The "untold" contribution and tribulations of Mère Augustine and the Soeurs de Bon Secours in post emancipation Mauritius 1850-1870 (2017) is Laura Herminette's thesis submitted for her Masters of Historical Studies (2017). I received this book on my last trip in Mauritius in 2018 as an 'old girl' of the Bon et Perpétuel Secours (BPS) College, Non Siri Sed Deo- Not for self but for God.
Née Caroline Lenferna de Laresle, Mère Augustine founded the Sisters of Bon Secours at 25 years old, on the 18th of June 1850. The only international congregation founded in Mauritius. Mère Augustine and the Sisters responded to the social needs of the 19th century: abolition of slavery, arrival of indentured labourers and cholera epidemic that took millions of lives. To respond to the welfare and health needs of the population, Mère Augustine set up hospitals, orphanages and free schools. The Sisters went out in the community and into people's home where they were most needed.
It can be seen that the "Religious" was no longer restricted to the wall of the Church: it was close to the people in their homes.
Mère Augustine was kind, fierce and strong in her beliefs. While these are qualities that we can aspire to. Herminette also describes how Mère Augustine was seen to be "disobedient" by the local church. The power imbalance between the patriarchal church and Mère Augustine caused conflicts. While the Sisters owned properties, worked and were financially independent, they were dependent and governed by the Bishop. In one case the priest asked for more money from Mère Augustine and would refuse to conduct services and sacraments for her.
What a great chapter and hats off to Herminette for making this part of Mauritian history visible. Little is known of the Sisters’ contribution to the church at the time as only the priests work was acknowledged and recorded. However, Mère Augustine's legacy, strength and resilience lives on today in the work of the Sisters' responding to current health care needs. Non Siri Sed Deo- Not for self but for God.
An abridged version of Herminette work about Mère Augustine can also be found in Women in the making of Mauritian story.