Claudine Thevenet was born in Lyons, France on 30th March 1774 into a family where Gospel Values held the first place. She was the second in a family if seven. “Glady” as she was affectionate enjoyed a happy childhood in the midst of loving brothers and sisters. The first twelve years of her life correspond to a peaceful period in France. However, when the French Revolution broke out in 1789, the Reign of Terror did not spare the Thevenet family. The two older brothers LouisAntoine and Francois-Marie were put into prison because of their fight in defense of the City of Lyons. During the anxious days of her brothers imprisonment Claudine with the help of a disguise managed to get into the prison and was able to visit her brothers and bring them food and clothing. Later however, Claudine witnessed the execution of her two brothers. This left a marked impression on her. She took to heart her brothers last words – “Forgive glady as we forgive”.
At the death of her brothers was a decisive turning point in Claudine’s life. The experience of pardon and forgiveness made her aware of the infinite goodness of God and awakened in her the desire to proclaim to all the tender love of the Father. The misfortune of those who live and die without knowing God caused her great anguish. After the French Revolution there were many children and young people wandering the streets of Lyons with no one to care for them or guide them.
One day Father Coindre a very zealous priest found two orphans shivering and alone in a church porch. He brought them to Claudine and asked her to look after them. She accepted this challenge. The first ‘Providence’ or Home was founded. During, this time other young girls were attracted to the work Claudine had begun and so many joined her. Little by little more homes were opened for abandoned children. Here the children were taught weaving, sewing, and in general were rrepared to be good loving housewives and mothers.
Then in 1818 the call of God became clear – to fore a community whose aim would be a Christian Education to Young people of every social class. And so began the, Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
The work so humbly begun developed rapidly. Houses were opened in other places outside Lyons. Claudine always held a marked preference for the Poor and those with greatest needs. She seldom refused to admit a child, her kind heart would say “God will provide.” And He always did. She wished the Sisters to be above all – mothers to the children – true mothers – patient, kind and loving. Her great aim was to make Jesus and Mary known and loved.
Suffering was very much part of Claudine’s life, illness, criticism, many difficulties came her way. A favourite quote of hers was ” Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies it remains only a single grain, if it dies it yields a rich harvest’.
Her great faith in God’s Call helped her keen her peace and serenity. Claudine died in 1837. Her last wcrds were “How good God is”. After her death the Congregation of Jesus and Mary spread to India and today in can be found in all Five Continents.