Saint of the Day – 16 July – St Marie-Madeline Postel (1756-1846) Religious Sister and Founder of the Sisters of Christian Schools of which she is the Patron, Teacher, Franciscan tertiary – born on 28 November 1756 at Barfleur, Normandy, France as Julie Françoise-Catherine Postel and died on 16 July 1846 at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicoste, France of natural causes. During the French Revolution she used her then-disbanded school to house fugitive priests despite the great risk that posed to her own life.
Julie Françoise-Catherine Postel was born on 28 November 1756 in Barfleur to the fisherman Jean Postel and Thérèse Levallois. She was the aunt to Blessed Placide Viel.
The Benedictine nuns oversaw her education in Valognes after her initial schooling and it was during that time that she discerned a call to serve God in the religious life. She took a private vow to remain chaste as a step forward in this dream.
In 1774, she founded a school for girls in Barfleur that became a centre for underground religious activities during the French Revolution, for those who were unwilling to support the new regime. This school had been shut down at the Revolution’s beginning. Authorisation was granted to her to keep the Blessed Sacrament in her house as the conflict continued and she carried it on her person at times to provide the Viaticum to those who were ill and at the verge of death. The Jacobins often suspected her but never made allegations and left her alone.
The end of the Revolution saw Blessed Marie-Madeline take up teaching and catechising in Cherbourg where she taught around 300 children. She made her religious profession into the Third Order of Saint Francis in 1798 (while assuming her religious name) and founded the Sisters of the Christian Schools (initally the words ‘of Mercy’ were added) in Cherbourg on 8 September 1807, which was initially rather slow to achieve success until 1832 when she acquired a derelict convent in St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte to use as her headquarters which then prompted growth within the order.
The Bishop of Coutances, Claude-Louis Rousseau issued diocesan approval for her order and it went on to receive the papal decree of praise from Pope Pius IX on 29 April 1859 and received full papal approval, much later, in 1901. The order based itself on the Rule of the Franciscan Third Order, though this later changed in 1837, to be based upon that of the De La Salle Brothers which also prompted a name change for the congregation.
Marie-Madeline died in 1846 but her order continues its work in places such as Romania and Mozambique and in 2005 had 442 religious in 69 different locations worldwide.
The cause for her Canonisation began under Pope Leo XIII on 27 July 1897, at which stage Postel became titled as a Servant of God. Pope Leo XIII later confirmed that Postel had lived a life of heroic virtue and named her as Venerable on 31 May 1903. Pope Pius X later signified on 22 January 1908 his approval to two investigated miracles attributed to her intercession and so Beatified her on 17 May 1908. Pope Pius XI confirmed two additional miracles and Canonised Blessed Marie-Madeline on 24 May 1925.
Below is the Church of St Marie-Madeline, her shrine and statue in the Church at St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte.