From Cerdon to Belley
When Jeanne-Marie Chavoin and Marie Jotillon arrived in Cerdon they first lived with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. For six years Jeanne-Marie lived in close contact with the Colin brothers, sharing their thinking on the Society of Mary project. It was here that Jeanne-Marie grasped in depth her future charism as Foundress, she saw clearly that God wanted her to have an active role in the realization of the Marist project. During these years the Foundress received a solid spiritual foundation from Father Jean-Claude Colin and his brother Pierre. She continued to go out to the people as she had done in Coutouvre, while at the same time taking care of the sacristy and the presbytery,
all the time blending a life of prayer and action.
It was not until 1823 that she received permission from the Bishop of Belley to begin the women’s branch of the Society of Mary. On September 8th 1823 Jeanne-Marie wth Marie Jotillon began to live in community and were joined by Marie Gardet on October 25th of the same year.
“The above-named Jeanne Marie Chavoin and Marie Jotillon
came to live together on 8th September 1823
in the parish of Cerdon, department of Ain,
with the approval of the Bishop of Belley, in order to begin,
under his authority and the direction of the Fathers Colin,
parish priest and curate of the said parish,
the Congregation of the daughters of Mary”
They lived in a small rented accommodation in the village and began a regular life of prayer and work. The people of the village were very impressed by their simple presence, being seen only in Church and visiting the sick and the poor. Other young women soon began to join them and on December 8th 1824 eight other members were received into the novitiate. As numbers continued to grow it became necessary to search for a bigger house in an area where the Congregation could develop. Responding to their need the Bishop sold them his country house, Bon-Repos in Belley. On June 29th 1825 the sisters moved there on foot, carrying with them whatever they possessed.
Bon- Repos as it is today
Bon- Repos is where our Congregation finally took root
and from there has spread to other parts of the world.