Saint Mary Euphrasie Pelletier (July 31, 1796 in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île – April 24, 1868 in Angers), born Rose Virginie Pelletier, was a French Roman Catholic nun, best known as the foundress of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.
Born on Noirmoutier a small island off the northwest coast of France, Rose Virginie’ parents had fled there thinking that they could escape the violence of the French Revolution. She was the 8th child of Dr Julian and Anne Pelletier. Her father died when she was ten years old. And her mother died when she was seventeen years old.
Before her mother died, she placed Rose Virginie to joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Tours, France, an order devoted to rescuing “fallen” women and those in danger of going on the game. Some of the girls were abandoned by their families or orphaned, some had turned to prostitution in order to survive. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity provided shelter, food, vocational training and an opportunity for these girls and women to turn their lives around. She took the name Marie-Euphrasie, and made her religious profession on 9 September 1817.
The sisters of the community had been dispersed at one point during the revolution; the majority had been imprisoned. Marie-Euphrasie joined what was a community of elderly weary sisters. A short time after her profession, she became first mistress of the penitents, and about eight years later on on 26 May 1825 was made superioress of the house of Tours. On 11 November the same year, she founded a community, the “Sisters Magdalen” for women who wanted to lead a contemplative and enclosed life and would support, by their ministry of prayer, the different works of the Congregation. It is now known as the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd.
In 1829, Marie-Euphrasie traveled to Angers at the request of the Bishop to establish a home in his Diocese. Soon bishops from other cities started requesting that Good Shepherd Sisters establish communities to minister to women and girls in their Diocese. To respond readily to these requests to save souls and expand the apostolate to wherever needed, Mary Euphrasia envisioned a governing structure that would allow Good Shepherds to carry on a global ministry.
She appealed to Rome for approval to establish a new religious congregation that would be under one general government. She was given permission to found the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and on April 3, 1835 she became the first Superior General of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd of Angers. From that day forward all houses were to be under one general government, the Motherhouse of the Good Shepherd at Angers.
Mother Mary Euphrasie Pelletier devoted herself to the work entrusted to her. By 1868, she was Superior General of 3,000 religious, in 110 convents, in thirty-five countries. She died of cancer on April 24, 1868. She is buried on the property of the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Angers, France. She Euphrasie was beatified on April 30, 1933 and canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1940. Her feast day is April 24.
The full text of the biography The Life of Reverend Mother Mary of St. Euphrasie Pelletier is available online as a free download. British writer Anne Clarke wrote the book in 1895 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of St. Mary Euphrasie’s birth. The book has been carefully scanned to make it discoverable online. It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain.