This was when the Blessed Mother appeared to two shepherd children at La Salette, a small hamlet in the French Alps. Through the children she gave her message of "Reconciliation" to the world. She insisted that this message be made known to all her people. Consequently in 1852 the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette were founded to serve as a "perpetual remembrance of Mary's merciful Apparition." In 1892 two La Salette Missionaries arrived to explore possible settlement in the New World and ultimately settled in Hartford, Connecticut. Since then the United States presence has grown nationwide. Our province is known as the Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas. We are an Apostolic, religious community. We witness to the Kingdom of God as we seek to mend relationships in need of healing. Inspired by the event of La Salette and supported by our community life, we are strengthened by the Eucharist, prayer and faith sharing.
In 1942 the La Salette Missionaries bought the Attleboro, Massachusetts property as a major seminary and in 1952 the construction of the Shrine was announced. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1953, marked the official opening of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro. From this beginning to today we have united our gifts and talents with those of the laity. Looking at Mary as our model, we discern new opportunities to make known Her message of hope and reconciliation.
The beautiful Lady now stood up while the children remained transfixed where they were. She said to them in French: “Come near, my children, be not afraid. I am here to tell you great news”. Fully reassured by these words the children hurried to meet her. Her voice, they said, was like music. They approached so near her that, as they later expressed it, another person could not have passed between them and her. The Lady also took a few steps towards them. They looked at her and noticed that she did not cease weeping all the time she spoke to them. As Maximin put it, “She was like a mama whom her own children had beaten and who had escaped to the mountain to weep.” The beautiful Lady was tall and seemed to be made of light. She was dressed like women of the region with a long dress, an apron nearly as long as the dress, a shawl that crossed over her breast and was knotted in the back, and a cap or bonnet similar to the ones worn by peasant women. Roses crowned her head while another wreath of roses adorned the edges of her white shawl and a third garland surrounded her shoes. Over her brow shone a light in the form of a diadem. On her shoulders shone a heavy chain and from a smaller golden chain hung a resplendent crucifix with a hammer and pincers placed on each side of the Cross, a little beyond the nailed hands.
On September 19, 1851, after “a precise and rigorous investigation” of the event, the witnesses, the content of the message, and its repercussions, an aged Philibert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, pronounced with determination and excitement his judgment in a pastoral letter of instruction. He declared that “the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two shepherds, September 19, 1846, on a mountain in the Alps, located in the parish of La Salette... bears within itself all the characteristics of truth and that the faithful have grounds for believing it to be indubitable and certain.” In another pastoral letter, dated May 1,1852, the Bishop of Grenoble announced the construction of a Shrine on the mountain of the apparition, and went on to say: “However important the erection of a Shrine may be, there is something still more important, namely the ministers of religion destined to look after it, to receive the pious pilgrims, to preach the word of God to them, to exercise towards them the ministry of reconciliation, to administer the Holy Sacrament of the altar, and to be, to all, the faithful dispensers of the mysteries of God and the spiritual treasures of the Church. “These priests shall be called the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette; their institution and existence shall be, like the Shrine itself, an eternal monument, a perpetual remembrance, of Mary's merciful apparition.” The first priests were imbued with the spirit of the Apparition and devoted themselves to the service of the pilgrims. From the beginning they felt the call to live the vowed religious life. Six of them pronounced their first vows on Feb. 2,1858.
La Salette Shrines around the world do have their own unique offerings and attempt to meet the need of those pilgrims who come daily, weekly or yearly to benefit from the ministry and programs offered at that Shrine. All our Shrines offer the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive materials on the La Salette event and message and personally meet the La Salettes who serve at the Shrine.Yet as La Salette Shrines, our charism of reconciliation is always primary in the minds of those who minister at our Shrines. However, it is interesting to note that, although the La Salettes may offer an explanation and interpretation of the La Salette message, it is most important that all pilgrims listen to or read the message of Mary for themselves and hear in their heart what God is saying to them. Perhaps that is one example of what Mary meant about making her message known to all her people; that is, giving people a chance to reflect on Mary’s words and apply them to their own life and circumstances.
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