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 SISTER OF CHARITY
of Our Lady
of Good and Perpetual Succour

 
  

 

    You will certainly ask " Where is situated the Island of Mauritius?" Our island is so small that it is difficult to find it on a map. It is a pinhead…but a golden one, lost in the Indian Ocean.
"God created the Island of Mauritius first, and then, to make the paradise, he merely copied Mauritius (Mark Twain)
Its religious history shows that God needs the collaboration of men. Religious life in Mauritius, between 1790 and 1840, suffered a deep crisis because of the reduced number of priests, because of the influence of the French Revolution, of the arrival of the protestants, of the immigration of non-christians and for so many other reasons.
In 1810, in fact, the Island had passed under the English rule and the Catholic Church had fallen into a state of deplorable neglect. It is in this atmosphere that our Caroline was born. It is in this far-off island, so varied in its configuration, so numerous in its inhabitants and so manifold in its history, that we meet, in the course of the 18th century, a French officer of noble birth, Mr Gabriel Lenferna de Laresle, who settled definitively in Mauritius and founded a happy family beside his beloved spouse Fannie de Chaumont.
From this couple was born in 1795 a baby named Charles Honoré, who was to be the father of our heroine. Charles Honoré Lenferna de Laresle was one of those characters who can face with courage and dauntless dedication the adventurous life of the inhabitants of a colony.
Beside him, in 1819, we find a very sweet girl, Caroline Enouf, who was sprung from the Earls of Marassé, and from this noble couple was born, in the district of Pamplemousses, on March 20th 1824, Caroline Françoise Adelaide. This admirable baby was to be the future Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Good and Perpetual Succour.
She was hardly three years old when she lost her mother in November 1827. In 1828 her father married his second wife, Nellie Marchand de St. Hilaire, and of this marriage were to be born two girls and two boys. A few years afterwards Charles Honoré set out for Rodrigues Island, where he stayed for some time with his family, leaving Caroline in Mauritius under his mother's care.

Caroline's father, influenced by the current philosophic trends of thought, postponed his daughter's baptism until she could make her own choice. When she reached the age of eleven, while she was in the boarding-school of Mrs Farquarson, Caroline asked to be baptised and she received the Sacrament on December 7th 1835. On that same night, while contemplating the starry sky through the window of her room, she was overcome with a deep emotion and, in a moment of great fervour, she chose to become a Sister of Charity. The next day, December 8th, she made her First Holy Communion and received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

                   Mrs Farquarson left for Italy and Caroline went to pursue her education in the school of the Misses Duvivier. This was the first field where her charity began to produce abundant fruits and to win the affection of her teachers and of her schoolmates. Henceforward all admired her kindness, her dedication towards the sick and her cleverness in caring for them. When still young Caroline showed, over and above her most noble qualities of heart and mind, a keen intelligence, a delicate kindness and a definitely resolute character. When her school years were over, she came back home to look after her two half-sisters who had lost their mother, and her two cousins. More than once she refused to get married because the only spouse she wanted was Jesus Christ.
From that moment the field of her charity expanded outside her family, in favour of the poor, the orphans, the sick whom she nursed to the point of exhaustion.
Such a treasure of charity needed to be guided and guarded through obedience. The Divine Providence saw to this admirably well by entrusting in 1841 the Diocese of Port Louis to Mgr. Collier, who become the protector and father of Mother Augustine's Institution. Mgr. Collier was helped especially by two wonderful priests: Father Laval (now Blessed Jacques Désidé Laval), a saintly religious, and Father Masuy, a fellow student of Cardinal Deschamps, Archbishop of Malines in Belgium. Father Masuy, a learned and eloquent priest, full of zeal, had chosen to be a missionary. He saw to the construction of the Immaculate Conception church of which he became the parish priest-
In 1845 the Bishop had called from Ireland 8 Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto to take charge of the education of the youth.
Caroline chose Father Masuy as spiritual director because of his great devotion to the Holy Virgin. While the latter was absent from the Island she opened her heart to Mgr. Collier, but at first he did not encourage her vocation. On May 24th 1848, feast of Our Lady of Good Succour, at the conclusion of a novena to the Holy Virgin, she had three masses celebrated. On that same day she went to confession and had the joy of hearing from the Bishop the following words: "God's will on you is clear to me, you will be a Sister of Charity."
Caroline made her noviciate in the Convent of the Loreto Sisters, took the veil and the name of Mary Augustine. In 1850, she pronounced her vows and became a Sister of Charity, without belonging to any Congregation.
Before his departure for Europe, where he was to remain two years, Mgr Collier symbolically offered her a golden louis to start her foundation, which she dedicated to Our Lady of Good Succour. He took her to a small house belonging to the Diocese and asked a widow to stay with her. 
It was there that she received the first sick persons. Very soon three postulants joined her. In 1851, the small Community moved to a more spacious house; and there they began receiving orphans boys and girls.
In 1852, coming back from Europe, Mgr. Collier was pleased to find four Sisters of Charity in his Diocese. It was time to strengthen the new-born Institution by the public profession of the Foundress and her first co-Sisters; hitherto bound by private vows only. In fact, on that same year on May 24th, feast day of Our Lady of Good Succour, they made their public profession in the Cathedral.

           
A bigger dwelling place had become necessary. Mgr. collier offered them a third house, which was no other than the building that had sheltered Mrs Farquason's boarding-school in Edith Cavell Street (ex. Rempart Street). Mother Augustine had always liked this house, because she was living in it when she was baptised and made her First Holy Communion.

                   Later on it was extended and became the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Good and Perpetual Succour and it is hitherto occupied by the Sisters.
Mgr. Collier entrusted to Father Masuy the first draft of the Constitutions of the new Institute and approved them in February 1854. In 1855, Father Masuy presented them to the Holy See in Rome for approval. In 1871 the Constitutions were approved "ad experimentum" for 10 years and the final approval was obtained on August 30th 1882.
In 1854, an epidemic of cholera broke out in Mauritius. The heroic charity of Mother Augustine and her co-Sisters was revealed not only during this epidemic, but also during the epidemics of small pox and yellow fever, which followed. The consequences of these epidemics was the foundation of important orphanages, which was later on followed by the opening of free schools for poor children
On December 24th 1856, the Sister in charge of the sacristy, when going to place the statue of the Child Jesus in the crib prepared in the grotto of Our Lady of La Salette (grotto which up to now can be seen in the garden of that same house), was surprised to find there a new-born baby with a note on the neck "It is born to-day, we entrust it to the Sisters". Henceforth Mother Augustine added to her institutions a baby care centre.
           
In 1857 Mother Augustine started the charitable work which she had most at heart: the leper's home, which was named "Hospice St. Lazare".  Moreover the Government had a home for insane persons. When they got to know that these people were ill-treated, they passed on the administration to Mother Augustine without difficulty.
In 1859, the French Consul called Mother Augustine and asked her to look after the French sailors who had become sick or wounded. Soon after was inaugurated a hospital where thousands of French sailors were nursed between 1859 and 1900.

Mgr. Collier's successor, Mgr. Hankinson, did not understand the problems of the Community of the Sisters of Good Succour, whose Constitutions had not yet been approved by Rome. A conflict arose and Mother Augustine felt that the tension was such that only the Pope, Pius IX, could help her to avoid a disaster. After spending a whole night in prayer, she decided to set out for Rome in order to ask the approval of the Constitutions of her Institute and to secure the future of the Sisters who had been entrusted to her.
 

 She left the Island on June 5th 1869.
On that date the Congregation numbered 108 Sisters, divided into 19 communities, all of them depending on the Mother House in Port Louis.
After Mgr. Hankinson's death in September 1870, Mgr. Scarisbrick was appointed Bishop of the Island in November 1871. It was only in May 1872 that Mgr. Scarisbrick reached Mauritius.
In the course of her stay in Rome, Mother Augustine met Mgr. Deschamps, Archbishop of Malines in Belgium. This encounter was a blessing and marked the foundation of a Community in Belgiuim in 1872.
After staying in Rome for some time, Mother Augustine opened a Community there, and finally on July 1878, settled permanently in Via Merulana where is still now the seat Generalate of the Congregation

In 1882 the Institute was definitively approved by the Holy See under the title of "Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Good and Perpetual Succour". Mother Augustine died in Rome on January 28th 1900. The cause of her beatification was introduced in 1927. When the Ecclesiastic tribunal ordered the opening of her coffin, on December 1930, her body was found in a good state of preservation, her face was white as snow and an arm, having been lifted up, came back to its normal position.