In honor of International Women’s Day, which is today, I’d like to talk about a woman with a special place in Marist history: Françoise Perroton
Perroton was a single woman who lived in Lyon in the nineteenth century. She was very active with the Marist Fathers; today we might call her a “lay Marist.” In 1845, she read an open letter published in a Marist Father newsletter written by several women from the Island of Wallis, a Pacific Island where the Marist Fathers were active as missionaries. They requested that some French sisters or lay women come to Wallis as educators - not for the children, but for the adult women, who wanted education in literacy, religion, and handicrafts.
Perroton, who was 49 and affluent, promptly boarded a ship and left her life in France behind to travel to the Pacific, where she would dedicate her life to working with the local people. Over the next fifteen years, she would be joined by ten more women from France, each of whom felt individually called to work in the Pacific. Eventually, these women organized themselves into a religious congregation - the Marist Missionary Sisters, a sister group to the Marist Fathers and the Marist Brothers.
Today, the Marist Missionary Sisters work in 23 countries. They do not consider Perroton their foundress. Rather, they hold the founding of their congregation to be the work of the eleven “Pioneer” sisters collectively. Françoise Perroton is seen as the forerunner, the first of them to heed the Holy Spirit’s call from around the world.
This Monday Minute is from Br. Sam Amos, FMS