Our Lady of Hope

Our Felician North American Province is named in honor of
Our Lady of Hope.

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to two young boys in the small town of Pontmain, France in the late nineteenth century—a time when France was enveloped in tremendous strife, upheaval, and instability brought about by the Franco-Prussian War. In 1871, Germany had occupied two-thirds of France, and German armies were moving westward. In the midst of this Prussian siege, the Virgin Mary appeared to the two boys one winter night as a sign of hope—hence, the name Our Lady of Hope.

Auguste Barbedette was one of many young men from Pontmain who had left his home to march into battle against the Prussians. Each day Auguste’s younger brothers—twelve-year-old Eugene and ten-year-old Joseph—prayed the rosary, asking for Auguste’s safe return.

On the evening of January 17, 1871, as twelve-year-old Eugene Barbedette stepped outside the door of his family’s barn, he looked up and was struck by what he saw in the night sky. There before him appeared a beautiful woman, smiling down at him from amid the star-studded sky. Eugene was struck by the sense of joy and peace that surrounded her as well as her unquestionable beauty as she stood above him, wearing a crown and clothed in a blue cloak bejeweled with golden stars.

Joseph soon came to stand alongside his brother, marveling at the apparition that he, too, saw in the night sky—an apparition that would forever be named the apparition of Our Lady of Hope. The boys’ parents could not see what their children were seeing that night and called for Sister Vitaline, the local school teacher. She, like the boys’ parents, could also not see the apparition, and called for two girls, Francoise Richer and Jeanne-Marie Lebosse, aged nine and eleven. Sister Vitaline suggested that perhaps Our Lady was visible only to the children. Without any knowledge of the apparition, these two girls looked into the night sky and began describing Our Lady in the same exact detail as the Barbedette boys had described.

A crowd of approximately 60 people soon formed and together, standing and kneeling on this cold winter night, they prayed the rosary and the Magnificat. As they prayed, the four children who could see Our Lady of Hope read the words on a banner that began to unfurl at her feet: “But pray, my children, God will hear you in a little while.” The vision lasted for three hours.

The Franco-Prussian War ended eleven days later. Auguste Barbedette returned home safely, as did the other young men from Pontmain who had left for battle. A shrine was erected one year later on the exact spot where Our Lady of Hope had appeared, and the Barbedette’s barn was converted into a small chapel where, in time, Our Lady of Hope Basilica was built and was subsequently consecrated in 1900.

Our Lady of Hope continues to bring peace and love to the hearts of those who have faith in her. We celebrate her as the namesake of our North American province as we journey together in faith as women of hope in a world so greatly in need of hope.