Pope Francis paid homage to Mother Alphonse Marie Eppinger (1814-1867), Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Saviour, a “courageous and wise” woman, on the occasion her Beatification this Sunday, September 9, 2018, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Strasbourg, France.
The Holy Father recalled this event, during the Angelus over which he presided at midday in St. Peter’s Square. “Let us thank God for this courageous and wise woman who, in suffering, in silence, and in prayer, witnessed the love of God especially to those who were sick in body and in spirit,” he said after the Marian prayer.
And the Pope invited the crowd to greet her: “An applause — all together –, for the new Blessed!”
The Venerable Servant of God Alphonse Marie Eppinger (in the world: Elisabeth), was born on September 9, 1814, at Niederbronn-les-bains, in the north of Alsace, states her official biography, in a family of humble farmers. The eldest of eleven children, she grew up in the framework of the family, the parish and the village. Of frail health, she experienced the trial of sickness during her youth. Gifted with a strong personality and great spiritual sensibility, she had the desire to “to know God, to Love Him and to be pleasing to Him.”
In the course of years of illness, Elisabeth lived an intense spiritual experience. About 1846, those around her were struck by her intimacy with God. Abbot Jean David Reichard, the parish priest, was the witness of this. Surprised by what the sick woman lived, he informed his Bishop. Monsignor Andre Raess, Bishop of Strasbourg from 1842 to 1887, was interested in these events. Having come to Niederbronn in July of 1848, he was convinced of the particular destiny reserved to this fervent Christian woman.
In 1848 she felt called to found an Institute of women religious, with the agreement of Abbot Reichard, who engaged with faith in this project, approved by Monsignor Raess. The first Community was founded on August 28, 1849, at Niederbronn, with the mission to care for poor sick people in their home and to be available to all, regardless of their social condition or religion.