During this “Special Year dedicated to Saint Joseph” by Pope Francis, Sister Anne Chevillard invites us to get to know Saint Joseph of Kermaria.
Do you know this shrine, located near Locminé in Brittany? For the local people, it is the Mother House of the Daughters of Jesus, called Kermaria, a name which means “Mary’s village”. So why is it called “Saint Joseph de Kermaria”?
On your way to the chapel, you will pass an oratory that dates from the Congregation beginning. Saint Joseph is honoured there under the name of “Saint Joseph the Poor”. You will probably meet people praying there. Not a day goes by without seeing men and women, young and old, come to confide their joys and sorrows to Saint Joseph. They come to thank him, as can be witnessed by the many ex voto plaques and the flowers placed there by the beneficiaries of the graces obtained. Sometimes they slip their prayer intentions into the box provided for this purpose. Every Wednesday evening, the sisters include all these intentions in their community prayer.
How the devotion to Saint Joseph was born
The Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus was born in Bignan, Brittany, in 1834. From the very beginning, the Sisters had at heart to pray to Saint Joseph and to make him known. The co-foundress of this nascent religious family, Mother Marie de Saint Charles, gave it such an expansion that the house purchased in Bignan soon proved to be too small. It became necessary to undertake work and transform two rooms to create a chapel.
Thus, on 19 March 1852, when the new premises were blessed, the house was called “Maison Saint Joseph de Bignan“. At the beginning of each year, the Superior General reminded the Sisters that Saint Joseph was to be honoured as the patron saint of the Congregation: “Continue to invoke him with more love and confidence than ever“.
In 1854, with many young women knocking at the door of the Congregation, it became necessary to think about acquiring new land. A meagre piece of land near Locminé, covered with moorland and heather, was proposed. Mother Marie de Saint Charles did not hesitate. “This is what we need, this is where we will have our Mother House“.
A legend tells that a woman returning from the market met a man in this place. He had a plane on his shoulder and a saw in his hand and said to her: “Great things will be done here; many will come from far away to live together, and Saint Joseph will be honoured here.” The woman confided to him that she prayed to God and to St Joseph every day. The carpenter added: “Continue to pray to St. Joseph, for my name is also Joseph.” The man then disappeared.
From Bignan to Kermaria
After much procrastination, the contract of sale was signed on April 30th, 1860 and the place was called “Saint Joseph de Kermaria”. In the days that followed, the sisters and novices came to clear the moor and work the land. One of the Sisters’ first tasks was to transfer the statue of St Joseph from Bignan to Kermaria. About a hundred metres from the property, a Sister took the statue in her arms and carried it on the site of the present oratory.
There were living quarters, but these were too small to accommodate some forty people, so a new building was needed. For the nuns, the most important thing was to have a chapel. Mother Marie de St Charles wrote to her Sisters:
“The chapel will be dedicated to St Joseph. While it will serve for us, we want it to also serve to make this great Saint known in the parishes where we are.”
Financing the work
But where would they find the necessary money? The more the money was lacking, the more their confidence in Saint Joseph grew. In 1863, major masonry work began. Pictures of St. Joseph were printed to finance it. Sold for 7 centimes in all the parishes where the Daughters of Jesus worked and far beyond, they helped to spread the cult of the Saint.
Consecration and pilgrimage
Devotion to Saint Joseph spread throughout Brittany, but also abroad through the nuns who were forced to go into exile in North America during the expulsions of 1902.
The chapel was completed and consecrated on 22 August 1867 by Mgr Bécel, Bishop of Vannes, assisted by many bishops. A large crowd came from all the departments of Brittany and further afield. On 14 August 1921, the celebration of the Coronation of the statue of St Joseph in the choir of the chapel, again attracted large crowds.
To this day, the feasts of the 19th of March and the 1st of May bring together pilgrims to St Joseph.
May the Year of St Joseph from the 8th of December 2020- 8th December 2021), desired by our Pope Francis, renew our prayer and give us the opportunity to rekindle our trust in St Joseph.
“Saint Joseph, patron of impossible things, show us your protection.”
Sr Anna Chevillard , dj, Meneac, France