An encounter and a mission
In France, the 19th century saw the beginning of industrialization. This economic and industrial development took place in a manner that was harmful to human lives. The working-class population increased in the cities and this concentration of people brought about poverty and misery.
It was in such a changing city that an encounter took place in 1864 between two people who were gripped by concern for the very poor : Etienne PERNET and Antoinette FAGE. This encounter was to be decisive for the foundation of a religious congregation with a special mission among the poor, the workers and their families.
Some key dates
Etienne Pernet became acquainted with Mademoiselle Fage directress of a little orphanage.
He had found what he had been looking for "a woman, a religious woman". He asked her to take charge of a group of three home nurses. They would look after people free of charge and, in so doing, work to extend the Reign of God among the poor.
In July, around Antoinette Fage (who took the name Marie de Jésus) was gathered the first community of Little Sisters of the Assumption, in rue Saint Dominique in Paris, a neighbourhood chosen "for the incalculable number of poor residents".
After many trials and with the number of nurses increasing, the Little Sisters of the Assumption, having been known by this name for three years, bought a house in the neighbourhood of Grenelle, which at one time had been rented to the Ottoman college. This house was to become their Mother House.
Four years later, there were 48 sisters.
Nearly every year a house was opened: outside of Paris, then to London, Ireland, and the United States.
Mother Marie de Jésus died on 18th September 1883.
Mother Marie du St. Sacrament succeeded her and for 16 years collaborated closely with Father Pernet in the growth of the Congregation. They saw to the formation of the sisters by regular meetings :"Before all things let God be loved".
In 1876, under the name of Lady Servants, Etienne Pernet brought together upper-class women to be, sent with the Little Sisters, to nurse the sick in the poor neighbourhoods.
He also organised the Fraternity. He wanted to make people "consciously aware of their baptism".
"YOU WILL GO EVERYWHERE, BECAUSE THE POOR ARE EVERYWHERE"
From the beginning of the foundation Etienne Pernet and Antoinette Fage had an intuition that the charism would go beyond our frontiers and go out to the peoples of the world.
In 1899, at the death of Etienne Pernet, there were :
319 Little Sisters
30 Communities in 4 countries :
Today we are in 22 countries.
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