Mother. M. St Ignatius

The founder of the order of Jesus and Mary in France that became one of the biggest teaching orders with schools all over the world. They took Thornton Hall over on the 14/12/1917.


Early Years

Marie-Claudine was born in Rue Neuve, Lyons, on 30 March 1774. She was the second of a family of seven children - three boys and four girls. Her nickname as a child was Gladys. Her father and mother both came from families with links to the silk trade. Monsieur Thévenet was not a good business man and it was Madame Thévenet who with great skill managed the family fortune which enabled them to carry on with their charitable deeds.

Marie-Claudine was sent as a boarder to Abbaye Royale des Dames de Saint-Pierre in Lyons, leaving in 1789 as the Revolution began. The following year the Abbey was declared government property.

During this time Marie-Claudine’s two brothers, Louis and François were imprisoned as rebels who had fought against the Jacobins. Marie-Claudine, at the age of nineteen visited her brothers to take them food and drink but also to help one of their fellow prisoners, a sick and aged priest.

When her brothers were finally executed she was able to forgive those who killed them but the ordeal left her with memories that made her ill throughout her life. She was always forgetful of her own needs and deserved the title given to her by her family – ‘The Angel of the Household’.

As one by one her sisters left home to follow their various vocations, Claudine was left to support her parents, and she lived quietly at home for the next twenty years. The love of God was central to her life and with her friends she sought to relieve poverty, giving generously of her time and money, and it was a providential meeting with Father Andrew Coindre which led to the formation of the Congregation which would later spread throughout the world.

Father Coindre was a renowned holy Orator and lived with a group of missionaries known as La Societé des Chartreux, in St Bruno’s, a property originally owned by the Carthusians. One evening in 1815, having found two small girls aged two and four who had been abandoned by their parents, Father Coindre wanted to help but couldn’t take them to the monastery. He did not know Mlle Thévenet, but had heard of her good works and took the children to her. She, of course, took them into her home.

From the first meeting of these two like-minded charitable people grew the organisation which, in July 1816, became the Pious Union or the Association of Sacred Hearts, with Marie-Claudine as President.

In 1818, on the suggestion of Father Coindre, Claudine and those of her friends who felt themselves called to a religious state, left their homes and began to live together as a community, teaching the girls who would live with them to know and love God, receive an elementary education and be trained to earn their living. Beginnings were modest, with one child, one work-woman and one loom, but other children soon followed.

On 5 October, 1818, on the Feast of St Bruno, Marie-Claudine Thévenet entered the convent now known as the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. She renounced her family name and became (Mother) Mary St Ignatius.