Summary: St John Eudes, Priest. Born in Normandy (France) in 1601; died at Caen on this day in 1680. Originally an Oratorian, he was active in preaching missions and in caring for the sick. Founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (Eudists) which is dedicated to the formation of presbyters, and helped to begin a community of women religious (now known as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd) to care for wayward women. Noted also for his promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
St John Eudes preached vigorously against Jansenism in France and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary for the reform of the clergy. He also promoted devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Patrick Duffy outlines his achievements.
Joins the Oratorians of France
John Eudes was born at Ri, Normandy, France, on November 14, 1601, the son of a farmer. He went to the Jesuit college at Caen when he was 14, and despite his parents’ wish that he marry, joined the Congregation of the Oratory of France founded by Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629) in 1623. He studied at Paris and at Aubervilliers, was ordained in 1625, and worked as a volunteer, caring for the victims of the plagues that struck Normandy in 1625 and 1631. He spent the next ten years giving missions, and had a reputation as an outstanding preacher and confessor and for his opposition to Jansenism. He was named superior of the Oratorians at Caen.
Started a refuge for fallen women
John Eudes became interested in the plight of fallen women, and in 1644 founded a refuge for them in Caen. At first it was called the Work of our Lady of Charity (or of Refuge). This order had many difficulties in getting approval, but after many ups and downs it was re-founded at Angers, France in 1835 by St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier and became known as the Good Shepherd Sisters. The contemporary focus of their work is towards the human, social and spiritual development of women and girls. It aims to empower them, to enhance their dignity, support self-sufficiency, and build esteem in women and girls who have been excluded from the benefits of society. Today they number almost 4,000, and are present in 70 countries on five continents.
Founded his own Congregation of Jesus and Mary (CJM – the Eudists)
John Eudes resigned from the Oratorians in 1643 and founded his own society, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (CJM – the Eudists) at Caen, composed of secular priests not bound by vows, dedicated to the spiritual and doctrinal formation of priests and candidates to the priesthood, while pursuing the work of parish missions. The Oratorians and the Jansenists opposed his congregation, and he was unable to obtain papal approval for it. However, in 1650 the Bishop of Coutances invited him to start a seminary in his diocese. John founded seminaries at Lisieux in 1653 and Rouen in 1659, although he was unsuccessful in a second attempt to secure papal approval for his congregation. However, he continued giving missions and established new seminaries at Evreux in 1666 and Rennes in 1670.
Devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
John Eudes shared with St. Mary Margaret Alacoque the honour of initiating devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Heart of Mary. He composed the Mass for the Sacred Heart in 1668. He wrote works to popularise these devotions – The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus (1670) and The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God, which he finished a month before his death at Caen on August 19th.
The French Revolution
On the eve of the French Revolution (1789), Eudists directed some fifteen seminaries as well as a few colleges and parishes. The Revolution closed the houses and scattered the members. Four of them, including François-Louis Hébert, coadjutor to the Superior General, were martyred in Paris and beatified in 1926.
Slowly and with great difficulty, the Congregation was restored in 1826 by one of its former members, Father Pierre Blanchard. The Eudists then concentrated their efforts on the urgent task of providing Christian education in colleges. From 1883 on, the opening of several seminaries in Colombia made it possible for them to resume the traditional work of their society. In 1890, they settled in Canada.
Four provinces today
Today the Congregation of Jesus and Mary is organised in four provinces around the world, namely: the French Province (France, Ivory Coast, Bénin), the Colombian Province (Colombia, Ecuador), the North American Province (Canada, United States) and the Venezuelan Province.