Bichier des Ages, Jeanne Élisabeth, St.
BICHIER DES AGES, JEANNE ÉLISABETH, ST.
Cofoundress of the Daughters of the Holy Cross of St. Andrew; b. Le Blanc, near Poitiers, France, July 5, 1773; d. Paris, Aug. 26, 1838. She was the daughter of a public official and was educated at Poitiers. Her early spiritual formation was influenced by an uncle, Abbé de Moussac. After her father's death (1792), she successfully conducted a protracted lawsuit with the revolutionary government to save the family property from confiscation. With her mother she settled at La Guimetière, near Bethines, Poitou, and followed a regular routine of prayer and good works.
Jeanne became the center of the local resistance to the Constitutional clergy. In 1797 she met St. André fournet, a priest of nearby Maillé, who had continued his pastoral labors despite his refusal to take the oath supporting the civil constitution of the clergy. Fournet became her spiritual director and advised against her emigration to join the Trappistines. After her mother's death (1804), Jeanne wore peasant clothing and gathered others to aid in her works. When Fournet presented her with a plan to establish a religious congregation to care for the sick and to educate the poor of the district, Jeanne entered the novitiate of the Carmelites at Poitiers to prepare for her superiorship. In 1805 Jeanne and five companions began the first community at La Guimetière. It moved closer to Maillé in 1806, and in 1811 to Rochefort. Jeanne made her religious profession in 1807. The bishop of Poitiers approved the community in 1816 as the Daughters of the Holy Cross of St. Andrew. "La Bonne Soeur," as she was popularly known, guided the new community through rapid growth, despite some misunderstanding with Fournet. By 1820 there were 13 convents, and by 1830 more than 30. When a convent was opened in the Basque country at Ignon, Jeanne came to know St. Michael garicoÏts, who became spiritual director of the congregation after Fournet's death in 1834. Jeanne traveled frequently to establish new houses and to carry out her tasks as superior general, but ill health forced her to curtail her activity and to retire to Paris after 1834. She was beatified on May 13, 1934 and canonized with Michael Garicoïts on July 6, 1947.
Feast: Aug. 26.
Bibliography: g. barra, Vive ancora; biografia di sant' Elisabetta Bichier des Ages (Turin 1961). j. saubat, Élisabeth Bichier des Ages (Paris 1942). PIUS XII, "Plus d'une fois" (Allocution, July 7, 1947). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 39 (1947) 401–408. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 3:410–413.
[t. p. joyce]
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