Christian name is Mary Host and I was born on February 9,
1862 in Alsace, France. My father died while I was an infant
and my mother joined him when I was eleven. I enjoyed going
to school and learned quickly. I was fortunate to be taken
care of by relatives who were of the middle class. When my
education was ended, I spent my time helping at home and among
the sick and afflicted of the neighborhood. At eighteen, I
recognized within myself an ardent desire for religious life,
but was unable to enter a congregation until I was 21 years
journey to Neufchatel was a long one. However, I wanted to
be a Sister of the Infant Jesus. My postulancy was difficult
in that I was very homesick. I received the Holy Habit of
the Sisters of the Infant Jesus and the name Sister Marie
Antoinette only eight months after entrance. My resolution
on that day was to follow Christ wheresoever He would lead.
I made my final profession in 1894 at age 32, eleven years
after entrance. In 1888, I cared for orphans and served as
a nurse in the homes of both the rich and the poor. This work
was very dear to me. I also taught in a school in Belgium.
From 1890-1901, I was supervisor of a large hospital in Le
years 1901 and following were very difficult and were years
of great suffering. The French Revolution and the Law of Associations
in 1901 forbade religious communities to meet for works of
charity. The Separation Law of 1905 turned over Church property
to the State. The work of religious communities in France
was brought almost to a halt. Many of our Sisters began leaving
France to serve in other countries where they would not be
subject to ridicule and scrutiny and where they could serve
those in need.
the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, I along with
eleven other Sisters were sent to St. Edmund's College and
Seminary in London where we cooked, cleaned, and did laundry
for 40 students. Illness and dwindling funds forced us to
find other places to go. I met Father Patrick McHale, a Vincentian
and Rector of St. John's College in Brooklyn, and he encouraged
me to go to the United States.
1905 at age 43, after suffering hardship in England, I with
two other Sisters obtained permission from Mother Euphrasia,
Bishop de Bonfils, and the Ecclesiastical Superior of the
Congregation to come to America and work among the French
speaking people in the west.
we crossed the Atlantic in the steerage compartment of a freighter,
suffering filth and illness, my hopes and my dreams were to
establish a teaching and nursing mission in America. Bishop
Charles McDonnell, the Bishop of Brooklyn, awaited our arrival.
Mother Celistine of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who was
responsible for a Home for the Aged, the oldest charitable
organization in the Diocese, took us in and introduced us
to the Bishop. Bishop McDonnell wished us, the three Sister
from France, to remain in his Diocese to care for the sick
poor in their homes in spite of our desire to move westward.
After prayer, I and my companions realized that this was God
asking us to stay in Brooklyn. This was a work I had long
loved from my youthful days at home. In 1907 Bishop McDonnell
traveled to France, where he obtained from Pope Pius X authorization
to establish the community as a separate American foundation
and to open a novitiate.
early foundation grew and bore much fruit. My Sisters through
the years have carried out my dreams for the care of the sick
and poor. As I did in my beloved France, they have administered
a hospital, provided nursing in the homes, counseled those
in need and provided health care for the poor. The spirit
and mission of the original foundation are alive to this day
in the lives of the present members of the Congregation. For
this I am most grateful.
we face the new millennium, I see many parallels in history.
In 1905, there were many immigrants in great need - need for
housing, health care and education. There were few Sisters
at the time. Today you find yourselves in similar circumstances.
Along with the needs of the poor, there are new immigrants,
many needs and few Sisters.
a new wave of people rise in response to the present needs
for the glory of God .