Jeanne de Lestonnac
|Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac, O.D.N.|
Jeanne de Lestonnac praying with her Sisters to Our Lady, in the Church of St. Bruno, Bordeaux, France (17th century)
|Widow, religious and foundress|
December 27, 1556|
Bordeaux, Kingdom of France
|Died||February 2, 1640(aged 83)|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church
(Sisters of the Company of Mary, Our Lady)
|Beatified||1900 by Pope Leo XIII|
|Canonized||May 15, 1949 by Pope Pius XII|
|Patronage||abuse victims, people rejected by religious orders, widows|
Jeanne de Lestonnac, O.D.N., (December 27, 1556 – February 2, 1640), alternately known as Joan of Lestonnac, was a Roman Catholic saint and foundress of the Sisters of the Company of Mary, Our Lady, in 1607. They were the first religious order of women established to follow an apostolic way of life, not confined to confined to a cloister, to be approved by the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics claim that although she lived in the 17th century her body remains incorrupt.
De Lestonnac was born in Bordeaux in 1556 to Richard de Lestonnac, a member of the Parlement of Bordeaux, and Jeanne Eyquem, the sister of the noted philosopher, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne. She grew up in a time where the conflict between the Protestant reformists and the defenders of the Catholic faith was at its height. This was evident in her own family. While her mother became an enthusiastic Calvinist and tried to persuade her to convert, her father and her uncle Montaigne adhered to the Catholic faith and were her support in remaining a Catholic.
At the age of 17 De Lestonnac married Gaston de Montferrant, with whom she had seven children, several of which, however, died in infancy. She was married for 24 years before her husband died. This marked the beginning of a very painful period in her life, with the further loss, within seven months, of her father, uncle and eldest son.
Following her husband's death, at the age of 46 De Lestonnac turned to a contemplative life and entered the Cistercian Monastery in Toulouse where she was given the religious name of Jeanne of Saint Bernard. She found great peace and satisfaction in the monastic life, but, after six months, she became very ill and had to leave the monastery. She then went to live in her estate in the countryside of La Mothe to recover her health, and where she passed a period of deep discernment. During this time she envisioned the establishment of a new kind of religious community, whose essential task would availability to all those in need, most especially for the education of girls, which was a huge unmet need in the society of her day.
A few years later, in 1605, a plague broke out in Bordeaux. At risk to her own life, De Lestonnac returned to her native city to help care for the sick and suffering in the slums of the city. Through her manner and service, she attracted a number of young women, with whom she shared her vision and who indicated a willingness to join with her in this project. During this period, De Lestonnac was exposed to Ignatian spirituality through contact with several Jesuit priests. She found it to be in line with the spiritual longings and vision she already had. The Jesuits encouraged her to establish for girls in terms of formal education what they were doing for boys.
The following year, De Lestonnac drew up the Abrege, giving the outlines of the way of life which she and her followers proposed to follow. After initially meeting with resistance to its novelty, in 1607 she gained the approval of Pope Paul V of a religious order dedicated to the apostolic life of service. The community took the name of the Company of Mary, to reflect their sense of their lives imitating that of Mary, the mother of Jesus in her availability to the will of God, and to complement the Company of Jesus, as the Jesuits are called in the Spanish of their founder, Ignatius de Loyola. The first five members of the new order took their religious vows on December 10, 1610, and the community established its first school for girls in Bordeaux. By the time she died in 1640, at the age of 84, 30 houses existed in France.
De Lestonnac was beatified in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII and was canonized on May 15, 1949 by Pope Pius XII. Today her religious order has over 2,500 sisters and are found in 26 countries throughout Europe, Africa, North America and South America.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeanne de Lestonnac.|
- The Company of Mary Our Lady Official site
- Catholic Forum
- Works by or about Jeanne de Lestonnac in libraries (WorldCat catalog)