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.