The Origins of the Congregation
Pierre Coudrin (1768-1837)
The Congregation was founded in France in 1800 in the diocese of Poitiers in France. In the climate of political disorder and religious persecution generated by the French Revolution, Pierre Coudrin, a young priest, was forced to carry out his ministry while in hiding. He has been called "God's freedom fighter" and was likened to the Scarlet Pimpernel. One night, while taking refuge in a granary loft, he had a vision of a community of men and women devoted to prayer and mission and felt God calling him personally to found this community.
Henriette Aymer de la Chevalrie (1764-1834)
The Foundress, Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie, was a young aristocrat. During the Revolution she was imprisoned with her mother for hiding priests and her experiences in prison had a profound effect on her faith. She decided to give herself totally to God and to prayer. The two met in 1794, at the height of the Revolution. Both were already devoted to the Sacred Heart and were inspired to work together to found a new order. During Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in 1800 they made their vows and became the first members of a community that would carry the Good News all over the world.
After the Revolution and the fall of Napoleon, the Congregation was formally approved by the Pope as a single institute composed of two branches of religious, one male and the other female, and a lay branch. From the beginning the Congregation grew rapidly, first in France and then throughout the world: the Pacific, Europe, South and North America, Asia and Africa.