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The creators of unity

Our inspiration

Monseigneur Pierre Louis Parisis

monseigneur parisisDuring his first pastoral tour of the main towns in his diocese, Monseigneur Parisis, the Bishop of Arras, was struck by the isolation of some religious establishments.

He met the Franciscans in Arras, Lens, Béthune, Aire-sur-la-Lys, Saint-Omer, Montreuil-sur-Mer and Calais. There was no relationship being upheld between any of them. Each establishment was independent and autonomous. People living in a manner that was difficult to reconcile with the obligations of a religious life, as they were under the control of the local authorities.

This gave Monsignor Parisis an objective: to reunite these Franciscan communities, establish a Parent Establishment with a General Superior, maintaining their independence and their dignity and re-instilling the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi.


Monsignor Adolphe Duchenne

Born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, to a family of ship-owners. His father was a captain for many years.
The day after his ordination in 1837, he was sent to Saint-Omer general hospital, where he looked after orphaned and abandoned children.

monseigneur duchenneThree years later, he arrived in Calais and stayed there until his death.
He knew the Franciscan nuns in Saint-Omer and Calais, and recognised why religious spirit was faltering: reduced prayer times, reduced novitiate time…
He came to the same conclusions as Monsignor Parisis, and sought to rekindle the pure Franciscan spirit and place the nuns under the authority of a single overarching body.

Monsignor Duchenne went to the Capucins, who returned to Paris following the revolution of 1848, in order to get into the Franciscan spirit. He studied the Rule of the Third Order with the superior of the Calais Hospice, Mother Louise Mabille, and led all the members of the community in Calais to renew their vows of "living in obedience, without property and in chastity, following the Rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis" …this aggregation took place on 26 October 1852.

On 4 October 1852, Father Duchenne was tasked by Monsignor Parisis with reuniting the Franciscan communities within the diocese.
The Sisters of Calais were Franciscan and would become the core of the future Congregation.

"Once we were brought together under the same spirit, the strength, mercy and charity would lead the great Franciscan family, our beloved Congregated."
Father Duchenne
(28 August 1860)

Mother Louise Mabille

mere mabilleBorn in Boulogne-sur-Mer on 22 May 1799, she became a nun in Calais at the Franciscan Sisters. Upon joining the sisterhood on 4 October 1825, she was assigned to the Civil Hospice in Calais.

Appointed Superior of the Hospice in 1851, she would go on to work towards the reuniting of the seven independent Franciscan houses in the Pas de Calais region. At the same time as Monsignor Duchenne, she studied the Rule and deepened the Franciscan spirit.

Mother Louise was appointed the first General Superior on 30 May 1854. She was encouraged a union through her calm and retiring temperament, through her prudence and wisdom, and through her force of will.

"We are all members of a single body who must help each other and lead each other.
Each and every one of us must work in the way that God has chosen for us; He will be at our side, so that there will be no difficulties we cannot overcome. He will hold us by the hand, so that we follow his path."
Sister Louise Mabille
(First General Superior, June 1854)

CALAIS, cradle of the Congregation

The Congregation was born in Calais. The first house, the Hospice was then in the town of Saint Pierre les Calais. This is where Mother Louise lived and worked with Monsignor Duchenne to encourage the union of the seven houses.

In 1856, the parent house and the novitiate were set up in another area of the town, due to the small size of the first house.

Trials, wars, changes…

Throughout its long history, the Congregation has had to face harsh trials: the war of 1870, as well as those of 1914-1918 and 1939.

The parent house of Calais and its Chapel were entirely destroyed in May 1940. The only thing remaining from this catastrophe: the head of a very beautiful statue of Saint Francis that decorated the chapel.

In 1965, the Franciscan Congregation of Calais took the name of "FRANCISCAN MISSIONARIES OF OUR LADY", owing to its expansion around the world.


The first Constitutions said:

"We are at the disposal of the Holy See, and ready to be sent on missions abroad when the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith
deems it useful."
(Constitutions 1,1 1873)

The Franciscans of Calais were called upon from the very first years following the union of the seven houses. They founded successive houses in France and then abroad.