Sr Marie-Dosithée


Marie-Louise Guérin

We learn a lot by reading her letters. In her circular we also discover rich information about her and at the same time about Zélie because half of the text is devoted to her life before entering the convent. The circular (biography) was destined in the first place for other Visitation convents. Was it also sent to the family? If yes, did the Martin girls read it?

She was born in Saint Denis-sur-Sarthon, a little town in Normandy not far from Alençon. Very active and exuberant, little Louise was soon the eldest of three children. Mme Guérin placed the little girl in a little secular boarding school in Alençon where the child studied with enthusiasm. She took her out of there after several months, preferring to entrust her as well as her little sister Zélie to the instruction of the Religious of Perpetual Adoration until she was fifteen years old. She returned to the house to serve as the maid, as a mother and the teacher of little Isidore---a role that she took on for a long time; one simply has to read the letters she wrote to Isidore when he was in Paris!

But with years, a taste for religious life grew in her, a desire so keen that she felt ready to run away like Teresa of Avila as a child, to enter the Poor Clares. But Marie-Louise’s mother decided that her girls would learn needle work and she actively encouraged them. Zélie took a liking to it and told her mother that she wished to open a lacemaking workshop. The point d’Alençon kept many young girls busy in town; it was the industrial wealth of the area. Madame Guérin approved of the project, but on the condition that Marie-Louise take responsibility for the business. So the two young Guérin ladies started up their little business by choosing workers, putting them to work and soon learning how to sell a considerable work. The sale: there was the difficulty in a little provincial town where few fortunes were great enough to buy high-priced lace. Marie-Louise bravely decided to leave for Paris in order to suggest that some commercial firm buy their lace. It was difficult but shortly after, a big company in Paris promised to do business regularly with the young Martin ladies.

But now a first bout of tuberculosis pushed Marie-Louise from the business; she prayed and promised God to become a religious if the healing happened. Perfectly restored, she entered at age 29 into the Visitation of Mans on April 7th, 1858, declaring, ”I have come here to be a saint!” She did well there, despite the fears of her family who suspected the opposite. After a week, Madame Guérin, worried, rushed to the Visitation to bring back her daughter at any price. But the energetic Sister Louise, claiming that never would her foot cross the cloister door, put an end to maternal struggles. The happy postulant pursued her try in peace. Following were years that were rich in religious life and a good relationship with her family. The tuberculosis continued its work, in the shadow. Each winter saw a persistent cough return to Sister Marie-Dosithée, often accompanied by fever and spitting up blood. The last year, after several months in the infirmary, she died on February 24th, 1877. 

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