sisters when Archbishop Satolli wanted the Sisters to leave Worcester, and Bishop O'Reilly would offer to reimburse the Sisters generously for the Sisters' investment in the community. The community of Worcester became aware of this request, and public opinion suddenly appeared loud and clear. The Sisters were their Sisters, many having come from homes in the community, and the Sisters had won the hearts of the entire community. The Sisters simplicity, poverty, and devotion to all incited the Franco-American people to become involved both verbally, and by written comments. To show appreciation for the Little Franciscans of Mary, there would be newspaper articles written, delegations would go to see the Bishop, and a petition containing three thousand signatures would be sent to the Bishop. Through all of this, the Sisters would never say anything to condemn Father Brouillet and wrote a letter to the group's Mother General telling her that he may have made them suffer a great deal, but they still owed him much. Another priest who had taken up their cause, after Father Durocher left would be Father Langlois, but he in turn would be banished from Worcester, and would go to St. Mary's in Montreal, Canada, where he died from a heart condition. The Sisters would be devastated all over again.
 Sister Marie-Joseph would have many doubts as to whether she could now face the daily tribulations of running the orphanage in Worcester, and was ready to close the orphanage. Father Fafard would give her the courage she desperately needed to carry on with the orphanage. There would also be an epidemic of diphtheria in Worcester, but the Sisters would not lose one of the children. The Sisters had cared for the children without any sleep themselves, and some were sick themselves, while one Sister was assigned to care for the healthy children isolated in a neighboring house. Again, the Sisters acts of mercy were carried on as they had always done in the past. 
 In addition to all that was happening, Mother Marie-Anne-de-Jesus was involved in writing the official Constitution for the Congregation, along with outlining the actual way of life for the Sisters. This document contained forty-two (42) chapters and both the Bishop and the Sisters in Worcester were given a copy of the document. The amazing thing was that the first copy of the document had gotten lost, and the entire document had to be done over again, because there had been only one copy written originally. Both Mother Superiors would unite whenever similar interests required any serious consideration. Both complimented the other so well that the people could never detect one's influence over the other.
 Bishop Begin, from Quebec, would finally give his approval for the Diocesan community of the Little Franciscans of Mary. Father Fafard knew the Sisters had been ready to finish their religious training, so Sister Marie-Joseph and four companions from Worcester would go to Baie-Saint-Paul to finish their novitiate. Eventually all of the Sisters from Worcester would finish their novitiate at Baie-Saint-Paul, in Canada. The Oblates of Saint Francis of Assisi no longer existed, and they were now officially called the Little Franciscans of Mary. With this new status, they would finally put on their religious habit, a milestone event for them.
 When the Bishop gave his final approval of the new community, the Little Franciscans of Mary, he granted some important favors:
•Approval to their Institute as a Diocesan Community;
•Permission to take perpetual vows;
•Permission to have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel on the First Friday of the month;
•Permission to have Benediction of the most Blessed Sacrament on the principal feast days of the year; and
•Permission to have the Forty Hours in their Chapel.
•Also approved by the Bishop was the postulant's costume.
  It was difficult to imagine their joy because they had experienced so much pain in their journey to acceptance. We must remember that Bishop O'Reilly had mentioned before that if the Sisters established their Mother House in Canada, he would accept the Sisters in his Diocese, like he would any other religious community. The Little Franciscans of Mary were finally admitted to the Diocese of Springfield as missionaries! An announcement would be made from the pulpit in the Church of the Notre-Dame-des- Canadiens, by Father Brouillet. That must have been a joyous moment for the Sisters.
 There would be changes taking place in Worcester when the decision was made that the Sisters of Charity/Grey Nuns would assume the care of the children at the Orphanage while the Little Franciscans of Mary would accept the care of the elderly in the community. It was a difficult time, but the Sisters accepted their new assignment with zeal and charity. The Little Franciscans of Mary's orphanage was converted into a home for the aged. It would always be a joyous occasion when the orphans came for a visit with the Sisters, the Sisters immediately showing their motherly affection like they had always done for the children when they had them in their care.
 The Sisters at Baie Saint Paul were just as humble and dedicated while gaining strength and courage at the novitiate like the Sisters had done in Worcester. Their faith would be tested just like the Worcester group of Sisters. The Sisters' days were completely filled with work and the day would start at four-thirty each morning with prayer and work. One of my books would mention that their dormitory had beds, which were narrow iron beds decorated with pallet and pillows, filled with seaweed. 
 The Sisters would eat the same food as the poor placed in their care which was some salt pork disguised with some type of sauce and for dessert it would be molasses mixed sometimes with lard. The lard would be used as a substitute for butter, while the luxury of beef was reserved for feast days. The menu was under the close scrutiny of Father Fafard.
 Father Fafard would see the Sisters participating in primary and secondary education, boarding schools, nurseries, hospitals, and asylums, all with ecclesiastical approval.  Some of these projects would be in Maine. Father Fafard would make the decision about many of the future missionaries because Mother Superior Marie-Anne-de-Jesus would be uncomfortable and uneasy wondering where all of the novices would come from. It would be Mother Marie-Joseph who would be assigned to Wallagrass, which involved her leaving Worcester, the place she loved above all others. By being assigned to Wallagrass she would return to teaching, an assignment she always loved.
 The Sisters at Baie-Saint-Paul would experience some tragic situations just like the Sisters in Worcester had experienced. The Sisters in Canada would lose one of their own Sisters, the first home for the elderly would burn down and a patient would die in the fire. This brought a great deal of sadness to the religious congregation. They would go on to build another home for the elderly, Saint Joseph Home. Father Durocher's mother would come to live at the home in Canada and would be instrumental in helping to raise funds for the Sisters. The religious communities in both Worcester and Canada were close and when one was suffering the other would share the pain and grief. 
 Sisters from both Worcester and Baie-Saint-Paul would be assigned to missionary work in Maine. The Little Franciscans of Mary would give one hundred and one (101) years of service to the state of Maine.  In 1898, Father Marcoux, from Wallagrass, would petition the bishop for needed Sisters to help provide a Christian education for his community in Maine. The Sisters of St. Basil would be contacted, but their ministry was caring for the sick and the poor, while not being trained teachers who spoke English. Father Marcoux would continue his search for a teaching religious community, and this search would take him to Baie-Saint-Paul. Father Marcoux would meet with both Father Fafard and the Mother Foundresses, and this would lead to the Sisters opening their first teaching mission in Wallagrass. Because the Sisters were still staffing Worcester and Baie-Saint-Paul, Sisters needed to be reassigned, and, as in the past new recruits would be used. Five Sisters would staff the mission in Wallagrass with Mother Marie-Joseph acting as the Superior. 
 Mother Marie-Joseph would be principal business manager and English teacher, as well as Superior. The Sisters accompanying mother Marie-Joseph were all novices experiencing some fear of the unknown and sorrow about leaving Canada. The Sisters traveled by boat across the Saint John River, to Fort Kent and the trip from Fort Kent to Wallagrass was done by carriage. Each Sister was a passenger in a different carriage, but all would be welcomed by enthusiastic villagers all dressed in their best holiday attire. The bells of both the church and convent would continue to ring until everyone had entered the church for Benediction.
 Again, as in their other communities, their new home lacked the basic necessities as well as no beds, stove, or lamps. The Sisters would begin over again with their daily begging for alms, while the Sisters found the community very generous in assisting them. The Sisters had left Canada on 8/7/1898 and on 8/15/1898, classes opened with forty-six (46) pupils enrolled including five students who were boarders. By January, it was mentioned that the enrollment for school was now eighty-two (82), with thirty-four (34) of them boarders. The Sisters faced difficult years, but at least they got praise from Father Marcoux. 
 In 1905, Father Marcoux would get permission, from then Bishop Louis Walsh, to construct a hospital facility because at that time there was no hospital north of Bangor. George Michaud would donate the land for the hospital with the stipulation that his family would receive free medical care at the hospital. Father Marcoux was also pastor in Eagle Lake, so was concerned about lumber and mill accidents that were occurring with no one available to care for the injured. Northern Maine General Hospital construction started in 1905 and by December that year the building housing 32 beds was only partly furnished. The pastor would once again seek help from the Little Franciscans of Mary for nurses to care for the sick. As with the school, a total of five (5) Sisters arrived and was faced with a hospital that was not yet completely built, but most of all the hospital would have no furnishings. As with the Sisters' other ventures they had to pay the debt plus operating cost for the hospital along with worrying about staffing the hospital. During that winter the Sisters and community people would seek donations, along with frantically trying to get the hospital furnished so that they could open. 
 The hospital in Eagle Lake would open in 1906, and at the same time, the Little Franciscans of Mary would receive an additional request for teaching Sisters to go to Fort Kent to start a school there. Also, the Sisters would teach in Eagle Lake. 
 First of all I would like to finish telling about the hospital before going on to their many other "adventures" in Maine. By 1920, there would be a total of fourteen Sisters to staff the 32-bed hospital. "Their personal poverty and their dedication to aiding humanity were evident. Six of the Sisters received as compensation only their lodging, clothing, and food. Their lodging consisted of a crowded dormitory over the hospital laundry room. Eight of the Sisters were salaried at one hundred dollars annually.  The patients seen at the hospital were frequently unable to pay for the services, the necessary medical supplies were not always available, plus the major challenge was in finding a qualified physician. When a William Kirk arrived in 1921, the hospital finally became financially solvent, and the hospital stayed in operation until 1966.
 As mentioned earlier, the Sisters would respond to a request from the Fort Kent pastor to send teaching Sisters to Fort Kent, in 1906. There would be four Sisters that answered the request, and their convent would be a two-story building. A reading mentioned that the building which was now the convent had been called the "Farmer's Rectory", because the Catholic parishioners would use the building to keep warm until Mass started. The Sisters would call their new convent their "Little House", because they only had four rooms on the first floor, and two rooms on the second floor, plus the attic. It was heart warming to read that at least the parishioners provided the Sisters with beds and warm blankets. An additional assignment would be asked of the Sisters when the parish priest asked the Sisters to allow an elderly woman to stay with them.
 September 1906 saw the Sisters opening a school in the church basement with 106 children attending. Some of the following describe how the Sisters viewed this assignment; the basement classroom was a "real underground", "you breathe nothing but dust", and they needed to be "jacks of all trades", while experiencing "low feelings". A Sister would note…"We work for the food of the souls and to please God, convinced that He loves us as bouchetrou as when given more honorable charges". In March 1907, the church in Fort Kent would be destroyed by fire, and all worked hard to save the Sisters' convent. The Sisters and community took no chances with the convent so removed all the furnishings and stove from the building, while throwing water and snow on the building. The Church was totally lost, but the convent saved. The Sisters faced the task of putting everything back into the building, but one of the Sisters was ill and would be admitted to the hospital in Fort Kent.
 The pastor and Sisters found another small building to hold classes, which had served as a pigpen previously. This brought back remembrances of "Stoneville" in the Worcester area, and the hardships the Sisters had faced years ago. The odor of the pigpen didn't want to disappear even with cleaning done by the Sisters. The first floor had two classrooms and one hundred and twenty (120) pupils attended class on the second floor. The fourth class was held in the attic of the rectory. To attend classes the children needed to bring their own chair with them to school. A new school would be built on the old church foundation, and the second floor of the school would be used for a Chapel until the new church was built. 
 In 1907 one of the Sisters would become ill with typhoid fever which required her to be admitted to the new hospital and recuperated at the Mother House in Canada. While at Fort Kent the Sisters would total one hundred and ninety six (196) Little Franciscans of Mary, serving as teachers and support staff.  In 1911, the Sisters would open a boarding school for both boys and girls and the boarding school would operate until 1929. The mother of the Franco-American woman I interviewed attended this boarding school.
  Not only had the Little Franciscans of Mary responded to the need of Fort Kent when they established their school, but they would go on to establish the Peoples' Benevolent Hospital in 1952. The pastor in Fort Kent had wanted a simple maternity hospital but the Sisters already knew they wanted a larger more extensive hospital. A great deal of fund raising and planning took place with the Sisters loaning the hospital board $392,000.00. Twenty-five Little Franciscans of Mary would manage the hospital along with providing nursing care. I was told that the Sisters would show movies at the school to help raise money for the hospital. The Sister Superior and Administrator from Eagle Lake assumed the responsibilities for the Fort Kent Hospital. A Fort Kent native by the name of Sister Jeannine Daigle was the last Sister serving as Administrator in the Hospital.
 In 1975, the Sisters would no longer run the hospital while a total of 171 Little Franciscans of Mary would serve in different capacities in the Saint John Valley area.  The Little Franciscans of Mary served the Fort Kent and Eagle Lake areas in such jobs as school principals, grade school teachers, organists, and directors for parishes, nurses, builders, and even administrators. Many of the religious Sisters came from students the Sisters had taught or cared for previously, which gave the Little Franciscans of Mary great pride and joy.
 From 1991-1999, the Saint Louis Convent in Fort Kent was where the retired Sisters lived and they volunteered in different venues including visiting nursing homes and shut ins. There are four remaining Sisters leaving the Fort Kent area and two of them will be going to the Mother House in Baie-Sainte-Paul, Canada, while the other two will reside at Saint Francis Home in Worcester, Massachusetts.
 The week-end of September 18th and 19th this year a special celebration took place in Fort Kent honoring the Little Franciscans of Mary and all they have contributed to the people of the St. John Valley area. The Sisters have administered to the sick, educated the young children, and assisted with the development of our Catholic faith. A Fort Kent Sister Rena Gagnon is Mother Superior in Worcester.  There have been dramatic drops in the numbers of Little Franciscans of Mary, and because of the lack of Sisters the decision had to be made to cut some services. Many of the Sisters are elderly now, but in their lifetime Most Rev. Michael Cote, Auxiliary Bishop of Portland said the Sisters have planted many seeds of faith and should be very proud of that fact. Thirty-two (32) native daughters became nuns of the religious order and eight are still living. People attending the special weekend celebration for the Little Franciscans of Mary received a brown and tan lapel pin, which are the colors of the Sisters religious habits.
 Thus, for me taking the Franco-American Women's Course, I could not have found a better topic that represented the devotion, dedication, pride and joy of their culture any more than these Sisters have demonstrated over and over again. The history shows the importance of religion in their lives, how as individuals and as groups they survived many turbulent years, but would always continue on with great pride. That is to say, the norms and values of the group were shown each day in how they lived their lives and cared for any of the needy they came in contact with. Their lives demonstrated that the efficacy of the communities depended upon the strength of the individual members who comprised those communities. The Sisters may have separated by great distances, but each held the entire community in their thoughts and prayers, and without that they would not have survived all of the ordeals they experienced. These few pages of this project report cannot begin to describe the lives these women lived, the faith they had in God, and the hardships they had to endure during their lives as Little Franciscans of Mary. Thus, may we always appreciate all they have done for Maine and elsewhere? 

The following is a list of the Little Franciscans of Mary who were born in Fort Kent:

Audibert, Sister Irene *  --Gagnon, Sister Rena May
Audibert, Sister Marguerite*   --Lang, Sister Georgianna*
Babin, Sister Claudette    --Lozier, Sister Dora*
Beaulieu, Sister Liliane*   --Martin, Sister Isabelle*
Bouley, Sister Aurore    --Nadeau, Sister Evelyne*
Charrette, Sister Rena    --Nadeau, Sister Leanna*
Cyr, Sister Juliette    --Paradis, Sister Eveline* 
Daigle, Sister Agnes*    --Paradis, Sister Marie*
Daigle, Sister Anna-Maria*   --Rioux, Sister Irene*
Daigle, Sister Delina*    --Robichaud, Sister Juanita
Doucette, Sister Lorraine   --Theriault, Sister Eva*
Dumont, Sister Laura*   --* deceased


Archange, Sister Marie-Michel, p.f.m, By This Sign You Will Live, History of the Congregation of the Little Franciscans of Mary, The Heffernan Press Incorporated, Worcester, Massachusetts
The Little Franciscans of Mary, Commemorating their ministry to a variety of calls and needs in Northern Maine, September, 1999
Banville, Beurmond,  (1999, September 20). Fort Kent Mass Marks Nuns' Departure. Bangor Daily News, pp. B2.

Web Sites:

Women Religious Communities

The Sisters of the American Province  The Community of St. Francis


Franciscan Missionaries of the Devine Motherhood
http://www.geocities.com/Wall Street/3196/fmdm.html

God sends many angels in our paths but often we know them not; in fact we may go through life never knowing that they were agents or messengers of God to lead us in to virtue or to deter us from vice.  --Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

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