FROM FRANCE . . . TO THE PHILIPPINES


A Historical Sketch (from the INP newsletter)

"Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people." When the Blessed Virgin spoke these words to the shepherd children on the mountain she knew well that the simple children could only begin the work of telling her story to the world. Though no one then realized it, in all her wisdom she looked far across the mountains, over the vast seas, seeing scores of dedicated servants carrying her timeless message to all peoples everywhere - the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.

Since the Virgin first spoke to the shepherd children in 1846, not many pages had turned in the book of history when, at the end of the century, France was swept by an anti-religious uprising striking at all Religious Orders without regard. The relatively new Order had not the numbers, houses nor strength to withstand the persecution of governmental legislation and the ensuing violence. The La Salette Superiors and the priests moved to friendlier countries of Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. They left their beloved France not to run away, but to preserve their strength so they could help her again when the time came. And come it did, eventually. Meanwhile, the move turned the Order's eyes still to other lands where they could bring the La Salette Story to countless more and in turn draw new strength for the Community.

TO THE AMERICAS

So it was that in 1892, Fathers Pajot and Vignon took leave to sail for America where, two weeks later, they landed in Montreal, Canada. They were warmly welcomed by the Archbishop but there were so many Religious Orders already part of the Archdiocese that the Bishop had to refused them permanent residence.

With characteristic La Salette optimism and faith, two priests set out for the United States though they knew but a few words of English. In the United States they met with Bishops of New York, Brooklyn, Albany, Syracuse, Ogdensburg and Newark, New Jersey. All welcomed the priests of La Salette but all had valid reasons why acceptance of the Order in their dioceses was impossible. But then, undoubtedly guided by the presence of Mary, the two priests stopped at Hartford, Connecticut where at the Cathedral they met Father William Harty, a member of the Bishop's Council. Father Harty had promised the Blessed Virgin to work for the establishment of a religious Congregation devoted to her and he welcomed the two priests as envoy of his promise. It was not long before the Congregation was received into the diocese of Hartford, their first firm root in the United States. But this root was to grow rapidly as the Fathers not only staffed a parish in Hartford, preached retreats and missions, but spread the warmth of the La Salette Story, the wondrous story of the two children who triumphed over all small and cynical people through devotion to our Lady.

TO THE PHILIPPINES

Soon after its creation in 1945, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Province (with ministries and offices within Massachusetts and New Hampshire States) immediately begun community discernment vis-a-vis its missionary zeal and undertaking. Deliberations tapered down to either to help out in Madagascar or to implant La Salette presence in a different country. The province opted to respond to the urgent plea for personnel from the Most Rev. Constance Jurgens, a Belgian CICM, Bishop of the Diocese of Tuguegarao (Cagayan Province), particularly in the province of Isabela where parishes and big communities were left without priests. Bishop Jurgens knew of the La Salettes as many of the older members spent their studies in Belgium, and where he would have extended the invite to Fr. Elmeric Dubois, M.S., the IHM Provincial Superior then. After a visit which was well received, Fr. Dubois made a determination to accept Isabela from Jones to Gamu via San Mateo. In 1948, Fr. Joseph Imholf, MS, the La Salette Superior General granted the permission to the province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to establish a La Salette foothold in the Philippines.

On November 5, 1948, four La Salette Missionaries, Fr. Conrad Blanchet, Fr. Raymond Leduc, Fr. Paul Douillard and Bro. Donat Levasseur left by boat from New York via the Panama Canal, taking six weeks to reach Manila. They reached Manila on December 12. They finally arrived in Santiago, Isabela on the 22nd of December 1948.

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