Father Etienne Pernet : his experience

This priest, a man with very strong convictions who had just founded a new Congregation - the Augustinians of the Assumption - helped him to clarify his vocation and communicated to him his passion for Christ and his love for the Church.

He found his way in life as an Augustinian of the Assumption, a long maturing journey lay ahead of him.
In 1850, aged 26, he pronounced his first religious vows.
In 1858, on the 3rd of April, he was ordained a priest.
He then taught at Nîmes and looked after a club that catered for some 200 children from working-class families.
He recounted his experience :
"I’ve always had a love for the poor in my heart. Coming from a working-class background, my parents were rural workers, I already had some inkling of it ; however, I wasn’t in the family home very much. It was at Nîmes, when Fr d’Alzon was at the heignt of his activity as a man initiating charitable works, that I really understood what you call "the hardships afflicting workers" and a possible response to bring to them.

"I saw
forms of distress
I had hardly
even heard about..."
He had given me responsibility for the boys’ club that people still talk about down there. God alone knows the trouble those two hundred lads gaves me on Thursdays and Sundays! I was inevitably in touch with their parents whom I visited as often as possible, without bringing them any monetary assitance of course.

I don’t why those poor people told me about their hardships and worries ; the women of the Enclos Rey in particular showed great confidence in me and it was there above all that I saw forms of distress I had hardly even heard about.

So it was at Nîmes that, first of all, I had the idea of the Little Sister. At that time, the carpet factories, and others, were flourishing, there was no time to care for the sick, who were almost driven to despair. Moreover, in poor families, as in rich ones (although I wasn’t thinking of them), there are things to be done and said that a man and a priest cannot do or say.

A woman was needed, but a religious woman. It is true people mentionned Fr Soulas’s nurses but they weren’t exactly what was needed and, besides, I was thinking of workers others than those at Nîmes. I said nothing about all that and kept quiet about my idea for many years, until God’s time came. When that time came I met your Mother Marie de Jésus, known then as Antoinette Fage.

So there, it’s quite simple."
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