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200? You Don't Look Day Over 30!

By Nick Cardilino

The Marianist Sisters (Daughters of Mary Immaculate) celebrated the 200th anniversary of their founding with Mass in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, May 25th.

It's hard to believe that the community is that old, considering the youthful energy and growth in ministries they are experiencing. Globally, they are expanding their presence from 14 countries to 16 this year with the addition of new ministries in Malawi and Vietnam. Locally, two recent UD grads are novices and one FMI has worked hard to get numerous programs started through the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

This expansion and zeal should come as no surprise since enthusiasm for new ways of doing ministry was a part of the founder's personality. From the time she was a young girl, Adèle de Batz de Tranquelléon desired to be a cloistered Carmelite nun. But the French Revolution got in the way of that vocation. While she was still a teen, she started a kind of letter-writing ministry with some other teen girls who would exchange encouraging letters of faith to each other. This "Little Society" grew to 60 members in a very short time. Imagine how many members her association would have had if she had lived during the age of the internet! 

Adèle heard about Fr. Chaminade's Sodality in Bordeaux, and because they had similar purposes, they decided to work together. With assistance from Fr. Chaminade and Marie Thérèse de Lamourous, Adèle negotiated her way into founding a new religious order of sisters in 1816 who would carry out the work of the Sodality as well as care for the sick and educate the poor. The rapid growth of both her "Little Society" and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate are due in large part to Adèle's enthusiasm.

It's worth noting that while many people with enthusiastic personalities that attract many people to themselves can become self-centered, this was not the case with Mother Adèle. Rather, it was her humility that motivated her enthusiastic ministry as she expressed in a prayer in the midst of a letter to a friend in 1818:  “O my God, my heart is too small to love you, but I will see to it that you are loved by so many hearts, that their love will compensate for the weakness of mine.” 

Two hundred years later, the Daughters of Mary carry on this youthful, humble enthusiasm.

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