Today Marists’ recognise that that we owe our existence as a Marist congregation to both the founder and the foundress, however¬†Jean-Claude Colin could not envisage the women’s branch as being as fully apostolic as the mens.

This meant radically adapted the rule and was contrary to what the foundress intended for her sisters and it gave rise to various points of divergence and led to the inevitable conflict of ideas which affected the development of the congregation for over a century.

It was not the spirituality of the hidden life, of a life of prayer, and of apostolic zeal which was lost but the apostolic spirituality of action which had motivated the foundress’s whole life. However, despite misunderstandings and sufferings, Jean-Marie Chavoin acknowledged Jean-Claude Colin as the founder of her congregation and on May 31, 1858, she reminded him:

“God has entrusted His work to you… to make (her spirit) known to all her children and to trace for them the path they must follow to be true Marists. (CMJ doc 91:2) After the death of the foundress the style of life did gradually change and become progressively more “monastic” but this trend does not seem to have been peculiar to the marist Sisters or to those successively responsible for the congregation, but it did create an ambiguous situation which was not clarified until 1960. Since then the history of our renewal has followed its course. – Sr Winifred Rose: “A Founder and a Foundress”, Forum Novum, I, 2, 1990.

Jean-Marie Chavoin arrived in Jarnosse in 1855 with three other sisters to make a new foundation. The population was 1344.

The priest who invited them was Fr Lefranc, the one who had come to Coutouvre as a seminarian, however he was not pastor of Jarnosse.

Jean-Marie built a convent in Jarnosse; it was built according to her plans and still remains to this day.

An account of the activities of the Marist Sisters at Jarnosse reads:

“When the house in Jarnosse was founded, the Marist sisters undertook with admirable devotion to teach the population of this village which was still very unlettered. Their solicitude was, above all, for the children, they took pains to develop their pupils’ moral and intellectual faculties by teaching them religion and elementary knowledge. Combining the functions of mothers and teachers, they lavished on these poor, under-privileged children the maternal care required in the areas of hygiene and cleanliness, they themselves making clothes for the poorest.”

“The Marist Sisters also visited people who were ill, consoled them on their sick beds, and encouraged them to make a good preparation for death.”

It was not long before the work flourished, 60 young girls of 16, 17, 18, and even 20 years of age were accepted as boarders. This was the beginning of a domestic science school, where however, elementary instruction, and above all, religious formation held a special place.

The pupils were soon noted for their deep piety as they assisted at daily Mass and until they were turned out of the convent in 1902, the Marist Sisters had charge of the girl’s club, the parish choir, the care of the chuch and sacristy, the preparation of young girls and boys for First Communion.

Death of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin
“It was on the 29th June at six o’clock in the evening that I saw Mother Foundress alive for the last time.

“She had just received the last Sacraments.

“Jeanne Marie (Fouilland) felt her pulse, said she would not die just yet, but she judged by the patches of red that the circulation was slowing down and that the end was not far off. We found her fully conscious and she was asked to pray.

“I knelt down and the sisters came and knelt at the bedside. Soon after, the assistant, Sr Therese, sent me to fetch the priest for the prayers for the agonising. The curate came but as she was not actually dying he thought it too soon for the “recommendation of the soul”.

“While I was fetching the priest her room was arranged as a chapel were the sisters gathered in the evening and during the night. At one o’clock in the morning the assistant called the boarders… the assistant kept the hands raised and asked her to bless the Reverend Mother at Beley.

“The reply was pronounced distinctly: “May the spirit of Mary remain always with her.”

“Other words were uttered but not distinctly enough to be understood. The assistant pronounced the names of the local superiors, prayers were said an petitions formed according to the needs of each, and for each Mother Foundress asked the special graces that she thought she needed.

“The assistant mentioned all the sisters both old and young whose names she could recall. The Foundress blessed them either by name or in general. She blessed all the houses especially Jarnosse were she had know the greatest difficulties.

“After this blessing a sister read the “recommendation of the soul” and at two o’clock they continued to pray until the last moment at half past three.

“She had no visible agony, her breathing grew weaker and weaker and quietly ceased, the last breath was not different from the rest.

“She had wanted to be buried without fuss like the least of the sisters. The civil authorities wanted all the solemnity that it is possible to have in these parts. The bell was tolled every two hours and there was Mass with deacon and sub-deacon on 2nd July at 7 o’clock in the morning.” – Letter of Antoine Fouillard, 1858.

Mother St Joseph died a Jarnosse on 30th June 1858.