Arras, Martyrs of, Bb.

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A group of four beatified Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul who were martyred in 1794 during the French Revolution. They were Marie Madeleine Fontaine (b. Etrépagny, Eure, France, 1723), superior of the community in Arras (Pas-de-Calais), Marie Françoise Lanel (b. Eu near Rouen, 1745), Marie Thérèse Fontou (b. 1747), and Jeanne Gérard (b. 1752). The Daughters of Charity, who had been in Arras since 1656, were conducting a school for girls and aiding the sick in the town in 1789 and had seven sisters in their convent. Their work continued as usual until 1793 when Joseph Lebon, an apostate priest and government official, imposed a lay director on the house, whose name was changed to La Maison de l'Humanité, and seized the community's goods, but permitted the sisters to remain and care for the sick, while dressed in secular attire. At this time the superior sent the two youngest sisters to Belgium, disguised as peasants, to preserve them from danger. A third sister returned to her family when her temporary vows expired (July 1792). When the four remaining sisters persisted in their refusal to take the oath of Liberté-Égalité, they were imprisoned (Feb. 14, 1794). On June 26 they were brought to Cambrai, placed on trial, condemned, and guillotined. They were beatified, together with the Martyrs of Valenciennes, June 13, 1920.

Feast: June 26.

Bibliography: a. lovat, The Sisters of Charity Martyred at Arras in 1794 (London 1920). j. l. baudot and l. chaussin, Vies des saints et des bienhereux selon l'ordre du calendrier avec l'historique des fêtes (Paris 193556) 6:448455.

[m. lawlor]