In 1794, during the French Revolution, a young Claudine Thévenet experienced a violent tragedy in her family. Her brothers were killed in a moment of social and political chaos. Before she watched them be publicly executed, they told her something very simple: “forgive!”
In the years after that terrible experience. Claudine was able to fulfill her brothers’ last wishes by turning to her faith. It is certain that Claudine spent time reflecting on the lessons and skills that the sisters had taught her when she was a student in the convent school. From her Catholic faith and her education as a young woman, she was prepared to understand and carry out her brothers’ request.
Claudine’s instinct was to gather friends to live out the mission her brothers gave her. She sought to show “forgiveness” by tending to the needs she saw in the broken world around her. Claudine and her small group of companions in faith decided that serving the needs of the people around them was their means of responding to God’s merciful love, which was the source of her brothers’ last wishes, just as Jesus had said “forgive them” from the cross.
History remembers Claudine and her early companions because a priest, Fr. André, invited their small group to expand their work. This invitation to organize and do more led to Claudine’s community growing and their mission spreading. The Church enabled Claudine and her companions to become the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary.
In 1842, less than twenty-five years after the congregation was founded, the first RJM sisters went on mission to India. Since then, the RJM have established communities in mission in 29 countries.
In 1877, the Religious of Jesus and Mary from Canada responded to an invitation to come to Massachusetts to serve families of French-speaking migrant workers. The RJM continued to establish communities in mission serving people in need in many regions of the United States. They were blessed with many young women, especially alumnae of their schools, who joined in the RJM community as sisters and gave their lives to Claudine’s mission of making God’s merciful love known.
In 1971, the Religious of Jesus and Mary in the United State made a bold choice to invite and enable more people to be part of their communal mission. By creating the QUEST Volunteer Program, many people, especially the young, have had the opportunity to live God’s merciful love through serving people in need as part of a community with the RJM sisters.
In 1996, the sisters of the US Province met to think and pray about how best to live their communal mission in the world of that time, just as Claudine had done in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Again, the RJM made a bold choice and decided to take their communal mission to one of the poorest places in the world, Haiti, a nation beset by social and political chaos.
Now, for over 25 years, the RJM sisters and many volunteers and partners have been building communities of mission in several parts of Haiti. Starting in 1997 with just three sisters responding to the invitation to go, the province has enabled the people of Haiti in Gros Morne, Jean-Rabel, and Port-au-Prince to create and sustain early childhood programs, schools, health care services, adult and family training, as well as to support environmentally sustainable agriculture and to help women and others in need find sustainable and dignified work.
What the Religious of Jesus and Mary have done with the Haitian people has only been possible because friends, like you, have responded to God’s merciful love in their own ways and have joined Claudine’s community in mission. Whether as volunteers and partners on the ground in Haiti, as donors of any amount, or even just as people who have taken the time to look at our newsletters and offer a simple prayer, many people have been part of our RJM community in mission.
The sisters of what we now call the USA-Haiti Province, are incredibly proud of the ways that we have expanded upon St. Claudine Thévenet’s vision to make Jesus and Mary known in Haiti for the last 25+ years!
Our faith, however, impels us to look forward and we want to sustain our communal mission in Haiti for years to come.
We hope and that the political and safety situation in Haiti will allow us to invite and enable volunteers to go back to Haiti soon.
Even without the ability to send volunteers over the last few years, the RJM and the people of Haiti themselves have kept the communal mission going despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and the total collapse of the Haitian government.
Having faithful friends as part of the RJM community in mission, like you, is a major reason for our ability to make God’s love known through Jesus and Mary in real ways in Haiti for over 25 years!
Together with some of our friends …
In each of the last few years, just a few hundred supporters have been part of making the RJM mission in Haiti possible through modest donations. Over the last year, friends like you gave almost $195,000 in donations. However, the year before last, our community of supporters blessed us with over $220,000 for the Haiti mission.
As the RJM are looking forward, we are very intentionally trying to invite and enable our friends to a deeper level of partnership in our community in mission, just as Claudine did so long ago in France.
We hope to be able to invite you to join us as a volunteer soon, but in the meantime, we are inviting you to pray with us for the RJM sisters and companions in ministry as well as for the people of Haiti. We are also inviting you to make a financial donation of any size, if you are able.
Looking back at your generosity over the last few years and considering the real world costs to sustain the RJM community and ministries in Haiti, we are asking you to help us raise $225,000 by September, 2024.
This is a little over $25,000 more than what was given this past year. But, we have faith because we know that in the recent past we raised nearly this amount because of generous friends like you.
We recently invited a Secular Franciscan named Toby Harkleroad to join our community as our Director of Mission Advancement. He has worked hard behind the scenes over the summer updating our databases, renewing our website and social media, and adding new tools to enable you to give financially in convenient ways.
As we move forward, with Toby’s help, we are going to improve the ways we communicate with our community of supporters so that you can better understand just how important your prayers and donations are in making God’s mercy known in Haiti and in our other ministries.
Look for messages from us coming through the mail, email, and social media in the weeks and months to come about the RJM mission and ministries. In the meantime, we ask you to explore our website www.rjmusa.org to learn more about what the RJM USA-Haiti Province has done and is doing in all of the places where our community in mission serves.
Also, please reach out to us at www.rjmusa.org/contact to provide us with any information that will help us keep you as a vital part of our community … updates to your address, prayer requests, or any ideas or questions that you have. We also invite you to support the RJM mission and ministries through prayer, we know that what we accomplish is only possible because of God’s merciful goodness!
Finally, if you are able, our website allows you to give today or set up recurring donations by credit card, debit card, check, or even with Apple Pay by going to www.rjmusa.org/donate or you can always send a check to the address on our donation page.
We are deeply grateful for experiencing the merciful love of God through your partnership and support! As a community, we continue to carry out St. Claudine Thévenet’s mission to make Jesus and Mary known, even in challenging places like Haiti. We pray to God that along with volunteers, partners, and supporters like you, we will continue the RJM mission and ministries for many years to come!
Lwanj Pou Jezi ak Mari Pou Tout Tan Gen Tan!
Haitian Creole: “Praised Forever be Jesus and Mary!”