CLAUDINE THÉVENET was born in Lyon on 30th March 1774, the second of a family of seven children. “Glady” as she was affectionately known had a strong influence on her brothers and sisters, thanks to her goodness, gentleness and self-forgetfulness in the desire to make others happy. The French Revolution broke out when she was fifteen. In 1793, she witnessed the execution in revenge of her two brothers after the city fell in January 1794. Their last words, “Forgive, Glady, as we forgive” remained deep in her heart and her mind and were to change the course of her life. From now onwards she would dedicate herself to the relief of the great suffering caused by the Revolution.
For her a main source of distress was the people’s ignorance of God and thus was born in her the great desire to make Him known to everyone, but it was to be the children and the young people who would be the main object of her zeal and her desire to make Jesus and Mary known and loved. Her encounter with a holy priest, Father Andre Coindre, would help her to discover more clearly what God was asking of her and would be decisive in the orientation of her life. When Father Coindre found two little shivering children abandoned on the steps of the church of St. Nizier, he took them to Claudine who did not hesitate to take them into her care.
Companions soon joined Claudine and they formed an association, the Association of the Sacred Heart of which Claudine was immediately elected president. On July 31st 1818, the call of the Lord was heard through the voice of Father Coindre . “God has chosen you”, he said to Claudine. This laid the foundation of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary.
Her Congregation was to be profoundly influenced by her strong personality. “Be true mothers of both body and soul” she told her sisters. She would tolerate no preferences, no partialities: “The only preferences I will permit are for the most poor, the most miserable, those who have most defects; those you will love a great deal”.
The strength of a building is revealed only with the passage of time. Barely five years after the death of Mother Claudine, her daughters set out for India (1842). In 1850, they opened their first house in Spain and in 1855, they established themselves in the New World, in Canada. One hundred and seventy five years after the foundation of the Congregation, there are now more than one thousand eight hundred religious of Jesus and Mary in one hundred and eighty communities across the five continents.
Claudine Thevenet was canonized (declared a saint) during the Pontificate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II on the 21st March 1993.