Early History of the Congregation -  part 3...human building blocks


The Port Village of Pordic

Marie Allenou de Grandchamp  (1700-1779) was the first woman of French nobility to seek admittance to the Daughters of the Holy Spirit. She was born on August 15, 1700 at the family estate “Champ du Pommier”  (Apple Tree Field) in Pordic, a fishing port near St. Brieuc of Sir Yves Allenou de Grandchamp and Jeanne Leclerc. Marie grew up with all the benefits afforded members of the noble class. She was prayerful from her early childhood, and In her teens, Marie entered a Carmelite monastery, but her health could not take the austere life so she returned home.

The Port Village of Pordic

One of Marie’s cousins was René-Jean Allenou de la Ville-Angevin who had become rector of the church in Plérin and later director for the first House of Charity, the first DHS community. He counseled Marie to join the Daughters. The young woman accepted the challenge and sought admission to the House of Charity at Le Légué in 1721. Here she embraced her circumstances with joy in spite of the hardships. The life style at the House of Charity was certainly simpler and more difficult than that to which the young recruit had been accustomed, yet she accepted the life. She felt this was the way she could prove to what length her gift of self to God extended.
Marie was valuable to the sisters in Le Légué as she shared her experience of prayer and religious customs from her time in Carmel. 

taden manor
A Taden Manor 

Her education also proved to be an asset in regard to business affairs. It was she who was able to draft contracts, particularly with Breton nobles who wished to provide education in their own domains. Early on Marie had spent time at the medical center in Taden learning how to prepare all kinds of medications and to perform surgical operations. Upon her return to Plérin she shared what she had learned with the sisters, and this medical knowledge was put to good use in their ministry to the local people. It was through these  kinds of activities that Marie was able to serve and assist Marie Balavenne for some 20 years.

Epitaph at Mother House Cemetery

Marie Balavenne died on December 28, 1743. Just a few days later the sisters unanimously elected Marie Allenou as their “Principale”. The new leader took her duties seriously and did much to encourage the growth of the Society, as the congregation was referred to at that time. A number of new houses were opened from 1747 to 1778. Marie firmly believed that the only way to bring people to God was by helping the poor, visiting the sick, and teaching young girls, thus living out her motto:  “May God be loved above all else”. Marie also introduced a new custom to the young congregation when she started inviting young women to the House of Charity on Sunday evenings and holydays to instruct them.  

The Rule of Taden provided that every 3 years all the sisters would elect their “Principale” (leader). In this process the Sisters repeatedly chose Marie Allenou who, by 1777, was aged and weakened, and forced to give up her responsibilities. The sisters, however, continued to address her as “Principale” even though her assistant, Catherine Briand, administered the group. On November 25, 1779, at the age of 79, Marie Allenou went to her God. The following day, she was buried next to the tombs of Marie Balavenne and Renée Burel at the entrance of the church. Years later their remains were transferred to the cemetery at the Mother House in St. Brieuc where the grave site is clearly indicated to this day.

Sr. Marian St. Marie would welcome any comments or questions you may have concerning Marie Allenou or any other “human building block” of the Congregation or US Province.  She may be reached at marianst.marie@gmail.com


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