instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

And you visited me

I hear that the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has decreed that Servant of God Marie Jean-Joseph Lataste, O.P., lived a life of heroic virtue.

Pere Lataste, the "Apostle of Prisons," said the pastoral care of female prisoners "the work God gave me to do." In 1866, with the approval of the Master of the Order, he published the booklet Les Réhabilitées, calling for the foundation of a congregation of religious sisters, dedicated to ministering to (and drawing members from) female prisoners in France.

His idea was that, if even a tiny handful women ex-convicts were to enter religious life, and thereby be worthy of honor, then no women ex-convicts could rightly be refused housing or honest work simply because of their past.

Pere Lataste published his booklet on March 19, entrusting his project to St. Joseph and promising that, if the foundation occur within two years, he would dedicate himself to promoting St. Joseph's place in the Canon of the Mass, along with a Proper of St. Joseph. And in fact, in November 1866 he received the profession of the first members of the Bethany community, which in time (though not until years after his death) would become a formal congregation of Dominican Sisters. (Rumer Godden wrote of them in her novel Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy.)

The story continues. In 1999, a Lay Dominican named Ruth Raichle, who had belonged to the Sisters of Bethany but left before making final vows, convinced the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic of the Province of St. Joseph to approve the founding of a chapter of Lay Dominicans in Norfolk State Prison in Massachusetts.

This may yet serve as the model for other chapters in other prisons. And who knows what the Holy Spirit has in store for Dominicans in prison ministry?

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