France to the Philippines

"Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people." When the Blessed Virgin spoke these words to the shepherd children on the mountain she knew well that the simple children could only begin the work of telling her story to the world. Though no one then realized it, in all her wisdom she looked far across the mountains, over the vast seas, seeing scores of dedicated servants carrying her timeless message to all peoples everywhere – the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.
 
Since the Virgin first spoke to the shepherd children in 1846, it was not long until, at the end of the century, France was swept by an antireligious uprising striking at all Religious Orders. The relatively new community did not have the numbers, houses or strength to withstand the persecution of governmental legislation and the ensuing violence. 
 
The La Salette Superiors and the priests moved to the friendlier countries of Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. They left their beloved France not to abandon her but to preserve their strength so they could help her again when the time came to return. Meanwhile, the move turned the community's eyes toward other lands where they could bring the La Salette message to countless more of “her children” and in turn draw new strength for the community.

To the Americas

So it was that in 1892, Fathers Pajot and Vignon set sail for North America where, two weeks later, they landed in Montreal, Canada. They were warmly welcomed by the Archbishop but there were so many Religious Orders already part of the Archdiocese that the Bishop had to refuse them a permanent residence and ministry.
 
(l to r) Frs. Vignon and Pajot, the first two
La Salettes who came to North America.
With characteristic La Salette fortitude and faith, the two priests set out for the United States though they knew only a few words of English. In the United States they met with Bishops of New York, Brooklyn, Albany, Syracuse, Ogdensburg and Newark, New Jersey. All welcomed the priests of La Salette but all had valid reasons why it was impossible to accept their community in their diocese. 
 
But then, undoubtedly guided by the presence of Mary, the two priests stopped at Hartford, Connecticut, where at the Cathedral they met Father William Harty, a member of the Bishop's Council.  Father Harty had promised the Blessed Virgin to work for the establishment of a religious congregation devoted to her and therefore he welcomed the two priests as envoy of his promise.
 
It was not long before the Congregation was received into the Diocese of Hartford, their first firm root in the United States. But this root was to grow rapidly as the Fathers not only staffed a parish in Hartford, preached retreats and missions, but spread the warmth of the La Salette Story, the wondrous story of the two children who triumphed over all small and cynical people through devotion to Our Lady.

To the Philippines

Most Rev. Constance Jurgens,
D.D., a Belgian CICM,
Bishop of the Diocese of
Tuguegarao, Cagayan Province
Soon after its creation in 1945, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Province , with ministries and offices within in the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, immediately began community discernment vis-a-vis its missionary zeal and undertaking. Their deliberations came down to a choice between helping in Madagascar or implanting the La Salette presence in a different country. The province opted to respond to the urgent plea for personnel from the Most Rev. Constance Jurgens, D.D., a Belgian CICM, Bishop of the Diocese of Tuguegarao (Cagayan Province), especially to minister in the province of Isabela where parishes and big communities were left without priests. 
 
Bishop Jurgens knew of the La Salettes because many of the older members of the La Salette province had studied in Belgium, and where he would have extended the invitation to Fr. Elmeric Dubois, M.S., the IHM Provincial Superior. After a well-received visit, Fr. Dubois made the determination to accept Isabela from Jones to Gamu by way of San Mateo.
 
In 1948, Fr. Joseph Imholf, M.S., the La Salette Superior General, granted the permission to the Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to establish a La Salette foothold in the Philippines. On November 5, 1948, four La Salette Missionaries, Fr. Conrad Blanchet, Fr. Raymond Leduc, Fr. Paul Douillard and Bro. Donat Levasseur left by boat from New York via the Panama Canal, taking six weeks to reach Manila. They reached Manila on December 12. They finally arrived in Santiago, Isabela on the 22nd of December 1948. And, my, how we’ve grown!
Solemn High Departure Mass for the Philippines in the Enfield, NH, chapel, for four La Salettes:
(l to r) Bro. Donat Levasseur, Master of Ceremonies; Fr. Raymond Leduc, Deacon;
Fr. Conrad Blanchet, Main Celebrant; Fr. Paul Douillard, Subdeacon.
 
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