The Ongoing Story

The Ongoing Story

A overview of our history

Our Society, Faithful Companions of Jesus, was founded in Amiens in France in 1820 by Marie Madeleine de Bonnault d’Hoüet. As a young widow with a son, Marie Madeleine felt called by God to form a Society of apostolic women who would take their inspiration from Mary and the Holy Women of the Gospel. Below is an overview of the history then begun.


  1. 1781-1814

    The Inspiration

    The calling of our Foundress, Marie Madeleine d’Houët, is captured in the beautiful name she chose for her congregation: Faithful Companions of Jesus.

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  2. 1814-1820

    Influence of the Jesuits

    Marie Madeleine, a young, grieving widow with a small son, born after his father’s death, was living through dark times. Certain Jesuits, by their spiritual guidance, were instrumental in enabling her to discern her vocation to the religious life. The apostolic congregation she founded was explicitly inspired by Ignatian spirituality, and the FCJ Constitutions have their origin in those of the Society of Jesus.

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  3. 1820

    Foundation of the FCJ Society: Amiens, France

    It was in Amiens, then one of the principal centres of the cloth trade in France, that Marie Madeleine became acutely aware of the social problems that had surfaced in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, as large numbers of people, seeking employment in the local textile factories, moved from rural settings to the city.

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  4. 1820

    Founding Members

    It is thought that the first members of the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus were fourteen in number, but we know the names of only seven of them: Louise Legrand, Louise Melaut, Honorine Moreau, Louise Delaruelle, Marie Lenssens, Anna Ravon and Julie Guillemet.

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  5. 1820-1858

    Development and Expansion

    Because of the growing reputation of the new congregation, a number of bishops invited the FCJs into their dioceses, to provide schools and instruction in the faith for their people. Because of strong opposition from certain Gallican bishops, expansion in France was beset with difficulties. In spite of this, before her death in 1858, Marie Madeleine had succeeded in setting up a number of flourishing schools in different parts of that country, and also in England, Switzerland, Italy and Ireland.

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  6. 1847

    Paris, a ‘special’ house

    The political and social climate in France in 1847 was anything but favourable to religious congregations.  Despite a decree prohibiting the establishment of further religious communities, the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur Affre, who had known Marie Madeleine when he was a priest in Amiens and was her friend and a supporter of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, warmly welcomed the Sisters to his Archdiocese.

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  7. 1858

    Death of our foundress, Marie Madeleine

    On 5 April 1858, Marie Madeleine died in Paris at the age of 76. She had guided the fledgling Society through its early years, and had governed it for 32 years as its elected Superior General.

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  8. 1858-1914

    Consolidation and expansion

    After Marie Madeleine’s death in 1858, Joséphine Petit was elected Superior General. She died 30 years later leaving a rich legacy to the Society. In the last decade of her life, she seemed to discover within herself a true missionary spirit, and had established a number of houses in Australia and Canada.

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  9. 1914-1947

    The two World Wars

    Philomena Higgins, an Irishwoman, the first non-French Superior General, was elected in Brussels on 2 August 1914, the day of the invasion of France by Germany – the invasion of Belgium took place on the following day. Consequently her early years as Superior General were deeply shadowed by the Great War.

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  10. 1948-1975

    Times of change: the Second Vatican Council

    The Second Vatican Council, which opened in 1962 during the pontificate of John XXIII and ended in 1965 during that of Paul VI, was arguably the most important event of the twentieth century for the Catholic Church. The Council proposed a radical change of spiritual and theological perspective, moving from world-estrangement to world-engagement, and giving close consideration to various aspects of modern life in a spirit of openness rather than condemnation.

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  11. 1975-1993

    Reclaiming our roots

    Breda O’Farrell is widely recognised as having injected the charism of the Faithful Companions of Jesus with new life and meaning. She requested, and eventually received, permission for the FCJs to use the Jesuit Constitutions.  A new text was established, and the longed-for, long-awaited approval was finally given in 1985. Breda foresaw that future changes to these Constitutions would be rare, but that interpretation through General Chapters would ensure their continuing relevance for the corporate life of the Society.

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  12. 1960-2012

    Stella Maris—the Generalate 1960-2012

    Stella Maris in Broadstairs Kent, England was for many years the home and place of work of the central administration of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, meaning it was the Generalate.

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