by Joseph Stefanelli, SM
Born in 1789, the same year the French Revolution began, Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon was a woman of great zeal. She empowered many women to grow in faith, community, and service to others while deepening their relationship with God. This biography by Father Joseph Stefanelli, SM, allows the reader to truly know Adèle by walking through her childhood experiences, her spiritual journey, her visioning of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and her faith-filled years. Father Stefanelli uses her abundant letters to support the successes and challenges of her life's ministry. Her collaboration with Blessed William Joseph Chaminade and Marie Thérèse de Lamourous was fundamental for the Marianist Family. Father Stefanelli includes significant details of their shared mission. This biography offers an in-depth look at Adèle's spirituality, personality, and the numerous ways she responded to God's call.
Life at the château soon settles into a peaceful routine. Unlike her parents, who in their younger years had experienced the life of Paris and of the royal court, the elaborate balls and the social events of the aristocracy, the diversity of the great Capital, and all the advantages that money and power and influential friends can obtain, Adèle will live her life in relative obscurity on a country estate, and with limited resources that pose not only inconveniences for her but much more importantly pose limitations on her efforts to help others. Her days are divided between her exercises of personal spiritual development and her outpouring of love and concern for the less fortunate. She takes part in the daily routines of the château, enjoys immensely the companionship of her mother, of her father, of Charles and their little sister.
Under the guidance, first of Catherine-Anne, then of Monsieur Ducourneau, her schooling continues. She is able to solidify and synthesize what she has learned at various intervals and in summary fashion from her mother while they were in exile. Her education is basic: reading, writing, arithmetic. It apparently does not give large place to the fine arts normally associated in the ancien régime with the education of young aristocratic women. She learns neither music nor painting, but does learn sewing, embroidering, housekeeping and management of the estate. Later, when her father and mother will both be absent from Trenquelléon, it is Adèle who supervises and directs the household and the care of the far-flung lands. Supremely important to her is her continuing education in matters of the spirit, in prayer, and in the exercises of her religious faith. The atmosphere of the château is most conducive to this development. Some neighbors, and even some friends, seem to speak of it rather despairingly as a "monastic environment." For Adèle, it is a period of preparation for the day when she will enter Carmel. She is still convinced that she is called to be a Carmelite nun: in France, if religious orders are eventually restored; otherwise, in Spain in San Sebastián. With this thought in mind and after consultation with her mother, she asks Monsieur Ducourneau to draw up a rule of life. This early in 1802, when she is not yet thirteen years old.
A Biography of Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon
Chapter 1: June, 1808
Adèle; the chateau of Trenquelléon; Feugarolles, Agen, and the Garonne valley; family and friends.
Chapter 2: 1789-1793
Adèle’s birth; ancestry; her parents; the Estates-General; beginnings of the Revolution; life on the estate; Constitution of the Clergy; the émigrés; departure of the Baron; dispersal of religious; execution of Louis XVI.
Chapter 3: 1793-1797
The Revolution and Trenquelléon; search and confiscation; radical changes in France; reactions and riots; Reign of Terror; Adèle and the poor; her “Carmelite vocation”; relative calm in France; the coup of September 4, 1797; the Baroness trapped.
Chapter 4: 1797-1801
The road to exile; Tolosa; petitions to the government; on to Brangança; life in exile; the family re-united; Adèle’s education and development; San Sebastián and first Communion; home again.
Chapter 5: 1801-1803
New start at Trenquelléon; Concordat; Napoleon and Pope; amnesty and rebuilding; Ducourneau; a Rule of Life for Adele; Confirmation; the Diché girls.
Chapter 6: 1803-1805
Adèle and Dicherette; Dousset; Emperor Napoleon, needs of the Church in France; the “Association” and its Rule; marriage of Dicherette; Adele’s correspondence; discerning a vocation; Bishop Jacoupy at Trenquelléon; Elisa and Clara orphaned.
Chapter 7: 1806-1807
Larribeau; missionary Miquel; growth of the Association; Adèle’s concerns; her leadership role; Adèle, Agathe, and Dicherette; departure of Charles for Paris; Adèle’s inner life; an unexplained silence.
Chapter 8: 1807-1809
Lafon and the Sodality of Bordeaux; Chaminade; relations with Bordeaux; marriage proposal for Adèle; her decision; re-structuring the Association into the Third Division; Chaminade and Adèle; spiritual practices; suppression of the Sodality in Bordeaux; Adèle seriously ill.
Chapter 9: 1809-1811
Health and vocation; political unrest; Adèle’s twenty-first birthday; her “school” and charities; her concern for the Associates; fashions and decency; Adèle’s life-style; her understanding of Mary; death of Sérène; birth of Dicherette’s fourth son, further contacts with Bordeaux.
Chapter 10: 1812-1814
Adèle’s zeal; Charles’ return from Paris; Lafon’s new adventures; death of Dr. Belloc; war and famine; another Associate dies; illness of the Baron; religious in secular clothing; Laumont and reception of Sodalists; Lompian and the cher projet; Dubrana; marriage of Charles, fall of Napoleon.
Chapter 11: 1814-1815
The “Restoration”; Chaminade meets Adèle’s relatives; Julie; Lompian and religious names; Larribeau and Laumont to Trenquelléon; prospects for a “novitiate”; the Baron’s illness worsens; “constitutions” for the cher projet; religious missionary sodalists; temporary vows; Jacoupy approves the Sodality; Napoleon and the “hundred days.”
Chapter 12: 1815-1816
New suppression in Bordeaux; Adèle, twenty-six years old; death of the Baron and defeat of Napoleon; plans for the future; leaving everything “in good order”; plans for Chaminade’s visit; renting space; continued development of the Third Division; nature of the new foundation; twenty Associates ready; Constitutions finished; fading prospects and inner trials for Adèle.
Chapter 13: 1816
Firmness, and abandonment; Constitutions, “regulations,” and candidates; death of Madame Pachan, leasing the Refuge; financial arrangements between Adèle and Charles; farewells; arrival at the Refuge, May 25,1816; the city of Agen; religious life, vows, enclosure; Chaminade and Jacoupy at odds.
Chapter 14: 1816-1818 (1)
Profession of vows delayed, Chaminade and de Lamourous; Mouran; Adèle as Superior; the first Sisters, and more arrivals; wearing of the habit; marriage of Désirée; Chaminade’s new version of a vow of “enclosure”; Sisters of St. Joseph; need for new forms; Chaminade’s July visit (1817); profession of vows; Adèle’s new role; community schedule.
Chapter 15: 1816-1818 (2)
Community organization; work, prayer, silence; enclosure: active and passive; Chaminade’s visit (April, 1818); Soeur Saint-Joseph and Adèle; screening and forming candidates; Condom: Lolotte and the Sodality; Amélie, Mélanie, and Belloc; Men’s Sodality at Agen; Women and Young Ladies; pre-sodalists; classes for the poor, and other works; the “male religious of our Institute”; Third Order Secular.
Chapter 16: 1819-1820
Favors from Rome; illness among the Sisters; first deaths; Soeur Elisabeth, Soeur Scolastique; Chaminade at Agen (July, 1819); Adèle’s illness; contacts with Emilie de Rodat; description of works and communities; plans for union; Adèle and her vivacity; Clara enters the convent; Elisa and her vocation; difficult cases; Soeur Célestine, Soeur Assomption.
Chapter 17: 1820-1821
Adèle’s illness, her motivation; Chaminade visits in August (1820); planning to move; the Augustinian monastery; Lacaussade and Tonneins; from Refuge to Augustinians, September 6, 1820; new foundation at Tonneins; Soeur Thérèse as Superior; Soeur des Anges; Mlle Drenne; death and burial; new candidates.
Chapter 18: 1821-1822
Annual retreats; preparations for Chaminade’s visit (August, 1821); Lolotte and “flight” to convent; professions and personnel; Adèle as guide; follow-up on visit; material concerns, Registers, guidelines for acceptance and dismissal; Mélanie and the “silences”; Soeur Angélique, formation and education; Soeurs du petit habit; Assistantes.
Chapter 19: 1822-1824
Frustrated plans for merger with Villefranche; illness and death; Soeur Elisabeth Degers, Mère Thérèse; Soeur Sacré-Coeur to Tonneins; more illnesses; Adele under strict orders; plans for Condom; Soeur Présentation.
Chapter 20: 1824-1825
Agreement on Condom; Soeur Incarnation; arrangements for novitiate at Bordeaux; Chaminade at Agen (July, 1824); to Condom via Trenquelléon; Chaminade and Adele to Tonneins, to Bordeaux; Adèle returns to Agen; Soeur Sacré-Coeur and Soeur Marie-Joseph; Soeur Gonzague and the novitiate; isolation of Adèle; Agnèle; Soeur Thérèse de Saint-Augustin.
Chapter 21: 1825
Adèle’s health fluctuates; support and advice for Incarnation; Condom boarding school; Adèle’s zeal; Soeur Gonzague; candidates from afar; government recognition of the Brothers; Dubrana ordained; Jacoupy tries to resign; Adèle writes a “history” and burns her letters.
Chapter 22: 1825-1826
Difficulties at Condom; death of Soeur Saint-Esprit; serious illnesses; Soeurs Félicité, Mélanie, Agnès; the Dames du Paravis; little protégée; Mlle Buiette; death of d’Aviau, and of Chaminade’s sister Lucrèce; Madame Clairefontaine: proposals and reactions; Chaminade visits (July, 1826); death of Soeur Agnès; plans for Arbois; Adèle visits Bordeaux.
Chapter 23: 1826-1827
Beginnings at Arbois; Soeur Marie-Joseph near death; proposals for new foundation; Third Order Secular, and Regular; the Silhères sisters; prayers and petitions for Adèle’s health; the tenth death: Soeur Trinité; Chaminade comes to Agen (July, 1827); seeking government recognition; Adèle’s last annual retreat; new candidates; death of Laumont; Adèle’s “uselessness.”
Chapter 24: 1827-1828
Adèle’s Testament, financial arrangements; processing the request for government recognition; departure of Soeur Marthe; final illness of Adèle, death and burial; the Baroness writes to Chaminade; official recognition of the Institute by the State and Church; Adèle, still very much alive.
Chapter 25: 1828-Epilogue
Index of Proper Names