Roland, Nicolas, Bl.

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ROLAND, NICOLAS, BL.

Priest and founder of the Sisters of the Child Jesus (Holy Child) (Soeurs du Saint-Enfant Jésus de Reims );b. Rheims, France, Dec. 8, 1642; d. Rheims, April 26 or 27, 1678. Roland was educated by the jesuits in Rheims. When he discerned his priestly vocation, he went to Paris (1861) to study philosophy and theology. Upon returning to Rheims (1665), he was provided with a rich cathedral canonry. Roland was probably ordained in 1667 or 1668; the records were lost or destroyed during the French Revolution. Following his ordination, he went to Saint-Amand's in Rouen, where he lived in complete poverty.

Here Roland's life entwined with that of Nicolas Barré, who had established the Sisters of Providence in Rouen for the education of poor girls. When Roland returned to Rheims, he was entrusted with a poorly maintained orphanage that he transformed into a school. In 1670, Roland convinced Barré to send two women from Rouen, who were trained in his methods and acquainted with community life, to establish a similar foundation at Rheims. This became the Congregation of the Child Jesus that provides girls with free education designed to instill Christian values in both the children and their parents. The incipient congregation attracted criticism for teaching Christian doctrine, usually reserved to the ordained; however, Roland so convinced Archbishop Maurice Le Tellier of the efficacy of the approach that schools were opened throughout Rheims. Roland also served as spiritual director to, and encouraged the vocation of, Jean Baptiste de la Salle.

Roland died from a fever contracted while ministering to victims of an epidemic. Before his death, he charged de la Salle with executing his last will and testament: to seek approbation for the Sisters of the Child Jesus (given May 9, 1678) and ensure the growth of the congregation. The sisters took their first vows in 1684.

Nicolas Roland was beatified at Rome by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 16, 1994.

Feast: April 27 (La Sallian Brothers).

Bibliography: l. aroz, Nicolas Roland, John Baptist de la Salle and Sisters of the Child Jesus of Reims (Rheims 1972); The Succession of Nicolas Roland, Canon Théologal of the Notre Dame Church of Reims (Rheims 1995). É. rideau, Nicolas Roland, 16421678: hier et aujourd'hui (Paris 1976).

[k. i. rabenstein]

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