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Congregation of the Retreat of the Sacred Heart
(DAMES DE LA RETRAITE)
Originally founded in 1678 under the name of the Institute of Retreat, at Quimper, in Brittany, by Mademoiselle Claude-Thérèse de Kerméno under the direction of the Jesuit Father Huby. The holy foundress having made a retreat in a convent which accommodated ladies who desired to retire from the world and follow the exercises of St. Ignatius, conceived the idea of founding a similar convent at Quimper. Later the sisters took the name of the Dames de la retraite. During the French Revolution they were dispersed for refusing to take the oath of allegiance. On 17 July, 1794, one of their number, Mademoiselle Victoire de St-Luc, suffered martyrdom for her devotion to the Sacred Heart by the guillotine. Her glorious death caused the institute to flourish, the members consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart, and in 1805 began again the work of providing retreats for seculars, interrupted in 1791. The religious and administrative authorities in France then required the sisters to add the education of youth to their other work, and they now have large schools in various places in England, France, and Belgium. In 1820 two sisters from Quimper opened a house at Redon (Ille-et-Vilaine), which eventually became the cradle of the Retreat of Angers. Meantime the mother-house at Quimper in 1808 opened a house at Quimperlé; in 1820 one at Lesneven (Finistère); in 1847 one at Pontchâteau (Loire-Inférieure), and in 1858 one at Brest (Finistère). The following convents were founded by the Retreat of Angers: in 1820, Redon; in 1844, Saumur (Maine-et-Loire); in 1857, a second house at Angers called l'Oratoire, and in 1893 one at Fontenay-sous-Bois (Seine). In 1880 the sisters went to England and the flourishing convent at Clapham Park was founded from Angers. In 1882 a convent was opened at Burnham, in Somersetshire, from Quimper, and after the union of Quimper and Angers (1897), another convent was opened at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and in 1904, one at Clevedon. In 1898 a house at Mentone was opened, and in 1899 a large educational establishment at Brussels. The institute and its constitutions were approved definitively by the Holy See in 1910.
Francesca M. Steele.