FORMER APOSTOLIC SITES IN FRANCE
In 1650, eight Hospitallers of St. Joseph arrived in Laval where former chaplaincy quarters had been transformed into a Hotel-Dieu. During the French Revolution, the fate of the Hospitallers was about the same as that of the Sisters in Bauge. In spite of their poverty and distress, they offered refuge to the eight companions who had been expelled from LaFleche and Beaufort.
In 1974, a modern 560 bed hospital was opened and the patients from the old Hotel-Dieu were transferred. The community also left this site. The senior Sisters were transferred to the Ernee community, while the Sisters in active service moved into a house in the city while continuing to work at the hospital until 1987.
In 1990, at the request of the Bishop, the community was established in a popular neighborhood of Laval. This mission entrusted to the RHSJ was to be integrated with the people around them and accessible to them, thereby giving witness to a God who unites and frees. The community left Laval in February 2011.
The construction of the hospital began in 1643 by Marthe de la Beausse, a single woman without wealth. In 1650, she recruited Anne de Melun, Princess of Epinay who went incognito under the name of “Sister de la Haye”. In November 1650, three Daughters of Saint Joseph from LaFleche came to the unfinished hospital, which then made great progress, thanks to the generosity of “Sister de la Haye”.
During the French Revolution, the Sisters had to leave their religious habits, but could continue their service at the hospital, but not at the boarding school. The Boarding school re-opened in 1810, but closed permanently in 1906. In 1991, the last Sister retired from active service and the community left Bauge.
While studying in LaFleche, Gabriel Girault de Moulins came to know Jerome Le Royer and admired the good management of the hospital. Having become a priest, he wanted the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph to come to his native city. However, the city council was very reticent and only accepted with specific conditions: their hospital would only serve female patients and the sisters would be in charge of an orphanage for girls from 3 – 12 years of age. Jerome Le Royer recognized this need and signed the contract. Subsequently, other houses in France and America would open orphanages and boarding schools.
In June 1651, Marie de la Ferre and four companions established a charitable work in Moulins under very difficult conditions. Marie de la Ferre died on July 28, 1652, a victim of her charitable work among the plague-stricken population. However, with time, the situation was restored to normal and the community and works of the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph developed. The French Revolution put an end to this expansion and in 1793, the Sisters were expelled from Moulins, never to return.
When the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph, among whom was Jeanne Le Royer, arrived in Nimes on May 18, 1663, they found the hospital in very poor condition. They quickly restored order, cleanliness and progress. The Nimes community established a hospital at Avignon in 1672, at l’Isle-sur-Sorgues in 1685 and at Rivieres-des-Teyrargues in 1698. During the French Revolution, the Hospitallers in Nimes “condemned to a permanent prison in their convent”, continued to care for the sick and admitted novices. However, the community was expelled from the Hotel-Dieu in 1904. Subsequently, they opened a polyclinic which remained open until 1975, and a dispensary from 1955 – 1981. Thereafter the Sisters became engaged in various apostolates.
Their convent chapel on its original site located in the center of the city, welcomed groups of various ages. In addition to their hospitality services, the Sisters were engaged in three principal ministries: pastoral service to shut-ins, participation in chaplaincy services to the students and involvement in an agency caring for the poor. In 2003, after 340 years of presence in Nimes, the RHSJ left this historic city in Southern France due to lack of Sisters who could continue to serve there.
At the request of Bishop Henri Arnault of Angers, the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph arrived at Beaufort in May, 1671. The city leaders were not too favorable to their coming , since they did not see the need to change what had existed for such a long time. The foundresses entered the hospital which was “ nothing but a cesspool where the sick and even the indigent refused to enter…”. Moreover, they had to tend to the well being of a dozen orphans. Sister “de la Haye”, Princess of Epinay, came from Bauge to help them and with various gifts, they undertook the construction. The city council finally contributed to it.
In 1794, the Sisters were dispersed, imprisoned, threatened with deportation. They returned to Beaufort in 1795. A community of Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph represented the Congregation in this city until 1964.
Solicited by the people of Avignon, the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph from the Nimes community accepted to come to the papal city in February 1672 to “stem the disorder which was rampant in their “splendid hospital” established in the XIV century. Like most of the other foundations, the beginnings were very difficult, but the Hotel-Dieu of Avignon was transformed very rapidly. In 1685,the Sisters were even able to respond to a request for a foundation in L’Isle sur Sorgue. The Sisters in Avignon suffered greatly during the Revolution. Dispersed for many years they returned after the turmoil. However, in 1910, political problems forced the Hospitallers to leave Avignon. They founded a hospital in Lobbes, Belgium.
The three founding Sisters , one from Nimes and two from Avignon, arrived on November 16, 1685. In this small town of 6000 inhabitants they were given a warm reception, and rather exceptionally, were even provided with a house and chapel. They did not escape deprivation, since each of them came with a modest income and cared for the sick without cost as prescribed by the Constitutions. Expansion of the hospital was made possible by the generosity of benefactors. In 1792, an order was received to close the convent and the community of 16 Sisters was dispersed. In 1825, four Hospitallers of Saint Joseph of Avignon established themselves in L’Isle-Sur-Sorgues, and the Hotel Dieu was restored. At the beginning of the XXIst century, a small group of Sisters maintained an active presence of the Congregation with their regular participation in the local community, the parish, charitable organizations and the chaplaincy of the Hospital. They left Isle-Sur-Sorgues in 2004.
The Marquise de la Porte, a lady from Rivieres-de-Teyrargues, decided to build a hospital for the 700 inhabitants of this small community and to entrust it to the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph of Nimes. Her insistence resulted in overcoming the resistance of the Sisters. In November 1798, the three foundresses came to this small village where there was nothing to receive them. Madame la Marquise received them in her Teyrargues Chateau where they remained for 17 years.
In 1819, a community of Hospitallers Canonesses of Saint Augustine, who had administered the local hospital in Ernee for approximately 200 years, was reduced to a small number of aging sisters. The Bishop suggested that this congregation become affiliated with the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph in Laval. This affiliation agreement was signed on May 24, 1819.
As of this date, the RHSJ served the Ernee Hospital, their community being close to the hospital which was a public institution. The dilapidated state of this hospital forced the city to face a new construction which was completed in 1963. This new hospital is located on Paris Avenue, a few miles from the former hospital. This meant that the community of Sisters would be constituted in two groups, namely, the hospital community and the nursing home community which was close to the RHSJ convent. The Sisters pursued their activities at the hospital until 1986. One RHSJ was responsible for pastoral services until 2003.
In 1975, following the construction of the new hospital in Laval, only eight Hospitallers served in this hospital. The Sisters of Laval joined the Ernee community then at a later date, 1983-1985, the Sisters of La Fleche and Bauge joined this community which was designated as a community for senior Sisters.
Aging and health of the Sisters, too much community space for the small number of Sisters were prime reasons for the Congregation to decide to close this house in 2010. The Sisters pursued their social and pastoral apostolic services until the very end.
Obligated to leave Avignon, the Hospitallers of Saint-Joseph opened a hospital in Lobbes, in Belgium in 1907. They were there when World War II broke out. They were unable to redeem the hospital damaged by two bombings. Consequently the 15 Sisters returned to France in 1947 and were dispersed in existing communities
In September 1965, Sister Pauline Maille, Provincial Superior and Sister Helen Lamarre, Director of Formation temporarily moved to 2, rue Denis Papin, Angers. The other members of the Council joined them within a few weeks. In 1966, the formation house in Laval was erected as the Provincial House.
To respond to the formation needs and facilitate hospitality, the Provincial and Formation communities moved to 9, rue Lemercier, Paris.
In 1994, since there were no longer persons in formation, the Provincial House moved from Paris to La Fleche.