Heritage and Spirituality
Marie France Correau RSHM
During the Easter season, on the 4th Sunday, the Church invites us to meditate on the Good Shepherd.
We know how central this figure is to our Founder John Gailhac’s spirituality.
He said in one of his conferences:
« It is always with renewed joy that, every year, we hear Our Saviour Jesus repeat this name that he gave himself: I am the Good Shepherd. This sweet name inspires neither fear nor worry. It inspires only trust and love.
At a very young age, John Gailhac followed the one who is the only Shepherd, his beloved teacher and inspirational guide: “It is only on condition that my life will be to love Him and make Him loved that I accepted to be ordained a priest.”
Following Jesus and doing as he did, Gailhac never ceases to promote life, encourage people to be fully alive, so that they too may “gi in and go out and find nourishment” (Jn 10, 9) especially the little ones, the forsaken ones.
We know about the first tasks of the young priest at the hotel-dieu in Beziers and his decision in 1834 to start a refuge for women leaving prostitution. That house was called the Good Shepherd and Rosa do Carmo calls it the cradle of the new Institute.
In fact, when John Gailhac, with his bishop’s encouragement, decided to found the Congregation of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary to assume the responsibility of the Refuge, it was on the 13 of April 1850, the eve of Good Shepherd Sunday, that the first sisters received the habit from his hands.
On that day, one of his friends gave the homily and detailed the spirit of the Institute in the following terms: “cooperate to save the world in following in faith Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd; in continuing the mission of JC, and like him, do good to all, without shirking sacrifice, always looking out for those in most need of help. Lay down your life so that all may have access to true life.” The sisters took their vows on 4th May 1851, Good Shepherd Sunday.
Father Gailhac wanted the community he has just founded to be assisted by priests who have the same spirit. Therefore, he begins at the same time a Congregation of Good Shepherd Priests: “This name would spell out for them what their zeal should be, their devotion to the Glory of God, the salvation of souls; in a word, it should remind them all the time of the goal of their vocation.” ****
In volume 1, A Journey in Faith and Time, Sr. Rosa do Carmo Sampaio dedicates a chapter to the Priests of the Good Shepherd. She describes the life and mission that were entrusted to this congregation which had only a limited number of members, but whose ministry “gave great support to the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Mary under the generalate of Mother St. John.”
In Béziers, there is still the chapel of the Good Shepherd which Father Gailhac had wanted to build in the priests’ conventual house. Inaugurated on April 18, 1863, the day before the Good Shepherd’s feast day, it is now the property of the city *****. Its apse overlooks the garden of the RSCM community that lives at 6 rue du Bon Pasteur.The central window of this apse shelters, intact, a stained glass window painted with the effigy of the Good Shepherd carrying the lost sheep on his shoulders (see photo)…reminder in image of a Word that makes me live, that questions me and evangelizes me, a Word that we received to become disciples-missionaries where we live: “I have come so that all may have life and have it to the full. (Jn 10 :10)
** A journey in faith and time Vol.1 p 33
*** Supra p 90-92
****Maymard, p 197-198
***** See website : Chapelle Bon Pasteur Béziers -Pastorale Tourisme et Loisirs Diocèse de Montpellier