French nun’s cause for beatification continues

Erin Von Uffel, Father Carl Schulte, Bishop Finn and Lorraine Fusaro at the Catholic Center Jan. 5. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — Almost exactly a year ago, on Jan. 21, 2011, the Cause for Beatification of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey was officially opened in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, by Bishop Robert W. Finn. Sister Marie, a French Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, is recognized by the Catholic Church as the foundress of Mary’s House in Ephesus, Turkey. The process attempts to investigate her heroic sanctity and present it for consideration by the Church.

Although her cause opened just last year, beatification promoters in France, England and more recently the United States, had been working for some years to advance her candidacy. Many were beneficiaries of Sister Marie’s intercession through prayer.

The Daughters of Charity approved the beatification initiative in 2005.

Part of the process is the researching and writing of a biography of the candidate, who is now called a Servant of God. Retired Vincentian Father Carl G. Schulte, who for 12 years served as the Provincial Director of the Daughters of Charity of the Mater Dei (Mother of God) Province in Evansville, Ind., received a prayer card promoting beatification of Sister Marie about five years ago. The priest, then 87 and serving as unofficial chaplain for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist on whose campus in Independence the Vincentian Ministry Center is located, had “never heard anyone mention Sister Marie’s name,” but wanted to learn more about her and Mary’s House. A web site was printed on the prayer card, and Father Schulte ordered 100 more prayer cards to distribute among Daughters of Charity who were gathering for a meeting. “The cards vanished in five minutes,” he later wrote.

Through the web site, Father Schulte became acquainted with Erin Von Uffel, a New Yorker and a promoter for the Cause of Beatification for Sister Marie. She requested his assistance in finding a Vincentian priest or a Daughter of Charity to write a biography of Sister Marie, and he agreed. Unable to find anyone, Father Schulte gave in to Von Uffel’s pleas and agreed to undertake to write Sister Marie’s story. The book was published in 2011 by the Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey Foundation.

A book signing hosted by the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and the Bishop Helmsing Institute was held at the Catholic Center Jan. 5 with Father Schulte, Von Uffel and her friend and co-promoter, Lorraine Fusaro. Father Schulte, now 91, was making his last public appearance before leaving the diocese and entering complete retirement. Also present at the book signing was the Father Matthew Bartulica, Episcopal Delegate to the Tribunal, which oversees the beatification work.

Adele Louise Marie de Mandat-Grancey was born in 1837, the fifth of six children of the Comte and Comtesse de Mandat-Grancey. While still a child, she began to consider the religious life. Marie joined the Daughters of Charity in 1858, and made her first solemn profession of vows in 1862. Her first mission was an orphanage in northwestern France, where she served as a nurse and in the pharmacy; she also taught 55 orphans and 60 day students. While there, she started the Children of Mary association.

In 1870, Sister Marie was asked to serve as Sister Servant, or superior, for the orphanage at Le Pecq, a suburb of Paris. In 1880, the private revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a German nun and mystic who had visions of the life and death of the mother of Christ, were published. Although the nun had never traveled outside Germany, in the 1850s she dictated her visions of the ruins of Mary’s house in detail to Clemens Brentano, who later wrote the book. Sister Marie obtained a copy to share with her community, and it made a deep impression on her.

In 1886, she answered a call by Pope Leo XIII for volunteers to Asia Minor and was assigned to the French Naval Hospital in Smyrna, now Izmir, Turkey. It was not lost on her that Smyrna was a mere 75 kilometers or 46.6 miles from Ephesus, where Emmerich had said Mary lived out her final years in the company of St. John and visiting Apostles.

Sister Marie was appointed Sister Servant of the hospital in 1890 and dedicated herself to the care of the sick and children. Father Schulte said she met Christ in each student, patient and the poor, whether Christian or Muslim. She “brought all the beauty of God’s world in prayer to all she met,” he said.

In 1891, she encouraged Lazarist (as Vincentian priests are known in France) Fathers Henri Jung and Eugene Poulin to travel to Ephesus, following the roadmap given by Emmerich’s revelations, and see if there was compelling evidence that Mary truly had lived there.

Closely following Emmerich’s revelations, the priests found the house said to have been built for Mary by St. John and local Christians on the mountain top named Bulbul Hill (Nightingale Hill). Greek Orthodox and Muslim oral traditions have held for centuries that that is where St. John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, after the Crucifixion, fleeing persecution of Christians in Judea. On the Aegean Sea, Ephesus, some 700 miles from Jerusalem, became a haven for early Christians. St. Paul is said to have lived there for three years around 45 A.D.

Sister Marie used her personal fortune to acquire and restore the ruins, and five years before her death in 1915, signed the deed to Meryem Ana Evi, Mary’s House, over to Father Poulin. The American Society of Ephesus, founded in 1955 by telecommunications pioneer George Quatman, has since then organized and helped fund large-scale reconstruction and restoration efforts of Mary’s House, the nearby tomb and basilica of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and other shrines around the world.

Kansas City attorney Bill Quatman, a grandson of George Quatman, who serves as Tribunal Notary for Sister Marie’s Cause, told The Key, “The cause for beatification often takes many years, sometimes decades. It was 6 years each for Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. For Saint Therese of Lisieux it was 26 years. For Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, it was 112 years! So, our work is progressing nicely with witness statements and document review. We have taken statements from witnesses from several different countries. (Should Sister Marie be beatified) it will elevate the popularity of Mary’s House in Ephesus, which is a joint Christian and Muslim shrine. The Mayor of Selcuk, Turkey, is fully supportive of this Cause as he realizes it will bring international attention to nearby Ephesus. At a time when there seems to be so much friction between Christians and Muslims, it would be remarkable to focus attention on a mutual shrine dedicated to the Blessed Mother, who is the most important woman in both the Qu’ran and the Bible.”

In fact, Mary is mentioned 34 times in the Qu’ran, more than in the New Testament.

Dr. Claude Sasso, Vice Chancellor for Evangelization and Catechesis and head of the cause’s Historical Commission, said the work of the commission is progressing in its research concerning Sister Marie “but we still have archives in the U.S.A., Paris and Rome to visit and research and therefore, have much work to do!”

Scott McKellar, director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute and head of the cause’s Theology Commission, said the commission is still working in the very preliminary stages as new documents continue to emerge from Archives and the Historical Commission.

Mary’s House at Ephesus has become a place of pilgrimage for millions of people every year, the majority of whom are Muslims. Also known as the Lourdes of the East, it is a place of reconciliation and healing, Von Uffel said. Pope Paul VI visited there in 1967, John Paul II in 1979 and, during his first papal trip outside of Italy in 2006, Benedict XVI went to Mary’s House — and all celebrated Mass there.

Erin Von Uffel said she believes that Sister Marie may one day be canonized and “intercede for us with the Muslims. She gave us Mary’s House, which is one of the few places in the world where Christians, Muslims and Orthodox Christians gather in the home of a beloved Jewish mother. Perhaps Sister Marie will intercede for us for peace.”

Father Schulte said, “When people would ask Sister Marie, ‘What do we do now?’ she would tell them, ‘Ask Mary, she’ll take care of it!’ Mary is the patroness of all who seek God.”

 Report any spiritual or physical favors granted in Sister Marie’s name to: Cause of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, DC, P. O. Box 419037, Kansas City, Mo., 64141-6037.

 

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