La Salette Worldwide

I am one of some 850 La Salette Missionaries currently ministering in 27 countries, including the missions Untitled-1Fr. “Mémé” Rakotondraibe, M.S., Provincial Superior of Madagascar Provinceof Madagascar, Angola, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Philippines, Myanmar, India and Haiti, bringing the message of reconciliation to the hearts and homes of people to whom we minister.

As Director of the La Salette MIssion Center in St. Louis, MO, USA, I was fortunate to visit the La Salette mission on the Island of Madagascar a few years ago. I left St. Louis, Missouri and twenty-two hours later arrived in Antananarive, the island’s capital city.

Fr. Mémé Rakotondraibe, M.S., the Provincial Superior of the La Salette Province of Madagascar, was my guide and translator throughout my trip. Among the stops on my trip was Antsirabe, located about one hundred miles from Antananarivo, which was where the La Salette Missionaries began their work in Madagascar almost a century ago.

It was an eye-opener for me. It lies in the Indian Ocean off the southwest coast of Africa. Twice the size of Arizona, it is the world's fourth-largest island and has a population of more than 22 million people. Half the country's population is Christian, and the other half practices traditional Malagasy religion. Around 92 percent live on less than $2 per day, only 6.8 percent have access to clean water, and 9.5 percent have access to consistent electricity.

 

Good Servants for Almost a Century

Untitled-1The yearly Blessing of the Horses on the Holy Mountain in FranceSome people have been writing to ask me what’s happening here on the Holy Mountain of La Salette. Well, the Shrine officially closed the 2015 Pilgrimage Season on November 11th and we had a very busy year.

 

Various Feasts and Groups of Pilgrims

 

In August and September, we had some very important religious events at the Shrine: the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, August 15. It is our biggest pilgrimage. Why August 15th and not September 19th, which is the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette?

Everyone in Europe is on vacation in August and children are out of school. August 15th is much like our July 4th in the U.S. Although France is a very secularized country – much more than in the U.S. – they still keep all the religious feasts plus national holidays, the best of both worlds. André Armand Vingt-Trois, Cardinal of Paris, was here on August 15th to lead our celebration.

If, as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention (and innovation),” we can understand why the first missionaries in Africa and Madagascar instituted a new ministry for laypeople, a ministry that still exists today, called “the Lay Catechist”.

 

A Much-Needed Ministry

 

The need for it is clear. As one priest was covering vast areas with sometimes hundreds of dispersed rural villages it was impossible for the one priest to assure the pastoral care of fifty of sixty communities, considering roads were non-existent and rivers did not have bridges.
Untitled-1Catechists in Madagascar: (lleft) School for Catechists in 1940; (right) Fr. Jeremy Morais, M.S., with his Catechists in Ankavandra
The catechist is actually a church leader and shepherd, although not an ordained minister. Therefore he is serving the community from the basic nature and normal demands of baptism. He was given a very vital serious responsibility in the Catholic community as a co-worker and ambassador of the priest. Not only does he preside and animate the Sunday Liturgy of the Word and homily when a priest is not able to be present, but he prepares the faithful for the reception of various sacraments. Baptisms, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage preparation are his responsibility.

The missionary on his visits meets with the various candidates and decides when the sacraments will be administered, confidant that the Catechist will continue to assure the preparation. Except for urgent baptisms, all sacraments will be celebrated by the priest on his visits to the Christian community. This will vary greatly depending on road conditions and the importance of the community.

About nine years ago, I was invited to serve as the Director of Communications for our Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas. From our beginnings we have grown a great deal.

digital-worldWe began with a very simple website (www.lasalette.org) and welcomed about 18,000 visitors a year to our site. In 2014 we welcomed about 300,00 visitors. And finally in 2015 we have grown to welcome about 550,000 visitors to our site!

We offer countless thousands of pictures to view of our alumni, our history and our various La Salette ministries around the world, past and present. In addition we have an archive of over 1,300 articles on the La Salette Apparition, the ministry of reconciliation and our Marian spirituality. Some articles have been visited over 83,000 times!

Since we as La Salettes have hosted about thirteen seminaries in various parts of the country over our nearly 115 years of ministry in North America, we have lots of alumni, whom we invite to look over their school pictures and yearbooks online and get in touch with wonderful memories. Our website visitors include people from as close as New England to as far away as India, Russia and China, Alaska and Australia.

When one travels from Grenoble to La Salette, passing the town of La Mure and past the dizzying banks of Pont-Haut (High Bridge), one quickly arrives at the quiet little hamlet of Charlet.
Untitled-1(from left) Charlet Family crest; Charlet Family Chapel on road to La Salette in France.
In the early nineteenth century a local family founded this hamlet on a site which rich in water and a wooden construction built for a master baker and carpenter. This hamlet is part of the nearby municipality of Saint-Laurent in Beaumont. The local Fuzat household, the founders, had four children, with three boys, two of which went to war in 1870.

The third boy became a priest, and was pastor of Viriville at the foot of the Chambaran plateau in the region of Isère. That priest made a vow to build a chapel at Charlet on the pilgrimage route to the Holy Mountain of La Salette if his brothers returned safely from the war. That they did.

This chapel was therefore dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette. The façade of the chapel was crowned with the Conversation Scene of the Beautiful Lady of La Salette in conversation with the two little shepherds and can be seen from miles away.

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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.”