July 16

St. Mary Magdalen Postel

1756 - 1846

Born at Barfleur, Normandy, France, November 28, 1756; died at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, July 16, 1846; canonized 1925; feast day formerly on July 16.

Julia Frances Catherine Postel was educated at the Benedictine convent at Valognes. At age 18, she opened a girls' school at Barfleur in France. When the French Revolution broke out, the revolutionaries closed the school and she became a leader in the underground Church. Under the stairs of her home, she created a secret chapel where priests could say Mass for those who refused to recognize the 'constitutional' clergy imposed by the state. During that time she was (like other women elsewhere under abnormal conditions) given charge of the reserved Eucharist and allowed to minister it to the sick.

Only when the pope made a concordat with Napoleon in 1801 could Julie take up teaching again as her life's work. Then, at the age of 51, she decided to set up a group of religious women to teach the young, inspire them to love God, and help the poor in their misery.

In 1807, Julie and three other teachers took religious vows before Abbé Cabart, who had encouraged her in her work. Julie also took a new name, Mary Magdalen Postel. Sister Mary Magdalen reopened her school at Cherbourg, which became the foundation of the Sisters of the Christian Schools of Mercy. She was named superior of the community.

Within three years 200 girls were being educated. For some time Sister Mary Magdalen Postel and her nine fellow teachers lived in great poverty in a barn next to their schoolroom. These earlier years were discouraging but Sister Mary Magdalen refused to give up. The community was forced to move several times before it settled at Tamersville in 1815.

Whatever work they could find--as farm-laborers, seamstresses, etc.--was eagerly seized so that they could carry on with their teaching. But their tenacity triumphed. In 1830, they moved into an abandoned, derelict abbey at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte near Coutances. The congregation was formally recognized seven years later.

Mary Magdalen died at the age of 90, having seen the ruined abbey rebuilt and her community spreading the Christian Gospel ever farther afield. She is venerated for her holiness and miracles