The history of the Community of the Servants of Mary

From the realization of a life to the realities of today 

The history is built day after day through the call of the Spirit

Today the servants of Mary, the spiritual daughters of Fr. Cestac are present in 4 continents:

  • in Latin America since 1905, today with 2 communities in Argentina and 1 in Uruguay, 
  • in Africa, since 1964 with 3 communities in Ivory Coast, 
  • in Asia, since 1981, with 8 communities, established in 4 States of South India,
  • and in Europe, with 2 communities in Spain and 10 in France.

Our Lady of refuge, the birthplace of the Congregation, remains the source place as well as the Monastery of Saint Bernard, a place of silence and of contemplation, situated nearby, where is situated the contemplative community of Bernardines.

All our communities are inserted in rural areas, like the Holy family of "Nazareth"… Because, as it indicates our name, the Virgin Mary is our Mother and Model for spiritual life.   

Our mission in the footsteps of Father Cestac

Touched by the distress of young girls on the streets and the call of young prostitutes who wanted to come out of their life situations, Fr. Cestac, trusting the Divine Providence, respond by welcoming, respecting each one and by opening schools for girl children in villages. (before Jules Ferry). 

Today, our priorities remain still in the education for the poor and social work for the service of women. To these two, adds the health service…

These missions are given priority according to the needs of the country.

Regarding education, the Sisters run the schools in India and Ivory Cost in rural areas, also non formal education for young girls, literacy program for adults, boarding for girls. Whereas in France, Spain, Argentina and Uruguay the schools are entrusted to the Laity.

Regarding Social, the Sisters are involved in the Centre for children and welcoming mothers and children or join other organizations.

Insertion in the parishes is the 3rd aspect. In all the countries, the Sisters are engaged in evangelization activities more directly (catechism and other services) and live proximity with the people.

In our different missions, we count on and ask our Bernardines Sisters to support and accompany us in their prayer. Their vocation calls them also to carry the mission of the Universal Church.

New commitments and collaborations

In Europe and Latin America, visible progress can be noticed.

With the retirement of the Sisters, new ecclesial commitments are lived: responsibility of hospital chaplaincy, prison ministry, of catechumen…and other commitment of solidarity. It offers an extraordinary wide range of evangelization. 

The collaboration and partnership with the Laity also marks our time. In France, the continuity of our social activities is hereafter assumed by the associations like "Mission Père Cestac" in Anglet and "Accueil et Relais" in Arras; Associations in which we are partners especially to be watchful over the choices of orientations in respect to the spirit of Fr. Cestac.

Regarding the schools, the Congregation continue its mission through the service of "Tutelage". 

In India and Ivory Coast, the Sisters are involved directly responding to the needs of the time and place like welcoming of old and lonely women, of disabled or under-nursed children with their mothers.

Some challenges for today

  • Our commitment still remains significant in spite of the difficulties of language, the irrelevancy 
  • To propose a commitment for life…against our society of technology…where one can obtain everything in a second…etc.
  • To continue to respond in an adapted manner, to the actual needs of our society, in the context of search for meaning, for spirituality… 
  • To seize the opportunity of new means of communication
  • Not to keep for ourselves the Charism received by Fr. Cestac, dare to share this treasure with the Laity who will live it in their own way.

Our consecrated life, whether it is apostolic or contemplative, is first of all, witnessing the primacy of Christ in our life... As a stream doesn’t return to its source, the Religious Life must also invent its today, in fidelity to the Spirit received. Then it will remain a way of evangelical life and of happiness, because, give one’s life to Christ and search to follow Him with others, in community, it is always worth!