Sarthe. From the center for “undesirables”, to the Basile Moreau center, 100 years of history of the Marianite sisters

From the center for “undesirables”, to the preventorium to the Basile Moreau centre. ©DR

The premises of the former Basile Moreau center in Precigne, near Sablé-sur-Sarthe, today house themusical academy. The marianite sisters have been present for 100 years within these walls.

In 1610, Urbain de Montmorency-Laval, lord of Bois Dauphin, gave his fief of Notre-Dame de la Salle to the Cordeliers monks, expelled from La Flèche. They rebuilt the buildings and enlarged the chapel, but for lack of recruitment, the convent closed in 1769.

A college then a minor seminary

In 1776, Abbé Colombier bought the estate and set up a college there, which was to close with the Revolution. It reopened in 1816 and became a minor seminary in 1824. The premises were enlarged and the chapel restored, but in 1860 it fell into ruin.

Father Paumard, deputy director, decides to build a new building. At the end of a 40-year project, the new chapel receives the name of Notre-Dame des Anges.

With the law of separation of Church and State of 1905, the minor seminary closed in 1907 and the estate remained abandoned for 7 years.

Imprisonment camp and hospital-hospice

From 1914 to 1919, the buildings will become a detention camp for people deemed undesirable. 2000 men, women and children, of 40 different nationalities, will be locked up in unsanitary premises. Some will escape, but a large number will die, with the Spanish flu.

The cramped Marianites in Le Mans

In 1921, the question arose of the future of the estate, which was put up for sale without result. At the time, the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross was located in Le Mans. It was also the place of formation for future nuns who were doing their novitiate.

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The Marianites were cramped there and after the General Chapter of 1921, the General Council of the Congregation decided to look for larger premises. Monsignor Grente then advises the Marianites to buy the buildings, the sale price having been lowered.

In December, Avenue de Paris, the company that owns the parent company, buys it and rents it to the Community.

The old minor seminary was falling into ruin

The old small Seminary, long unoccupied, fell almost into ruins and it took two years to restore a first building, that of the Cordeliers, allowing the mother house to settle in Précigné.

In April 1923, Cardinal Grente came to consecrate the main altar of the chapel and dedicate it to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. 3 years later, on October 19, 1925, a contract was signed between Mother General, Mother Marie de Sainte-Éléonore and the mayor of Précigné at the time, the Count of Rougé.

The Superior General undertook to receive, in the former premises of the infirmary of the minor seminary, repaired and fitted out, all the indigent patients of the commune. “This contract showed the total disinterestedness of the congregation since the repairs had been entirely made at our expense and the prices granted by us were very minimal”.

girls dormitory
The girls’ dormitory ©DR

Preventorium, school and mains drainage

The mild and healthy climate pushed the nuns to open in April 1932 a preventoriumwhile keeping the hospital.

The works are financed by the American and Canadian Marianites and 200 children arrive.

“That same year, a new Superior was appointed, Sister Marie de St Julien, a woman of exceptional personality, made up of both kindness and authority.”

Around 1935, the mayor dreamed of installing the water service and the sewagebut the heavily indebted municipality does not have the means.

“The Marianites, who need clean water in large quantities, offer their financial assistance by paying a large part of the loan repayments themselves.”

In 1937, they also took charge girls school, which allows the municipality to save money. The director, Sister Saint-Anselme, created a kindergarten class, a canteen and a small village hall. The sisters will leave the school in 1979.

Aerial view of the Preventorium
Aerial view of the Preventorium ©DR

39-40, a very difficult period…

A military hospital with 300 beds will occupy part of the premises, from August 39 to June 40. A hundred children return home.

The local doctor is mobilized, the pharmacist has fled, the population then turns to the sisters for treatment. In July 1940, the sisters had to provide beds and equipment for the 400 Germans who settled in Malpaire factory. “The Superior must stand up to them, because they would like to requisition part of the vast premises”.

During their visit, Sister St Julien introduces them to children who cough a lot and shows them medical records falsified by her care with sketches of lungs riddled with caves. Terrified, they give up occupying the premises.

Rescued Jewish child remembers

Nearly 300 children are cared for, including jewish children.

In the annals of the Congregation, we read that in July 43, a truck from the Kommandantur came to fetch them for an unknown destination. Between 5 and 10 children, hidden, escape the roundup.

Among them, Edmond Rozenbaum, who arrived at the age of 6, remembers with gratitude: “I was unhappy, separated from my family, the sisters were severe, but they risked their lives and saved mine”. Sister St Julien would also have helped families to flee to the free zone, hosted a young German girl wanted by the Gestapo and welcomed a large number of children evacuated from Caen and St-Nazaire.

Return to Le Mans after the war

In 1950, the Mother House returned to Le Mans. The hospice closed in 1955 and was replaced by a retirement home which will move into new premises in 2005.

Sister Raymonde Marianite Sister Précigné
Sister Raymonde directed the center from 1969 to 2001. ©DR

Sister Marie Raymonde became director in 1969 and had the heavy task of developing the establishment. Tuberculosis being on the way out, Prévent closed in 1980, replaced by a health center.

Sister Raymonde will direct it until 2001 and will integrate the EHPAD a few years later, joining Sister Rolande.

She will be the last representative of the Marianites on the scene, until her death in 2019.

Today, the Congregation, both in North America and in France, has ceded the direction of its institutions. » I am happy to see that the spirit of Father Basile Moreau continues to live in Précigné and to radiate within your walls! concludes Sister Marie-Andrée.

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Sarthe. From the center for “undesirables”, to the Basile Moreau center, 100 years of history of the Marianite sisters

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