STORY OF THE SERVANTS

Part 1: 1811-1869 The Origin

Many stories about our Congregation are handed down to the younger sisters by oral tradition, during conferences in most cases. Some could be read in books. But somehow there seems to be a lacunae about what is heard and what is read.

Gathering some important dates and the events that go with it hopefully could fill this lacunae as perhaps perceived by the young-at-heart.

On the other hand, recalling memories of yesteryears for the advanced in age. Together the young-at-heart and the advanced in age can journey back in time retracing the footsteps trod by Fr. Eymard, and Mother Marguerite, remembering the marvels the good Lord has done in their lives and in the Congregation as well ---

OUR STORY

La Mure, at the beginning of 1811 was an important commercial trade center. With its vines and cattles, with its nail factories and weaving, its trading and transportation on the road between Grenoble and Gap and its traditional Monday market.

In this rural world of crafts and light industry, on this plateau of the Matheysine, region of d'Isere with its mountains and valleys, it was here that Peter Julian Eymard was born, on February 4, 1811 at about 11:00 o'clock in the morning, Monday, market day.

Peter Julian Eymard was the tenth child of Julian Eymard, the fourth child in his second marriage with Marie Madeleine Pelorce. Almost all the children in the first and second marriages died. At a time of his birth, there was only Antoine 16 yrs old and Marianne 12 years old.

Peter Julian was baptized the following day, February 5, in the old church of La Mure. His godparents were Antoine and Marianne. He was confirmed on May 22, 1822, Wednesday by Msgr. Claude Simon, Bishop of Grenoble.

As he grew, Peter Julian's piety became stronger: He was attracted to the Eucharist. He loved to visit the Blessed Sacrament everyday.

Later in his life, during the retreat at St. Maurice, he recalled: "the greatest grace in my life has been a lively faith in the Most Blessed Sacrament from my childhood:

-The grace of Communion my desire when eight years of age to direct everything towards the Blessed Sacrament.

-The grace of devotion, daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament."

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In Chasselay, chief district of the Rhone region there lived Jean Guillot and Jeanne Boin. They were an exemplary couple of profound faith and Christian life. Their children, Benoite Anne-Marie (Mariette), André, Claudine born on February 16, 1810, Jenny and Marguerite - the youngest, was born on December 4, 1815.

Marguerite was baptized on December 6, 1815 and was immediately consecrated to the Blessed Virgin according to the custom of the parish

She received her first communion during the Universal Jubilee Year, 1827 on April 1st, Passion Sunday. Her family accompanied her to the Holy Table. On June 9, she was confirmed in the Primatial church of St. Jean in Lyons.

Later in Chasselay, she made the Vow of Virginity on October 18, 1828.

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In Marseilles,

On June 7, 1827, Pentecost Thursday, Peter Julian Eymard began his novitiate in the Oblates of Mary Immaculate under the protection of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Five months later, he returned to La Mure, dying.

At the major Seminary in Grenoble, on the 17th of March, 1832 Peter Julian Eymard received the tonsure and minor orders on June 16.

He was sub-deacon the following year, 1833 on a Passion Sunday. He was ordained to the diaconate on July 21.

On July 20 1834, Peter Julian Eymard together with his 22 classmates received the Priestly Ordination from the hands of Bishop Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble. The following day he went to the Shrine of Notre Dame de l'Osier

On July 22 Feast of Mary Magdalene he celebrated his first mass at the altar of the Shrine. He was named assistant at Chatte on October 26, 1834.

Three years later, on July 27, 1837, he was named Pastor at Monteynard. Fr. Touché visited him in the rectory. He was a priest of the Oblate of Mary Immaculate, who inspired Fr. Eymard to become a priest. He told Fr. Eymard about a newly founded community in Lyons and in Belley dedicated to parish missions and Evangelization of Oceania — the Marists. Fr. Eymard felt an attraction to this life.

Two years later, on July 4, 1839, the Bishop of Grenoble authorized him to enter the Society of Mary. Without much ado, on August18, 1839 Fr. Eymard left Monteynard for the novitiate of the Marist Fathers.

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In Lyons,

On February 2, 1840 Marguerite who had been suffering from typhoid fever for quite a time was suddenly healed after a novena was made to Our Lady of Fourviere by her sister Mariette. The whole family made a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourviere as thanksgiving.

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At Belley,

On February 16, 1840, Septuagesima Sunday, 3rd Sunday, Fr. Eymard after 6 months in the novitiate made his first profession in the chapel of the Capuchins.

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In Lyons, (The First Encounter)

     On November 21, 1844 after Communion, Marguerite felt God promising her a new director. During the Lenten retreat she attended on February 22, 1845 in the church of Charity, the sermon of the priest touched her soul. The priest was Fr. Eymard. This marked the first encounter of the founders.

Later, she made her first confession to Fr. Eymard on March 1st in the Church of Charity and on December 30 entered the Third Order of Mary of which Fr. Eymard was the Spiritual Director.

Marguerite was received as a novice in the Third Order of Mary on May 1st, 1846 under the name Sr. Marie of St. Joseph. On June 30, Fr. Eymard announced during a meeting of the third Order of Mary the admission of the 3 sisters of Marguerite--- Claudine, Mariette and Jenny.

On March 19, 1847 Marguerite made her profession in the Third Order of Mary in Lyons. The Tertiaries---Marguerite and her sisters began their works of zeal thru the sanctification of their family, the Holy Family as the model. Finally their mother, Madame Guillot, made profession in the Third Order of Mary.

On December 19, Fr. Eymard inaugurated the Nazareth House of the Guillot family, and Marguerite as the superior. He gave them a Rule of Life.

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At La Fourviere,

Fr. Eymard was named Master of Novices in the Society of Mary on June 5, 1850.

The following year 1851, on January 21st and February 2nd in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourviere, he received a grace of illumination on the need for a work dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament.

On April 18, 1853 Fr. Eymard promised to our Lord to make a sacrifice of the Society of Mary, which cost him dearly.

During this year, 1853, on the 8th of November, Marguerite was named Directress of the Third Order of Mary.

Fr. Eymard received the first encouragement for the foundation on June 25, 1854 in an audience accorded to Fr. Jandel O.P.

The Holy Father, Pope Pius IX told his visitor: "This work you speak of is good. If it succeeds, I will most gladly give it my blessing."

A year later, on August 27, 1855, Fr. Touche was received in audience by the Sovereign Pontiff, presented the project of foundation of Fr. Eymard to Pope Pius IX, who responded: "The church has a need of this work."

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A number of events marked the year 1856---

(1) On April 22, decisive interview of Fr. Eymard with Rev. Fr. Favre at 9 o'clock in the morning. He received the dispensation of his vows.

On April 29, he received the written dispensation of his vows with the Marists, which left him free for the foundation of his Institute. The following day, he left Lyons for Paris.

(2) On May 1st, Feast of the Ascension,

Fr. Eymard began his discernment retreat for the foundation of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament until Pentecost.

On May 13, the Archbishop of Paris, Msgr. Sibour, gave a positive response to the foundation of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. "As of today, you are my children." Together with Fr. De Cuers, they went to thank the Blessed Virgin at St. Sulpice. They offered all entirely for the Service of Jesus Hostia by Mary, Queen of the Cenacle.

Fr. Eymard preserved a handwritten letter from Archbishop Sibour. At the bottom of it he wrote: "13 May, 1856. Thanks to Archbishop Sibour, thanksgiving and praise forever."

---1857---

In Paris on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1857 marked the first Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 9 o'clock to 10 o'clock in the morning. Fr. Eymard began the public adoration of his Institute. He wrote to Marguerite Guillot:

"What a joy for me to see Jesus our King on January 6 mount his throne of love for the first time to manifest His presence in the unique way! My heart was too full for words to express my feelings. I was almost dumb and stunned with astonishment.

When I think of the journey, in fact, which Jesus took to reach here, leading us through so many difficulties without doubting our cooperation.

Today when I look back on those difficulties, I am like one who passed through the greatest danger without realizing it. Jesus was in the boat and we were at his feet.

Yes indeed, God wants this Eucharistic Work! Every day we see proofs of this; but we must cooperate with so great a grace!"

On March 4, the Adoration Ladies of Toulon Madame Duhaut-Cilly and two other companions arrived in Paris.

On March 30, 1858, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for the last time in the chapel at rue d'Enfer.

On Easter Sunday, April 4, the chapel at rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques was inaugurated. Fr. Eymard called it "Chapel of Miracles."

---1858---

On May 25, 1858 Marguerite Guillot, her sister Claudine and Mme Benoite Richerd, arrived in Paris for the foundation. Mme. Duhaut-Cilly met them at the train station. At midday Marguerite, Claudine and Mme. Richerd had adoration at the chapel of the Fathers at Faubourg Saint-Jacques.

They stayed with the Toulon Ladies at rue Cassini until their place at rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques would be ready.

On July 2, Marguerite welcomed her companions from rue Cassini and assigned their rooms.

On July 4, Sunday of the Precious Blood, Fr. Eymard blessed the first house and the oratory of the Servants. In the oratory, he announced that the date of the foundation is July 2 and from then on would call each other "Sister". He exhorted them to live in humility and self-renunciation and gave each one their employments.

At midday meal he determined the place that each one must occupy at table — Marguerite at the first place. He also deemed that this was the chosen moment to do the proclamation of the superior, also henceforth would call Marguerite "Mother".

On July 16, Fr. Eymard read the draft of the Rule of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament at rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques. Realities of community living crept in after months of living together. Tensions between Mother Marguerite and the Ladies of Toulon had risen to its height. Eventually on November 21, the ladies of Toulon left except Mme. Bonnefoy who later became Sr. Virginie.

Particular graces poured during the year 1859. On January 5, the Sovereign Pontiff Pius IX, signed the Laudatory Brief for the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Holy Father gave the first Blessing of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament to Fr. Eymard which he (Fr. Eymard) would give to the Sisters on the day of their first vows.

---1859---

On March 2, 1859 Fr. Eymard and his companions made the first vows. He was the first one to read the formula of profession. Then standing on the altar step on the Gospel side, he received the vows of his confreres

The good Lord in His time and ways strengthened the small community at rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques. Claudine (Sr. Claudine) who, earlier went home to care for her sister Jenny who was ill returned to the community at rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques on the 3rd of May.

On May 10, Marie Caroline de Boisgrollier (Sr. Marie) joined the small community followed by Josephine Billard (Sr. Josephine) on July 18.

On July 26, the little community made a retreat preached by Fr. Eymard. He invited them to purity of love, humility and to live with Jesus, from Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.

Sr. Marie took notes and transcribed them. Herewith is an extract from the instructions of Fr. Eymard on the purpose of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament:

           "The Blessed Sacrament must be the center of your life. Note well my Sisters, what I am trying to say: the Holy Eucharist is your unique and universal purpose, guiding and dominating everything.

           You must place yourself in your center, in your purpose. For you the Eucharist is both means and end: your life and virtues take their life from Jesus Christ Eucharistic. He is the model and the measure of your perfection in the life of God. To do this he must be your center, and if possible, he must be easily accessible and ever present."

The retreat ended on July 31, 1859, which we now mark as the date of foundation, a very solemn day, full of emotion for the budding Congregation.

After mass and communion at the chapel of the Fathers the community retired to their oratory. Each one took their turn in front of the Altar to pronounce loudly-in the presence of "Reverend Father Eymard, superior of the Society of the Most Blessed Sacrament"... The six Sisters who made their First Perpetual Vows were ---- Marguerite Guillot and her sister Claudine Guillot, BenoiteRicherd, Virginie Bonnefoy, Josephine Billard, Caroline de Boisgrollier. Sr. Adelaide made her promise of obedience is a novice.

On August 15, Fr. Eymard gave the new Rule to the small community of Servants.

---1863---

On March 9, 1863, Fr. Eymard, Fr. De Cuers and Mr. Leudeville, embarked at Marseilles for Rome in order to solicit the Approbation of the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

On the 18th, Fr. Eymard and his companions were received in audience by the Holy Father, Pius IX. He submitted his letter of recommendation to the Congregation of the Bishops and Regulars.

In April, as a consequence of calumnies the Roman authorities asked Fr. Eymardto distance the Ladies' group. He confided later to Mother Marguerite:

                      "They went as far as the Holy Father. They said we have doors of communication (with the Sisters), that our resources are in common, that our material things are shared including our life, etc..."

While waiting for the Approbation, he made a retreat from May 17, Sunday after the Ascension until May 25, Monday after Pentecost at the Passionist's Monastery.

On the June 3, Pope Pius IX signed the Decree of Approbation of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. He received the decree on June 10. He wrote to Mother Marguerite:

           "I'm writing to tell you before anyone else that the Society is approved as of June 3 and the Decree of Approbation was just given to me.
           Thank the good Lord sincerely for this, and the Holy Mother and St. Joseph, for this is a miracle of protection and grace. I hope to leave next week. I will write to you from Marseilles."

On August 23, Sunday, 1863 Fr. Eymard and the first religious of the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament made their canonical profession.

On September 12 of the same year, Msgr. Angebault Bishop of Angers agreed to receive the daughters of Fr. Eymard in his diocese.

---1864---

Eight months later on May 23, 1864, after the mass with breakfast hastily taken, Mother Marguerite and the Sisters left Faubourg Saint-Jacques for the foundation in Angers. It was a 12- hour trip. They arrived in Angers at 8 o'clock in the evening. Fr. Eymard could not meet them at the train station. They were welcomed in their new place by a letter of Fr. Eymard:

Dear Sisters,

           Welcome! You come at God's call to raise a new throne and to light the first fire which must spread and to be extinguished only at the end of the world. May God bless you for this!
           You have been chosen as the first to begin this cenacle. Be happy for that! You have received the first grace remain faithful to it!
           It is not an angel or a saint that you are going to serve but Jesus Himself, the God and King of all the angels and saints. He will always be with you and he will replace everything else.
           I'm sorry for not meeting you tonight at 8 o'clock. Fr. De Cuers arrived along with Fr.Champion. I will see you tomorrow morning. Joseph will take care of all your shopping: His dedication is admirable.
           I bless you while shedding tears of joy to see you gathered in the Cenacle before I die."
  

On May 26, Feast of Corpus Christi, Bishop Angebault blessed the chapel and celebrated the Eucharist. For the first time, the Sisters wore their religious habit. In his homily the bishop assured the sisters of his fraternal care.

During communion the sisters renewed their perpetual vows---Mother Marguerite, superior Sr. Benoite, directress of novices, Sr. Virginie, Sr. Claudine, Sr. Marie, Sr. Anne-Marie. Sr. Martheand Sr.Louise made their vows for three years.

Fr. Eymard after the mass of the Bishop, celebrated a second mass as a thanksgiving and exposed the Blessed Sacrament. Mother Marguerite and Sr. Benoite made the first hour of adoration.

On May 29, the following sisters made their triennial vows--- Sr. Felicie, Sr. Marie Joseph, Sr. Antoinette, Sr. Madeleine, Sr. Philomene, Sr. Camille, Sr. Emilienne as a novice and Sr. Julienne was admitted as a postulant.

---1865---

Father Eymard would have wanted a foundation in Jerusalem to acquire the Cenacle. He went to Rome to ask for the blessing of this project. The long waiting prompted him to maximize the time. He made a retreat from January 25 to March 30, 1865 at the Redemptorists' place.

On March 21, during the retreat, Fr. Eymard offering himself totally to the Lord, made the vow of his personality to the Lord.

On December 5, 1865 twelve sisters left Angers to start a new foundation in Nemours. Mother Marguerite accompanied them.

On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, Fr. Eymard blessed the chapel and celebrated the Eucharist. He exposed the Blessed Sacrament after the mass. Mother Marguerite and Sr. Benoite, started the service of adoration.

When the project of a cenacle in Jerusalem was laid to rest Fr. Eymard now heeded the request to open a house in Belgium.

---1866---

On February 2, 1866, feast of the Presentation of our Lord, Fr. Eymard inaugurated the fourth "cenacle" the first outside of France.

On December 17, 1866 Jenny Guillot, the sister of Mother Marguerite died. She pronounced her vows on her deathbed.

Another foundation was made during this year of 1866 in the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament which Fr. Eymard called the House of Solitude--- the Novitiate at Saint Maurice, on December 25.

---1867---The year of 1867, was a period of letting go and letting God.

On April 14, the community of the Fathers left rue Faubourg Saint-Jacques for good. They settled at 112 Boulevard Montparnasse.

In Nemours, on the other hand, on the eve of the Ascension, May 29 Fr. Eymard brought down the monstrance from the throne that is, the house of Nemours was closed. In June the community of the Servants left Nemours for good.

In Angers, during this year on November 24, Msgr. Angebault presented to the community, Msgr. Groulleau, as ecclesiastical superior who continued to be so until he became Bishop of Evreux.

---1868---Last year of Fr. Eymard

On March 16-22, 1868 Fr. Eymard preached a retreat to the Servants in Angers. During this retreat, he pacified the spirits and comforted the sisters who had suffered from the failure of Nemours. He met the sisters individually and settled things with Mother Marguerite. A month later, Fr. Eymard made his last retreat at Saint Maurice from April 27 to May 2nd.

On June 23, upon the doctor’s prescription Mother Marguerite went to Vichy.

On June 30, Fr. Eymard went to Angers to lay down the first stone of the new church of the Fathers. Two days later, on July 2 he visited the Sisters, his last.

On July 20, he went to greet Mother Marguerite on her feast day, their last meeting.

The following day, he went to the adoration chapel of the Missionaries of La Salette in Grenoble and celebrated the Eucharist. In the afternoon he took a stage-coach for La Mure. He got very sick along the way, recovery was far-fetched.

On August 1 around 2:30 in the afternoon, he returned home to the good God he knew in his lifetime. The funeral service was held on August 3 and then he was laid to rest in a nearby cemetery in La Mure.
A year later, 1869 the Servants experienced another loss. Msgr. Angebault, their venerated Prelate died on October 2


******* End - Part I *******

References:

           Chronologie sur Fiches la Famille Guillot:
                      Sr. Laura and Others, Archives of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament
                      Mère Marguerite du Saint Sacrement:
                      Sr. Janine Bourque, SSS
                                  Peter Julian Eymard: Fr. André Guitton,SSS
                      Oeuvre Complete: Vol. XV p. 304
                                             Vol. XVI p. 212
                      Archives Servants of the Blessed Sacrament