Foundress of The Sisters of the Child Jesus
Anne-Marie Martel was born in Le Puy, France in 1644. Le Puy is a picturesque medieval city in central France and Anne-Marie was the daughter of a Magistrate, a position of affluence and prestige. She could have lived a life of comfort and privilege. Instead her short life was spent in an extraordinary expression of love and service to God. This year (2005) the diocese of Le Puy has submitted her name to the Vatican to begin the process of beatification.
When she was only 21 years old (1666), Anne-Marie’s confessor, recognizing her exceptional devotion to God and knowing that she was well grounded in the doctrine of the faith, invited her to minister to the women in a small hospital for the destitute. Anne-Marie brought her burning desire to serve the Father to women who knew only physical and spiritual deprivation. She told them that each was beloved of God and taught them the fundamental precepts of the Catholic faith. Within a year, she was asked to teach catechism to street children. She was quickly joined in her work by others who responded to her passionate desire to serve God through love of the poor. The ministry expanded to the lace-makers of the area. Within three years these indomitable women were laboring throughout the city of Le Puy and many of the surrounding villages.
Anne-Marie died in 1673 at 27 years of age without knowing that she had, in fact, founded a community of Religious women. The Congregation received official approbation in 1676, the name The Ladies of Instruction of the Child Jesus was adopted in 1708 and the first Rule was written in 1730.
Just seven years of active ministry 1666 to 1673 and yet in this short time, Anne-Marie Martel’s life had an impact that is still echoing throughout the world. What is the source of such indestructible life and love? Anne-Marie carried a charism, a specific call from the Holy Spirit. This was a gift given to her by God and as are all of God’s gifts, it was given unconditionally. She was free to respond to it or not. The intensity of the influence Anne-Marie had on her world and into the future depended entirely on her freely given response to her charism. We of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Child Jesus describe Anne-Marie’s charism as “being a presence of love to the Father and to our brothers and sisters for the awakening and deepening of the faith.” We know that Anne-Marie inspired in others the same total response as she herself gave. Today, more than 300 years after this remarkable woman lived, we who share her charism, strive to emulate and keep alive the fire of her love.