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our Foundresses
......Victoire de St. Luc


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Our Foundresses

At the origin of La Retraite is the inspiration of Catherine de Francheville and her confidence in God’s saving love.

Born in 1620 in Truscat, Brittany, Catherine grew up the youngest in a family of six children. Following a severe illness in her 20’s, Catherine’s faith deepened. Gradually she became more and more interested in finding ways of giving herself to the service of God. She resisted expectations on her to marry until the death of her parents. Then, at 35, she agreed to marry and went to Rennes to greet her suitor, only to find his funeral cortège coming out to meet her! Out of this shocking moment came Catherine’s decision to remain single and find a way of committing everything to God’s service.

Catherine de Francheville
in painting of Madonna & child

She took up residence in Vannes and for 5 years sought her way, all the while welcoming the destitute into her house and donating her fortune to worthy causes. Catherine’s life decision to dedicate herself to God and neighbour concretized in 1665 when she became involved in the ‘missions’. From that moment forwards she gave her life to working for the spiritual growth and development of individuals and groups. Following many difficulties her retreat house for women was finally established permanently in 1673.

Once established it became clear to Catherine that a community would be needed to ensure the continued running of the retreats. Collaborators were not hard to find and soon there were more requests than personnel needed to run the house.

One such person was Claude Thérèse de Kermeno. Since Catherine had enough personnel for the retreat house in Vannes, she invited Claude Thérèse to stay with her in order to learn from the experience of the community in Vannes. Following this time of instruction and training, Claude Thérèse returned to her native Quimper to open a retreat house there. A second retreat house was soon born! It quickly became established and flourished right up until the moment when the French Revolution forcibly disbanded the community.