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Today is the feast of St. Marie Eugenie Milleret, founder of the Religious of the Assumption. Our own founder, Fr. d'Alzon, was a close friend and confidant of Sister Marie-Eugenie. The following is a homily given on the occasion of the local celebration of her canonization back in 2007. It may help to give you a little sense for her particular form of holiness.


Homily at the Celebration of the Canonization of Marie-Eugenie Milleret

Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Assumption College

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The celebration of a new saint testifies to the enduring power of the Gospel to elevate and  sanctify the human person.  One of the really beautiful things about Marie Eugenie’s canonization is that it reinforces and universalizes the Assumption way as an assured path  to holiness.  In this respect we would be remiss if we did not this morning hear the echo of Marie Eugenie’s insistent voice encouraging her sisters and us…. DARE TO BE HOLY…

To borrow a phrase from one of our more illustrious Massachusetts politicians who maintained that “all politics is local:”   it’s also the case that this gift to the Church -  which we call a charism - is never simply an abstraction, but is lived out in particular times and places, in particular communities, and is embodied in the lives of particular women and men.   That’s the reason it’s so good that the joy which accompanies the celebration of Marie Eugenie’s sanctity, centered as it was on the mystery of the Incarnation, should not be restricted to Rome, but should resound in every corner of the world where that charism has borne fruit.

And so it’s Worcester’s turn.  The sisters have been with us here now for more than twenty years - long enough for us to have difficulty imagining what life was like without them.   The Assumption charism, reflected in the lives of religious women from several continents, united in their love for Marie Eugenie and her great desire to make Jesus Christ known and loved through education and prayer,  has borne fruit here at Assumption College, at St. Peter’s and Our Lady of Vilna in the city, and now at the Assumption Center at 16 Vineyard St.    Marie Eugenie’s capacity for friendship is present in them as well: our appreciation for them always involves the particular human face and the personal name…. Monica and Feli; Sheila, Christina and Claire; Chi-Chi, Anne Francoise and Laetitia;  and the present band:  Therese and Francis and Nuala and Mary Ann and Nha-Trang, to name only some.    So many of us have been touched by the humanity of these women, whose addresses have been Otsego and Old English Roads, but who have opened us widely to the world.

St. Marie Eugenie’s gift to her sisters, to the Church, and to the world that she loved has been so fruitful, I believe, because her life and vision was so closely tied to the very heart of the Gospel.    So many of the elements are there:  first of all, a mission focused on the essentials:  extending God’s kingdom, making Jesus Christ known and loved -  a call and a mission that came to her directly from God and which captured her heart and strengthened her resolve.   And then all of the experiences of her life which she succeeded, with God’s grace, in incorporating into that mission:  her suffering, to begin with - growing up in a house without faith, the divorce of her parents,  the loss of her mother, the separation from a dear brother all at a young and impressionable age and all the loneliness attendant upon these events; the influence of a charismatic, but authoritarian and overbearing director and later the unfair opposition of other ecclesiastical authorities;  the failure of the first missionary endeavor of the community, the travail of watching over the  deaths, many of them premature, of so many of her sisters.  In each instance, Marie Eugenie allowed these sufferings to pierce her heart and to accomplish in her the work that God desired.    So too for the poverty, the austerity of her early communities…. She accepted these harsh conditions not only with serenity; she saw these, too, as an opportunity to draw closer to the one to whom she had given her life.   If the mission of the new community was to make God known and loved, how could that happen if each of the sisters did not allow the concrete circumstances of her life to instill in her a greater knowledge and love, to transfigure her from within.

For the same reason, if I were so bold as to identify the key to this way of life that Marie Eugenie proposed for her community, it would be the struggle she waged to preserve the contemplative dimension of her active community.   In the face of considerable ecclesiastical opposition, she insisted upon the necessity for her sisters to pray the full prayer of the Church and to spend time in adoration each day.    It’s not going too far, I think, to say that so many of her personal qualities can be linked to the preservation of this aspect of her life:   her apostolic energy, her courage, her capacity for discernment and for friendship, her warm-hearted generosity, her love for the Church, even her sense of humor - and perhaps above all, her freedom of spirit.   Like the noble figures in today’s first reading, she knew, from some deep divine instinct within her, that an abiding attachment to God would free her sisters to an ever deeper surrender to the work of love that had been entrusted to them.

In this particular place of teaching and learning, I am struck, finally, by Marie-Eugenie’s insistence that those involved in an educational mission needed especially to pray.  Was it because of the awesome responsibility that such a mission entailed?  Was it based on her understanding that intelligence needed to be illuminated by faith in order to reach its proper end?     I’m not sure that she spelled out the reason behind this conviction, but here again, the truth is verified by its fruits:  a pedagogy that, in the end, invited students to listen to God’s loving call and to spend themselves in service to others.   Such has been the gift of Marie-Eugenie to our educational mission here at Assumption College and to the pastoral ministry in the city.

And so, there’s so much for us to celebrate in this woman who has become, at one and the same time, our very own saint and a saint of the entire Church.  How wonderful it is that she is ready to intercede for us, so that our own efforts to make Jesus Christ better known and loved may be encouraged and strengthened.   May all that we are be Glory to God.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 March 2021 09:06
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