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30 August 2019

Bicentenary of the Faithful Companions of Jesus: 1820-2020

The Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus is approaching a significant landmark in its life and history: 200 years since its foundation in Amiens, France, in 2020. For the FCJs, their friends, colleagues and associates, celebrations will begin on the Foundress’s birthday, 21 September 2019, and end on the Feast of Christ the King, 22 November 2020.

Historical background

Marie Madeleine de Bengy was born in the small town of Chȃteauroux, near Bourges in central France, in 1781 and was brought up in the social and religious turmoil that followed the French Revolution. She married Joseph de Bonnault d’Houët in 1804, but a year later, the marriage came to an untimely end when Joseph died of typhoid; their son Eugène was born three months after his father’s death.

A young, sorrowing widow, Marie Madeleine was reluctant at first to believe that God was calling her to a radical life of prayer and service in the Church and world of her time. Gradually, with God’s help and the guidance of her Jesuit spiritual directors, she began to discern the path ahead more clearly. Finally, in 1820, at the age of 38, having attended to her son’s education and future, she opened a school in Amiens, thus marking the foundation of the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. ‘My name is Magdalen’, she said. ‘I will follow my patron saint, who so loved Jesus as to accompany him in his journeys and his labours, ministering to him even at the foot of the Cross with the other holy women who did not abandon him but proved to be his faithful companions’.

Before her death in 1858, Marie Madeleine founded schools and orphanages not only in France, but also in England, Switzerland, Italy and Ireland. Since then the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus has continued to spread, with foundations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Scotland, USA, Belgium, the Channel Islands, Sierra Leone, Argentina, Indonesia, Philippines, Romania and Myanmar.

Website of the congregation: www.fcjsisters.org