This year marks the bicentennial of the founding of the Providence of the”Pieux-Secours”, our Founder’s first work dedicated to children and boys. Last month we posted a first review written by Br. Francisco Javier Martínez, from Spain.
However, this was not the first nor the only providence founded by Andre Coindre. There were two others in the city of Lyon (France) dedicated to girls. In this post we can understand a little more about these other works and about their importance, so that we can understand Father Coindre’s work as a whole.
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The departamental yearbook published in Lyon in 1848 dedicates its ninth chapter to the establishments and charities in the city. We find there two institutions with the name of Father Coindre, who had died 22 years before this publication. This fact highlights the importance of his everlasting memory in the spirit of the people of Lyon even many years after his death.
Due to its historical importance, I quote what is said about these two works attributed to Father Coindre. The first providences is described as follows:
Providence of Father Coindre in La Chartreuse
This establishment, founded in 1818 by this missionary, with the help of some charitable ladies, is intended to poor girls of the parish of St. Bruno. The girls receive primary education and Christian formation, and sewing and weaving skills. This house, where a hundred people live, is run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
This is without a doubt the providence that had its germ in the meeting of Father coindre with the abandoned girl in front of the Parish of St. Nizier, which led to the birth of the Pious Union of the Sacred Heart, Claudine Thevenet was the president of those charitable ladies. When Claudine and her companions renounced all their rights over the work and left ti in the hands of the priest of St. Bruno, the providence became part of the parish in 1825.
The most extraordinary thing about our discovery is in the name of the providence. SIster Gabrielle Marie, in “On that night in Pierres-Plantées”, a book about the foundational events of the religious ladies of Jesus Mary, gives two different names to the work. The first one is “Providence of the Sacred Heart”, name given by Claudine Thevenet herself. It seems that later, according to the same source, it became “Providence of St. Bruno”. But in the yearbook of 1848 we found that the work is known in Lyon as “Providence of Father Coindre”. This might be the name with which it was known, and the other one was the official name of the institution.
This is the description of the second providence a few lines later:
Providence of Jesus Mary in Fourviere:
This establishment was created by the zeal of Father Andre Coindre, a missionary. It is intended for the education of poor girls from 7 to 21 years old. After that, the girls receive a full trousseau and a small sum of money in order to help them to find a job and to settle down in an adequate way. Same instruction, same type of work, same number as in the Providence of La Chartreuse.
This is the providence that emerged on the street Pierres-Plantées in Lyon. This is where the religious ladies of Jesus Mary were born on the night of October 5, 1818. Claudine Thevenet, a pious widow named Jeanne Burty, and an orphan girl began a journey that, according to all sources, was destined to fail. Claudine says: “I seemed to have engaged in a crazy and presumptuous work without any guarantee of success. On the contrary, considering all the circumstances, the work was destined to fail.”
But the works of God are not like those of men. That incipient and vacillating flame grew into a fire able to bring the charism of our Father to the five continents.
Some will be surprised that in the yearbook there is no reference to the providence of the “Pieux-Secours”. It is not an error though. In 1848, the providence for boys founded by Father Coindre and which was the birth of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart had already disappeared. We will deal with this later.
Brother Javier Marquínez.