La Salette Worldwide
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Icon of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

I remember a special event of some years ago. In a country where ancestral worship is an essential tenet of the traditional religion (animism), it is not surprising that the relic of St. Thérèse of Lisieux would provoke popular interest and enthusiasm in Madagascar. For over a month the relic traveled by helicopter to the four corners of the island.

In every diocese tremendous crowds came out to acclaim and praise God’s love revealed in St. Theresa. The Diocese of Morondava was scheduled to host the relic for only one day but, because of sudden inclement weather, the relic remained in Morondava an extra 24 hours, thus disrupting the schedule for the remainder of the visit.

Though many cures and miracles were reported during the month long visit, during which over four million people venerated the relic, only one miracle has an authentic medical certificate signed by a high ranking Protestant University Professor from Antananarivo. A ten year old girl – Priscilla – was cured in Antananarivo, and she is from the town of Mahabo in the diocese of Morondava.

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Bro. David Guia, M.S., a  
tropical medicine specialist

It all began in 1965 with a simple apostolic endeavor. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary worked in the local government hospital in Morondava, Madagascar from Monday to Friday. On Saturday afternoons they would go out into the nearby countryside on Saturday afternoon to teach catechism. Sometimes Srs. Claire, Antonia, Theresa and Martha would have the people act out Gospel scenes – perhaps Jesus healing a sick person, giving sight to the blind, curing a fever.

The Sisters realized it was fine to enact those scenes, but there were real sick people among those present who needed medical attention but had no means of procuring medication. It wasn’t very long before one or two Sisters taught catechism while the others dispensed pills, gave shots, cleaned infections, dressed and bandaged wounds – all from the trunk of their small Renault 4L. Soon those seeking medication outnumbered those learning catechism.


A Tribute to the Life and Ministry of Bp. Thomas A. Newman, M.S. 

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Ordination picture of
Fr. Thomas Newman, M.S.

There are certain people who seem to be admired even by everyone. Bishop Thomas A. Newman, M.S., was just such a man. The following is a sermon given at his Funeral Mass in March, 1978, delivered by Very Rev. Fr. Frederick R. Flaherty, M.S., our La Salette Provincial at that time. It summarizes well the great qualities and accomplishments of this man from Waterbury, CT., who went on to serve God as priest and bishop for many years in Burma (now Myanmar).

In her much admired novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather describes the missionary life of a French bishop, Jean Latour, among the Indians and poor Mexicans of the southwest. In telling the story of Bishop Latour's struggles she pays a sensitive and sympathetic tribute to all people who live out an adventure of spirit, who accept the absolute reality of Christ's gospel.

The missionary tradition of accepting the absolute reality of Christ's gospel is as old as the Church. There have been numberless missionaries since Paul of Tarsus who have gone forth in this fashion and the record is studded with inspiring names. Bishop Newman belonged to this tradition.

In 1937 Father Newman was teaching philosophy at the major seminary in Altamont, N.Y. He was ordained already eight years, and even then his contemporaries saw in him a priest of great promise. He would certainly be called to accomplish important tasks in the affairs and councils of the community. But other voices were calling, and they came from far away.

Untitled-1.jpgIn her conversation with Mélanie and Maximin, the Beautiful Lady of La Salette refers to the families of their own time, and to their difficulties in life: famine, the death of small children, parents’ worries about feeding their family.

“Come near, children.”

Did Mélanie ever think of her house affectionately as her home? We do not know. As for Maximin, we are better informed, since the Beautiful Lady reminded him of a past conversation with his father, “Here, my child, eat some bread this year at least; I don't know who will eat any next year.” The wheelwright Giraud feared that his family soon would have no bread to eat, because the wheat harvest had gone bad. For the family of Mélanie, it was permanent misery. Her father did not have regular job. Mélanie had to leave the family home in early childhood, placed as a shepherd in farms of the surrounding villages. When one is in trying circumstances, even one less mouth to feed counts!

"In his own image he made them, male and female he created them.”

In her message, Mary speaks about the "six days” that God has given to us to work. At the ages of Maximin and Mélanie, Mary understood that they had learned in their catechism that God has created the world in six days, and, on the sixth day, God had endowed humankind with an intelligence and the ability to work. Such gifts could only give rise to feelings of gratefulness thanksgiving!

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Cooperation has always been the Mission of the Church.  After all, it is Christ’s mission handed over to us, the baptized, to bring to fulfillment. At times it seemed that the mission was coming to a close. The “world” consisted of the Mediterranean basin and adjoining lands in Asia, Africa and Europe. Then they learned that the world was much bigger than previously thought. And the scope of Christ’s mission was enlarged to include the “new world.”

Inspired by the Spirit that opened the hearts of the Apostles at Pentecost, various missionary groups sprang up in the Church. Many had the burning desire to dedicate their lives while reaching out to save the “pagans” who knew nothing about Christ. Even though certain missionary congregations were give specific territories to evangelize, the prevailing attitude was that this is Christ’s work.

 

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”