Soubiran, Marie Thérèse de, Bl.

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Foundress of the Society of Mary Auxiliatrix; b. Castelnaudary, near Carcassonne, France, May 16, 1834;d. Paris, June 7, 1889. Sophie Thérèse Augustine Marie, as she was named, came of a family that traced its ancestry, directly or collaterally, to St. louis ix, St. elzÉar of sabran, St. elizabeth of hungary, and Pope Bl. urban v. Her parents, Joseph and Noémi (de Gélis) de Soubiran la Louvière, afforded a pious but stern family atmosphere; and her uncle, canon Louis de Soubiran, took firm control of her spiritual direction. At the age of 14, she made a private vow of chastity and aspired to join the Carmelites, but in 1854 her uncle convinced her to join the beguines at Ghent, Belgium. In 1855 she established a béguinage at Castelnaudary. This community was bound to common life, ran an orphanage, and was devoted to nocturnal adoration.

In September 1864, with the assistance of a Jesuit, Paul Ginhac, Mère Thérèse instituted a new religious congregation, the Society of Mary Auxiliatrix, at Toulouse; it received diocesan approval (1867) and the approval of the Holy See (1868). The constitutions were patterned on those of the jesuits. The sisters were to engage in works of charity and to practice perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The institute soon expanded to Amiens and Lyons, but during the Franco-Prussian War (1870), the sisters fled to London. After their return to Bourges (1871), Mére Marie Françoise de Borgia (18301921) became very influential in the congregation. As assistant superior general, she convinced Mère Thérèse, the superior general, to embark on a disastrous expansion of houses. By 1874 the congregation was in difficulty and Mère Françoise discredited. Domineering, unstable, and ambitious, she reacted by blaming Mère Thérèse and even succeeded in turning Father Ginhac, the archbishop of Toulouse, and the sisters against her. On Sept. 20, 1874, the foundress was expelled from the society.

She sought vainly to join the Visitation Nuns and the Carmelites. Eventually accepted by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the good shepherd at Paris, she made her profession in this congregation (1877). Mère Françoise's autocratic rule even forced the expulsion of Mère Thérèse's sister, Marie Xavier (January 1881). Within a year of Mère Thérèse's death, however, her persecutor was deposed and expelled from the congregation. The new superior general, Mère Élisabeth de Luppé, exonerated the foundress, and recalled Mère Xavier. Mère Thérèse was beatified on Oct. 20, 1946. Her remains rest in the motherhouse in Paris.

Feast: Oct. 20.

Bibliography: Bl. Marie-Thérèse de Soubiran: A Study in Failure, ed. h. monier-vinard, tr. t. baily (London 1944). w. lawson, A Life of Blessed Marie Thérèse de Soubiran (London 1952). j. l. baudot and l. chaussin, Vies des saints et des bienheureux selon l'ordre du calendrier avec l'historique des fêtes, ed. by the Benedictines of Paris (Paris 193556) 6:140143. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 4:157161.

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