Jeanne of Lestonnac
The Wars of Religion destroy the social fabric of France. Reformation and Counter-Reformation are debated in the religious field. The Calvinist reform has a strong impact on the border context.
Jeanne will suffer division and religious debate due to the influence of her mother’s Calvinist ideas. This situation makes Jeanne live her Catholic faith as a personal option. A voice that she hears in her youth:“Take care not to let the flame that I have lit in your heart be extinguished”, is the experience that will sustain her throughout her life.
In this deep emotional and spiritual debate, her uncle, Michel de Montaigne, a great thinker of the 16th century and author of the “Essays”, plays an important role, who intervenes decisively in the education of Jeanne, contributing a positive vision of the human being, foundation of modern thought and humanismRenaissance.
A Family Project
At the age of 17, she married Gastón de Monferrant and they were the parents of seven children. A mother and educator, she is also the administrator of her home and assets.
At 41 she becomes a widow and also loses her oldest son. Jeanne then begins a stage in which her religious vocation once again emerges.
Birth of an Order
In 1603, she withdrew to the Cistercian Monastery in Toulouse. This is where she has her deepest experience of God, but the life of austerity and penance overcomes her strength and she has to leave the Monastery for health reasons.
During a long night in prayer, “the Cistercian Night”, she cries out to God her anguish, and there is light. She has a strong inspiration that makes her understand that “it is she who has to extend a hand” to female youth.
After leaving the Cistercian Monastery, she retires to the quiet grounds of La Mothe, where she discerns and confirms the new call. She returns to Bordeaux and communicates her plan to a group of young people who will be her first companions. She seeks advice and help from some priests of the Society of Jesus. A new style of Religious Life is opening the way, active and contemplative at the same time, dedicated to the education of women. Mary, Our Lady, will be the model for this way of life.
The foundation is approved by Cardinal de Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux. Pope Paul V, grants final approval, as Order of the Company of Mary Our Lady, on April 7, 1607. On May 15, 1949, three centuries later, the Church declares her as Saint..
Legacy of a fruitful life
A project without borders
A school, an educational project, a pedagogical system with its own characteristics, which will soon spread to different cities in France.
Jeanne, at her death on February 2, 1640, leaves 30 educational institutions established in France. The impact that this work produces in society leads public institutions to recognize the Order’s schools as a “public good”.
The story is not linear. The Company of Mary adapts, overcomes setbacks, is enriched by experience and, moved by the Spirit, in fidelity to the Gospel, responds to each new challenge, to each historical moment, to each context … The project has no borders.
We educate people, we transform the world
The Christian vision of the person, of life and of the world, the humanistic influence of Michel de Montaigne and the desire to collaborate in bringing about a more just and inclusive society, which makes the Kingdom of God visible, define the horizon of our educational action.