FATHER ERNEST LELIEVRE
Auxiliary priest of the
Little Sisters of the Poor
1826 - 1889
Ernest Lelièvre was born in one of the richest hotels in Valenciennes. His family, one of the first in this city, had acquired their fortune in the fabric industry and in that of the large metallurgical establishments in the vicinity.
He was not only the founder and the missionary, but he was also the spiritual visitor, the preacher, the apostle of the Little Sisters and the elderly His works praise him by themselves. Let us judge: the hospitaller family numbered about thirty houses when he joined it; it numbered two hundred and sixty-three establishments when he died. He had been one of the main instruments of this marvel
BROTHER OF THE POOR
On July 13, 1889, Mgr. Louis Baunard wrote
"There was no book, no dissertation on the social question, but three thousand letters from him, revealed to me a soul and an existence so absolutely given to the elderly poor that I wonder if they ever had a greater friend than he?"
HIS LIFE AND WEALTH WERE DEDICATED TO THE SERVICE OF THE POOR
At the age of 26, Ernest gave up a brilliant career in law to enter the Seminary in Rome. On 2nd June 1855, he was ordained a priest and immediately became an auxiliary priest of the Little Sisters of the Poor. As a contemporary of Saint Jeanne Jugan, he would have had many occasions to meet her. He spent his life and his wealth in the service of the Congregation, travelling the world from Europe to North America, to establish Homes. In his wake, foundations flourished. His happiness was to see the elderly poor welcomed and loved rediscovering a living faith in God.
SERVING THE POOR
"One does not know the happiness that there is to be entirely in God, if one does not taste it. If I opened my soul to you, it is probable that what I would say to you would seem exaggerated, since I cannot understand it myself. God was merciful to me. I owe him everything, I expect everything from him; he is my
life ". These lines were written to Mr. Despierre after two months of ministry with the Little Sisters.
At the beginning of 1856, Ernest announced to his father that the Little Sisters were "on the verge of doing a great madness" or rather "an act of faith". They embarked on the acquisition of a large property in the town of Saint-Pern, to relocate the Motherhouse and the Novitiate. “We could no longer hold out in Rennes,” explained the letter. “The new situation in the countryside is excellent: God has shown with insistence that it suited us and that he intended it for us. The contract was therefore made and the first payments lodged. After that, we found ourselves in the Novitiate in inexpressible joy, for the fund had just been emptied to the bottom ... This is how we find ourselves, without the smallest resource, that is to say, in a state where it is necessary to die of hunger, if God does not make himself the provider of his children ... and yet, no one is afraid; all hearts are happy. This is our existence ".
After the Ascension of 1858, Father Lelièvre left La Tour, a veritable "pickaxe paradise", to reach Paris. To his brothers he wrote: "Here I am among the poor to whom I serve as chaplain, and I am in a calm ten times greater than I was at the Motherhouse." He is divided between the house on avenue de Breteuil and that on rue Beauvau, "so happy to be there, with the poor and the good Lord!" Paris remained his headquarters from 1858 to 1861. From this centre, he shone in the provinces "as visitor, founder, preacher of the houses of the Little Family". We find him in Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Poitiers, while with the collaboration of his family, he works on new establishments in the North: in Valenciennes, then in Escaudoeuvres and Roubaix. Later, he assisted with establishing Homes in England and he accompanied the Little Sisters to North America where he was instrumental in establishing Homes in that country.
Having thus consumed his life for the glory of God, exhausted, Father Lelièvre died on 3rd July, 1889 at the age of sixty-three, after thirty-four years of priesthood and ministry in the Homes of the Little Sisters of the Poor. He is buried in the little cemetery of the Motherhouse, la Tour Saint Joseph, St. Pern.
Although he did not travel to Oceania, he would have known and probably been involved in the planning of the first foundation in Melbourne.
Lord Jesus, through the life and ministry of Father Ernest Lelièvre, You gave Your Church a friend of the poor and a tireless missionary in the service of the Elderly, in the religious family founded by Saint Jeanne Jugan. You gave him the grace to have immense confidence in Saint Joseph, the Bridegroom of Mary.
Deign to answer our prayers and grant us the grace we ask for through his intercession ... (formulate the requested grace)
We ask this of You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
With the authorization of Mgr Pierre d'Ornellas, Archbishop of Rennes, Dol and St Malo.
Family Home. Chateau de Loos
Anyone obtaining graces through the intercession of Father Ernest Lelièvre are invited to contact us through this website.
More information may be obtained from any Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Mgr. Louis Barnard
Ernest Lelievre and the foundations of the Little Sisters of the Poor according to his correspondence, 1826-1889, Mgr Louis Baunard, 503 pages, CH.Poussielgue, 1906.
Ernest Lelièvre, commemorative booklet, Little Sisters of the Poor, 80 pages, 1989.