Marie de la Ferre
Marie was born around 1589, in Roiffé, a little village situated in a region of France won over to the Protestant Reform Movement. Towards 1601, she lost her mother; her father married a woman who was a Calvinist (Huguenot).
Fearing for the faith of her niece, Catherine de Goubitz welcomed her into her manor in Ruigné, near la Flèche. The social life was bustling there and the young girl loved it. But, towards the age of 18, Marie became aware that only the love of God and her neighbour could give meaning to her life. Her aunt wanted her to make a brilliant match; but Marie decided to consecrate her life to the Lord. Several experiences of religious life having failed, Marie devoted herself to her aunt’s service, as well as those wounded by life. The people, witnesses of her charity, called her “The Holy Woman”.
After the death of her aunt, Marie visited the sick poor in the little Maison Dieu in la Flèche. One day in 1634, she saw with the eyes of her heart a row of beds and heard a voice whisper to her: “There is your work and the way of satisfying the precept of love ...” It is thus that the Lord prepared her to become a collaborator of Jérôme le Royer.
On May 18, 1636, Marie de la Ferre and Anne Foureau, her cousin, went into the Hotel Dieu of La Flèche, where they formed a community with the three servants of the sick persons there. The Congregation of the Daughters of St. Joseph was born; awaiting the approbation of their constitutions, the Daughters were members of the Confraternity of St. Joseph which Jérôme le Royer had founded.
In 1643, the first constitutions of the congregation were approved and on January 22, 1644, Marie de la Ferre and her eleven companions made simple vows for one year in the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Joseph. Then they proceeded to the election of Marie de la Ferre as Superior of the newly-born community.
The “Daughters” could renew their vows each year, or, after eight years, pronounce them for the rest of their lives. They were not “Religious”, for, at that time, only persons committed for life by solemn vows and ‘cloistered” were so called.
In the spring of 1652, an epidemic fever broke out in the town of Moulins, where the Sisters had come to serve the sick. The infection claimed many people and even the Sisters fell ill. As the epidemic began to regress, Sister Marie de la Ferre, already exhausted, succumbed. On the second day of her illness, she asked to receive the Sacrament of the Sick, saying: “You are all my trust, O My Saviour! ... What joy for me ... to be able to love You for all eternity!”