Mother Gérine’s era was characterised by:
 
- deep social and political changes:
  • violent conflict between current revolutionaries and royalists
  • rapid industrial transformation and powerful streams of migration from the countryside to the cities
  • exploitation of manual labourers and children in work
  • very limited attention to education and health 
- a radical change of mentality: the search for individual profit and greater autonomy at the religious level.
 
Our Foundress was born on 22 April 1811 in a poor village in central France, and baptised with the name of Françoise-Catherine.
She belonged to a modest family, the second of seven children. To find work, her father frequently moved around, and she soon had to leave school to help her mother care for her younger brothers and sisters. While she was still a teenager, she and her sisters began to take part in the activities of the Dominican lay movement; she entered the local fraternity of Chaudes-Aigues, and made profession taking the name of Marguerite Gérine.

During her long walks to Chaudes-Aigues, she often halted at a small sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady to contemplate the “Pietà”. It was before this representation of Mary supporting in her arms the dead and disfigured body of Jesus, that Gérine’s heart opened to compassion, and her desire intensified to make the poor the place where she would give her life to the Lord.
 
In 1842 she went to Toulouse, where she founded a new community of Dominican Tertiaries, women who lived together in the service of the sick and in prayer, in the light of the spirituality of St Dominic. Despite the difficulties encountered at all beginnings, the communities multiplied rapidly.

Confirmed in her Dominican vocation by Fr. Lacordaire, re-establisher of the Dominican Order in France, Gérine made St Dominic’s experience as a Founder the fundamental inspiration for her communities and their apostolic service.
In 1852, established in Albi, she laid the foundations of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena, and became its Superior General for life in 1865. In the space of a few years, new communities of sisters were established in Italy and in Latin America.
Gérine, an intense lover of St Catherine of Siena, chose the saint of Siena as “Mother and Mistress” of her Congregation, so that her daughters could learn from her to be true Dominicans at the heart of the world.
 
On 3 September 1879, historical and religious reasons constrained Mother Gérine to relinquish her charge as leader of the Congregation, and she presented her resignation to the Archbishop of Albi; the communities of Italy decided to form themselves into a religious Family distinct from that of France.

For eight long years, the Foundress lived, in her own flesh and with total abandonment to the Lord, the mystery of the Cross. She died in solitude at Carcassonne on 31 December 1887. 
It was precisely this suffering and this solitude that formed the “liberated space” that would enable the God of Mercy to “provide” and to “sow” his Life in abundance.

 
 
 
 

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