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Our History

Just after the French Revolution, when France was in a state of upheaval, a handful of young women began to nurse the sick and dying. The twelve young women stayed in the sick person’s home day and night, demonstrating the healing presence of God through their compassionate care.

They chose one of the group as their leader - Josephine Potel - and in January 1824 were professed in the Church of St Sulpice. The word spread. People began to hear about the spirituality of the tiny group, and about the ‘good care’ (‘bon secours’) they offered to rich and poor alike. Other young women joined them.

Even Josephine Potel’s death in her early twenties did not deflect the group from their mission. Led by her successor, Angelique Geay, the Congregation spread throughout France, driven by a belief that their foundation had been an act of compassion and that they must continue to show that compassion in action.

Spreading Out From France
The work and spirituality of the early Bon Secours Sisters attracted the attention of an ex-patriate Irishwoman, Catherine O’Farrell, who persuaded them to come to Ireland.

In 1861, the first foundation outside of France was made in Dublin, when four sisters came to the city to care for the sick and dying in their homes. From Dublin, the sisters expanded their work to Cork, Belfast, Tralee and Galway.

Spreading Out From France (cont.)

A decade later, Bon Secours had set up in London and another ten years later were working in Baltimore, USA. By 1900, healthcare was changing and Bon Secours changed with it. Care of the sick was moving from the homes of patients to hospitals, and so Bon Secours began to set up hospitals, together with nursing homes for elderly patients.

In 1966, when Bishop Lucey of Cork and Ross asked Bon Secours to take part in the Cork Diocesan Mission in Peru, four Irish sisters opened a mission in Trujillo, a coastal Peruvian city. They faced a grim and complex challenge. Because no hospitals served the poor, diseases went untreated and many - particularly the young and the old - died each year as a direct result. Because vital operations were not provided for children, deformity was widespread.

The Sisters developed a wide range of community health programmes, operating both in medical clinics and in the homes of the poor. But they widened their scope to respond to community need, teaching about religion, taking care of and educating people with mental disabilities. To help improve the quality of life, they undertook home economics and pastoral care, becoming deeply involved in the life of the local community. Today, thirty eight Peruvian sisters, together with five Irish sisters, continue the work initiated in the sixties.