Our Mother House
The roots of our congregation began in Beignon.
Beignon is a small town in the Morbihan, Brittany, France. It is about 25 kilometres from Rennes; and it is surrounded by the river Aff. It is close to the Paimpont Forest and the military camp of Coetquidan.
Birth place of our founders of the sisters of Christian Instruction: Gabriel Deshayes and Michelle Guillaume.
Beignon is called and known as the “Cradle of the Congregation”.
The French Revolution had left this rural parish along with many others, in a state of great human and spiritual poverty.
Fr. Gabriel Deshayes, was very concerned and preoccupied with this situation. With Michelle Guillaume, local young women, who were desiring to enter religious life set up a school for instructing and catechising the young country girls.
Who are our founders?
Founder of the Sisters of Christian Instruction of St. Gildas des Bois. Born in 1767. His father was a farmer and also a village butcher.
He was ordained as a priest in Jersey in 1792. Co-founder with another priest Jean Marie de La Mennais of the Brothers of Christian Instruction of Ploermel.
He became Superior General of several congregations. These being; the Company of Mary, the Daughters of wisdom and of the brothers of St. Gabriel.
Gabriel Deshayes died in 1841 at St. Laurent sur Sèvre.
He was known for his great sense of humour and being a practical joker. He was a deep spiritual man, whose trust in God was total. By people he was referred as an Athlete of Christ.
Foundress of the Sisters of Christian Instruction of St. Gildas des Bois. Born in Beignon in 1779 in a family of lowly farmers.
She was encouraged by Gabriel Deshayes to open a school in her native village in 1807.
She belonged to the Third Order of Carmelites.
Made religious profession with her companions on November 8th 1820. Died in 1826 at the age of forty seven years.
Her last words remain alive in the memory of the sisters:
“Be always united by the tenderest love for one another”.
Gabriel Deshayes and Michelle Guillaume under the inspiration of the Spirit, and faced with religious ignorance in the country areas, founded a little school for the poor children of Beignon. With the apostolic zeal of Fr. Gabriel Deshayes and the openness of Michelle Guillaume to the will of God led to the birth of our Congregation. This spiritual experiences our founders has become, for each of us today, a light by which we respond to our Vocation in the Church and in our world. (Constitution No 3)
November 8th, 1820
From Beignon to St. Gildas des Bois
The ceremony of Religious profession took place on November 8th 1820, in the parish church of Beignon. Six women, “the first six sisters as they were called in the Congregation, entered that experience of Christian life in which the search for God becomes a priority. A search for God that does not remain in a monastery or in the desert, but by being a presence in the world and at the service of others.
On this day the “Sisters of Christian Instruction” was officially founded in the Church to contend against the human and religious ignorance that existed in the country areas at this time.
In the course of this year five young girls came to join the first six sisters and formed the “Noviciate”.
The same year, the founder Father Gabriel Deshayes was requested to turn his attention to the Montfortian Congregations. In January 1821, he was elected Superior of the Company of Mary and the Daughter of Wisdom.
The Institute, The Sisters of Christian Instruction was to move and develop in Nantes, but kept the strongly marked features of its origins: evangelical simplicity, spirit of faith, abandonment to God’s providence, apostolic daring and the love of the poor.
Due to the growth of the project congregation a new bigger house was founded to welcome the growing congregation. In May 1828, Fr, Gabriel Deshayes purchased the Benedicitine Abbey of St. Gildas des Bois which was abandoned since the revolution.
At the beginning of the 1830 , the project was leaning towards collapse due to lack of instruction and finan- cial means. Father Gabriel Deshayes who resided in St. Laurent sur Sèvre since 1821 asked the bishop of Nantes for a superior for St. Gildas. A Monseigneur Angebault was appointed.
Our Mother House
At Saint-Gildas-des-Bois, our Mother-House remains “the heart of our Congregation” where sisters from our different countries love to return to whenever possible. Around 170 Sisters live there, about half of them at the Maison Michelle Guillaume. Some of the Sisters are involved in the daily life of our Mother House with the help of lay staff who facilitate the smooth running of the place and contribute to the respect and dignity of all the Sisters until the end of their life.
The opportunities for returning to the Mother House are frequent: congregation assemblies, meetings for group reflection, visiting sisters, times of rest and renewal and Jubilee celebrations.
View our slide show for photos of our Mother House and past events.