One of the major achievements that Bishop Eugene de Mazenod was remembered for during his many years in Marseilles was his promotion of works to look after the material and spiritual needs of the most abandoned. Throughout his Diary we find references of his inspiring and supporting groups of people to respond.

One of these was the Providence House for girls orphaned by the cholera epidemics of 1834 – 1835. Four years after the foundation he wrote in his diary:

January 14. Mass in the chapel of the home for Poor Girls. Many ladies attended. I received more than 50 of them. The association now numbers 475 women… It’s a miracle.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 14 January 1839, EO XX


January 20: Mass at home for Poor Girls. It was at the end of a retreat that Fr. Deplace had given to the ladies of this work who attended it very assiduously. It was really a superb celebration. It was nice to see more than 300 ladies gathered in the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was enthroned amidst about 200 candles, with the bishop coming to offer the Holy Sacrifice on this altar of lights from which shone even more abundant graces than lights.

150 poor young girls together with those who served as their mothers came to nourish themselves on the same heavenly food. This was something that touched the depth of one’s soul.

Also the beautiful Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus, the beautiful words of the Introit, etc. addressed to Jesus present, tangible, and in a way visible, electrified the heart. I was moved to tears by the deep emotion which I felt.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 20 January 1839, EO XX

An Association of 475 women looked after 150 orphans. Most through material and financial support and others through the physical and spiritual care of the orphans in the Providence House. Jesus was indeed tangible and visible in this work.



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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “…Jesus present, tangible and in a way visible, electrified the heart.” Entering before the Altar and allowing the words of the Introit (an antiphon, a psalm verse and the Glory be… which are sung at the beginning of the Mass) to dwell within him. His heart already filled with the love and joy of being with the young orphan girls and the women who served as their mothers he experienced his Beloved being there with them.

    Eugene who dared to love deeply and without fear, recognized and later shared the depths of his heart – in silent prayer and in his diary, his conversations with God.

    I remember once talking with a man who served at what we would now call a soup line and how on the days that he did this act of love he would open the door to the men and women who were lined up in the cold, waiting to be fed. As he greeted each of them, he invited them into the light and and warmth to find a place for them at a table. It was then that he saw and met Jesus in each of them.

    How many of us have not had the experience of being somewhere and feel ourselves being overcome with love; within our hearts we have turned and seen Jesus with us as he encircled us in his embrace. It is then that we feel immersed in God’s infinite and unmeasurable love; we find ourselves filled with joy and gratitude – as if we are being hugged and kissed by God. It is then that we catch our breath and find ourselves being moved to tears. A most real and exciting encounter as we experience the presence of Jesus in our midst.

    Eugene wrote about these experiences of God in his midst; concretizing his experiences of opening even further his heart which was a big as the world. He loved so intensely.

    How do we respond or react when something similar occurs within us. Do we push it aside, almost in embarrassment; or do we, like Eugene, note it and give thanks for such a gift.

    This is life and love most real.

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