Mother Saint Mary 

History of the Congregation of Our Lady of Fidelity

                           The Congregation of Our Lady of Fidelity was founded in Normany ( France) in 1831 by HENRIETTE LE FORESTIER D'OSSEVILLE who was born in 1803. From a very young age she felt a great compassion for people less fortunate than herself and was very generous to the poor.

Who is Henriette le Forestier d'osseville (Mother St. Mary)  ?

Henriette was born at " Rouen" , on 19th April 1803. Henriette  was baptized in the old Abbey Church of St. Ouen.

Henriette's parents were , Count Theodose le Forestier d'osseville ( Father )  Madame Anne de Valori (Mother ). Henriette had two  elder sisters - Cecile and Elizabeth and she was the third child, two younger brothers - Edmond and Henri.

The name Le Forestier occurs in Domesday Book as that of one of the Norman Knights who came over with William the conqueror, and afterwards settled in England. The Valori family, originally Italian, was allied to the Medici, who it followed into France at the period of the Renaissance.

A true type of the "Valiant woman" of Holy Scripture, Madame d'Osseville was gifted with rare prudence and angelic sweetness. She increased in her husband a great love for  his home, and in due time thier marriage was crowned with the blessings of five children.

The life of our Foundress, who laboured so steadfastly for poor orphan children in those days when they had many difficulties of such work was so much harder physically than at the present time, Her life inspires us  to go forward in life with confidence and full trust in the Lord.

Mother Saint Mary was very pious and felt a leaning towards Religious Life but her health was not good and she suffered from a deformity of spine. For this she underwent several drastic treatments.

In 1826 her sister became very ill and was brought to the Shrine of Our Lady at
La Deliverande. She was cured and later gave birth to a daughter. In gratitude, her father resolved to erect a living memorial at La Deliverande. He planned the establishment of a Convent there which would help poor and forsaken children. As Henriette had many doubts about the success of her undertaking she went to pray before the Statue of Our Lady of La Delivrande. While she prayed she heard within her heart the words, "I am the Faithful Virgin, fear nothing. The work you are to accomplish shall succeed in spite of a thousand obstacles, and I will be faithful to all those who invoke me under this title."

Initially, she entered the Noviciate of a different Congregation, and had even taken her final vows, under the name of Mother St. Mary.
 
Later she left that Congregation and started the New Foundation at La Deliverande in 1831. After a short time the Sisters increased in number  from the original small group of nuns and orphans. It became necessary to enlarge the first building.

Even before the Convent had opened, Mother St. Mary had in mind the establishment of a boarding school for the children of well to do families. She also wanted children with spinal problems, to be helped with orthopaedic treatment, but she only started the orphanage and its school from the beginning of the foundation.
 
Very soon Mother St. Mary longed to found a new house abroad and her thoughts turned towards England.  Many Catholic children were there in the workhouses. The potato famine in Ireland had forced many poor families to go to England. There was nobody to receive and educate these children - So the Norwood orphanage was created.
 
Mother St. Mary was the first Superior of that house and came to found it with 17 Nuns. They first went to Sydenham Grove, Norwood, but the house was far too small and it was impossible to start an orphanage or a school in it.

A new home was swiftly founded on Central Hill. At that time it was the ancient hunting pavilion and was named the Park House. There was also a big park where it would be possible to build a large house more convenient to receive many children.

On October 10th 1848 the nuns started to move into Park House where the orphanage could be established. Soon the Sisters opened a day school for the daughters of poor Catholic parents in the neighbourhood.

One day, a poor Irishman called at the Convent and asked Mother St. Mary to take his three sons into the day school. It was girls school, but she wanted to help the poor boys, so she started a school which was named 'St. Joseph's Infant School'. It was started about 150 years ago.

In 1857 , the first part of the building was inaugurated. The same year the third house of the institute was opened at Roseau in the West Indies. Mother St. Mary came back to Norwood and was Superior General for a time.
 
She died in England in 1858. After Mother St. Mary's death several houses were opened in France, England, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Guinea and the Democratic Repubic of the Congo.

Today at Norwood a 'Family day centre' has been added in addition to the Senior and Junior schools where small children and their families can find help and guidance.

In every country where the Congregation is established , we try to keep the spirit of our foundress. "To work for the good of children  and for the greater glory of God."