1828 – 1900
The Sisters of Mary of the Presentation are women who first came together to serve the people who had suffered persecution after the French Revolution. They are an International Religious Community founded in 1828 in Broons, France.
During the French Revolution in the late 1790’s, priests were sent into exile. Mass was celebrated underground, the soldiers had destroyed the churches. When Father Joachim Fleury returned to France after the war, he became pastor of the parish at Broons, France. He listened to his people tell of how religious practices had been abandoned, many children in his parish did not know God. The people were suffering both materially and spiritually. Father Fleury enlisted the help of sisters, Louise and Laurence LeMarchand. Laurence began teaching the children in their family home. Louise began going about town visiting and caring for the sick. Together they provided spiritual retreats for the many people who desired to deepen their faith. These two women had already heard the Lord’s call in their heart, and thus with the help of Father Fleury, founded a new Religious Community, the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation. As other young women joined the efforts of Louise and Laurence, schools and hospitals were set up. The new Community flourished. A Mother House was erected near the family home. The main ministries of the new Congregation were to be education and care of the sick.
1900 – 1950
At the beginning of the 20th Century, there was another religious persecution and many of the Sisters were forced to leave France. The Sisters went to Belgium, Canada, Guernsey, and the United States. In 1903 several Sisters settled in Wild Rice, ND and began a primary school. That same year, several Sisters settled in Spring Valley, Illinois and opened a hospital.
In 1914 World War I broke out and spread across Europe. The French government dissolved the Congregation on January 31, 1914 and confiscated the Mother House. Most of the Sisters were forced to leave the Mother House. Some settled on the island of Guernsey off the coast of England, others blended into local communities to continue their ministry, and a few were permitted to stay at the Mother House in order to care for elderly Sisters. The Mother House became “Complementary Hospital #42.” Many of the Sisters returned to work there as nurses, others in the dining rooms, the kitchen, the laundry and linen rooms. When the war ended, the Sisters resumed living at the Mother House in Broons, even though they were not officially recognized as a Religious Congregation. After years of supplication by Mother Saint Therese de Jesus to God and to the government, with the help of Senator Leon Jenouvrier, the decree of dissolution was revoked on December 8, 1923.
The Sisters of Mary of the Presentation continued to grow and flourish in Europe and North America. The Second World War brought trials and tribulations for the Sisters in France, Belgium, Canada, and the United States. Some of the Sisters from Canada and the United States, along with many other Religious, were interned (held captive) at Vittel, France for many months. The Mother House was again occupied by government forces. Mother Marie Mechtilde, Superior General of the Congregation, while visiting the Sisters in the United States and Canada, was unable to return to France.
1950 To Today
In the 1950’s the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation started five missions in Cameroon, Africa where the Sisters provide education and healthcare to the poor. In the United States, the Sisters expanded their health care ministry over the years – eventually growing into the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation Health System, consisting of four hospitals and five nursing homes. The US Provincial House is located at Maryvale Convent, Valley City, North Dakota. At Maryvale, the Sisters provide hospitality to groups, retirement care for their elderly, and host spiritual retreats. The Sisters of Mary of the Presentation presently serve in five countries, ministering to the poor, nursing the sick, and giving spiritual care to all who desire to know God.