Our Lady of Bon Secours
We invite you to pray with us as we celebrate the 189th anniversary of the Sisters of Bon Secours. We want to share with you the reflections Sr. Mary Leamy, CBS who was asked to give reflections at a Mass yesterday in Makhado, Tzaneen, in S. Africa where we have a mission to serve people with HIV/AIDS. Today our co-workers world-wide celebrate this day with us. We are indeed blessed by God as we give witness to his healing, compassionate and liberating love in the world.
The following brief description of our foundation is taken from a history book on the Sisters of Bon Secours.
“The profession ceremony for the first twelve women was held on January 24, 1824, in the Lady Chapel of St. Sulpice in Paris, and it was there that the seeds of Bon Secours were sown. Archbishop de Quelen placed the newly professed sisters under the invocation of Our Lady of Help Christians, with the title of the Sisters of Bon Secours. The 25 year old Josephine Potel, received the name Sister Marie Joseph, was appointed the first superior general by the archbishop.
Three words characterized the beginnings of Bon Secours: humility, poverty, and charity. Sometimes the sisters lacked the barest necessities of life, and their food was of the plainest. According to the Abridged History of the Sisters of Bon Secours, “when a sister came home, she took off her dress and gave it to another sister who was going to take her turn.” Even though it was very poor and humble, the sisters loved to return to the convent because they could experience the happiness of being with their other sisters for a time.” - From Sister Mary Cecilia O’Sullivan, A Century of Caring: The Sisters of Bon Secours in the United States 1881-1981
Foundation Day: January 24
On this day in 1824, in Paris, capital city of France, twelve young women committed themselves before God, as the first Sisters of Bon Secours, to minister to the sick, the suffering and the dying in their homes.
Bon Secours is French for “Good Help.” Our patroness is Our Lady Help of Christians.
France at that time was recovering from a very bitter revolution and poverty was widespread. There was no health care for the sick, not even hospitals, so the needs were enormous.
This was a very new form of ministry for women religious, as until then they were not allowed outside their monasteries or convents.
However the new Bon Secours sisters stayed in the homes of the sick to nurse them, to offer spiritual comfort, and do whatever was necessary to help the family.
They believed this was their special call and gift from God – to offer practical, generous, skilled care to the sick and their families, and to help them to know God’s love.
After 40 years, when the numbers of sisters had greatly increased in France, they answered calls for help from other countries. They set up missions in Ireland in 1861, Great Britain in 1870, USA in 1881, and Peru in South America in 1966.
On 2nd April 2008, four sisters came to South Africa to share the work of the Tzaneen Diocesan HIV/AIDS project.
This was the first International community for Mission set up by the Bon Secours Congregation. Two of the sisters came from Ireland and two from Peru. Sisters from the US have come for shorter periods to help in the Mission.
In July 2008 the sisters set up a mobile clinic in Senwamakgope, in St. Scholastica’s parish, in July 2008. This was identified as an area of great need which was not being answered at that time. Since then the numbers of clients coming to the clinic has increased dramatically, and it is most rewarding to see people being restored to much better health, due to the drugs and general care they receive. In this ministry the sisters are helped by local nurses and careers.
The sisters have also become involved in the various parish ministries here in Makhado, e.g. care of refugees from Zimbabwe with other parish members, and other Christian Churches; visiting and caring for sick and poor people in the various outlying villages, where they work closely with the local careers; and with young children in Madadonga, where on Saturday afternoons they share prayer, reflection on the Gospel, and games with them.
The sisters are very happy here in the parish of Makhado, and appreciate the friendship, and help given them by the priests, sisters and parishioners since their arrival.
It is hoped that sisters from different countries will continue the work of this International Community for Mission in South Africa into the future. For this to happen we ask God and Our Lady Help of Christians to call young women from South Africa and other African countries to become Sisters of Bon Secours.
Please join with us in praying for this intention.
Reflections given at Liturgy on the occasion of the Congregation of Sisters of Bon Secours foundation anniversary at St. Joseph parish in Makhado, Tzaneen, S. Africa by Sr. Mary Leamy, CBS.
January 24, 2009