Jean-Marie Chavion was born in Coutouvre on 29th August 1786, and was baptised in the church on the same day. In 1786 the village had a population of 1700.

“Coutouvre” means “hill open on all sides” and from the highest point there is a magnificent view across the plan of Roanne to the distant Forez mountains.

Coutouvre is where Jean-Marie Chavoin lived with her family for thirty years.

Chavoin was a strong, healthy country girl, a good walker, with many natural gifts and no complexes. She had an inborn appreciation of the value of work, and a great sensitivity to the needs of others.

By temperament Jeanne-Marie Chavoin was an extrovert and her father a tailor.

At the time a tailor in France lived in the centre of the village and worked in the shop, where people would come and go as they made their orders. The tailor’s shop was thus a great meeting place for the villagers. A little girl growing up in this environment is automatically caught up in social life.

This is something that immediately points to an important difference between Chavoin and Colin.

Another characteristic of Jeanne-Marie’s background is noteworthy. In France during the Revolution every parish had a special memorial book: a list of all the families who did something for the priests during the Revolution.

The Chavoin family does not appear on any of these lists.

However, very significantly, after the Revolution there was an elderly priest who had taken the Oath, who had renounced his faith, but now wanted to return to the Church and the Chavoin family took this broken-down priest into their house and kept him for 10 years till he died; an example of hidden and unknown charity, when such deeds were neither glamourous nor fashionable.

To discern her possible vocation Jean-Marie spend long hours in prayer in the church in Coutouvre and a stained glass window, erected in 1930, represents Jeanne-Marie, along with other notable clerics or religious born in Coutouvre.

An important influence on her at this time was a seminarian by the name of Jean Philibert Lefranc. He used to come to Coutouvre in his holidays, and during his time there he formed a group of young people to whom he gave spiritual direction and instruction in the way of prayer. Jean-Marie Chavoin was among this group.