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What does it mean to be “called” to live a charism?


In my almost 60 years of religious life, I have experienced a lot of examples of blessings, including being mysteriously called to enter the religious community of those La Salettes who have ministered in my home parish of Our Lady of Sorrows (as seen in the video above) in Hartford, Connecticut, USA since the 1890s.


These marvelous down-home priests and brothers were people I loved. For example, Brother Anthony Paulukitis, M.S. (1881-1973), the unassuming and gentle Parish Sacristan for our parish seemed to be friends with everyone, including the many squirrels behind the La Salette Seminary on New Park Avenue. He fed them daily from his hands, reminding me of St. Francis of Assisi.


Another example was Fr. Thomas F. McGuirk, M.S. (1901-1973), a fine man of Irish descent who loved to tell jokes to everyone, even to us Catholic schoolchildren. He was the only pastor I knew because he served as our pastor from 1944-1966.


In my many years of growing up surrounded by La Salettes and finally becoming a La Salette religious in 1965, I have tried to understand, in the years following Vatican II, what it meant to experience and live our charism of reconciliation. Yet in my ongoing formation, I have discovered some explanations that helped me truly appreciate and notice our charism of reconciliation at work among us.


In the beautiful article by Dominican Sr. Elizabeth McDonough, Charism and Religious Life, she shared four qualities of charisms that I found memorable.


First: “People simply receive the charism and respond to it. It touches and can change them… No one can re-found or reweave or re-create a charism of religious life.

She explains: “…Expressed in the subjective way that… (people) probably (have) experienced it at some time or another, a vocation to live within a certain religious charism is an overwhelming sense that something quite beyond clear description has dropped into one's life (or into one's hands or into one's heart or one's head) and evoked a spontaneous personal response such as ‘Oh, my God, if I take this seriously, it could transform me drastically for the rest of my life.”’


Second: Personally, opening ourselves to receiving a charism can be a radical transformation.


Again, she explains: “… In fact, if received and responded to, radical transformation is precisely what a charism can accomplish as a person becomes publicly, consciously… committed to following Jesus more closely in this fashion and with these people and for this purpose…


Third: Charisms are not dead letters, living only in a book. They only live in people.


“… charisms exist, not in dead letters, but in living persons who are formed and informed by the original charism both lived and written down. (People) today who have embraced any charism… cannot allow themselves the luxury of dabbling with the gift.


Fourth: Charisms belong to those who cherish the gift and try to live it.


She concludes by saying: “The future of (the La Salette Missionaries and those who connect themselves to their charism of reconciliation) belongs neither to those who fondly reminisce about yesteryear nor to those who self-prophetically dream about the (future). (A Charism) belongs to those who here and now, simply and conscientiously, together live their response to the charism that captured them, to the God who has promised to transform them into the likeness of Christ.” (1)


What are some possible examples of the La Salette Missionary’s “charism moments”

(or “explosions of grace”) throughout their history?


Here are some possible examples of “La Salette Charism moments” that I have gleaned from our lived history (or deep story) in responding to the needs of the times following the Apparition until today:

o  In Mary’s visit to La Salette, God chose two simple, unschooled children to carry out her mandate to “make this message known to all my people.” God helped these children to remain faithful to this message and mission until they finally went back to the Father.

o Through Mary, in her words and her presence at La Salette, God invites us to be concerned and compassionate ministers of her Son’s message of forgiveness and reconciliation: “Make this message known.” In God’s wisdom, Christ invites us to be co-creators of the Kingdom in this most holy work of evangelization. All who have heard this message are asked to act on it and share it with all they meet.

o God inspired Bishop de Bruillard not only to establish a La Salette Shrine on that Holy Mountain but also to state: 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.”

o God gave us vital and inspired men to lead our community in those important beginning years, including Frs. Pierre Archier, Sylvain-Marie Giraud, Auguste Chapuy, Joseph Perrin, and Pierre Pajot. Sharing humble backgrounds, these men became strong, inspired workers for the kingdom.

o The Holy Spirit guided our initial La Salette community leaders to broaden their vision beyond their native France, eventually spreading Mary’s message to the earth's four corners.

o In the following years, God led the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, then recently established in the United States, to reach out to “all her people” by inspiring them to explore and found our community in Canada, Brazil, the Philippines, Myanmar, and more recently Haiti. Supported by Mary’s mandate, our worldwide La Salette Community now ministers in at least twenty-five countries and counting.

o God has strengthened the will of our members to continue their ministry of reconciliation in countries that were experiencing war and civil strife, even to the point of losing their lives in serving the people of God.

o Our La Salette Community worldwide has welcomed ministry with the La Salette Sisters to make Mary’s message known. We have recently pledged to work more closely with them on many levels.

o God has enlightened our community to appreciate the gift of the laity as co-workers in the mission of reconciliation, beginning with Maximin and Melanie. There are thousands of La Salette Laity worldwide who continue to live and share Mary’s message with her people.


More recently, we La Salettes have even more reasons to thank God...


Our New La Salette Bishop: We recently celebrated the ordination as bishop of a fellow La Salette, Fr. Francis Donatien Randriamalala, M.S., of the Province of Mary Mother of the Church, as Bishop of the Diocese of Ambanja, on Friday, November 11, 2022.

 He was born in the central high plateau region (Madagascar), in Antsirabe, Madagascar, on January 6, 1972. He pronounced his first vows as a Missionary of La Salette on September 19, 1995, and was ordained a priest on August 9, 2003. On November 11, 2022, he was appointed Bishop of Ambanja on the northwest corner of Madagascar, 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) northwest of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, east-central Madagascar.


From 2003 to 2006, he was responsible for the missionary district of Avaradrano in Morondava. From 2006 to 2010, he studied at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome, obtaining a Youth Ministry degree. Since 2010, he has ministered in the Parish of Our Lady of La Salette in Morondava and was Vicar General of the Diocese of Morondava.


A New Deacon: On March 11, 2023 Brother José César Atahuichi Ochoa, M.S., of the District of Argentina, was ordained to the Diaconate in the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Las Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina.


He was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and is one of nine siblings. He studied at a local University and received a Licentiate Degree in Accounting.


He has consistently been an active member in our parish of Our Lady of  La Salette in Cochabamba and a member of their Parish Council and Director of the Local Neighborhood Athletic Association. He has taught in the program for the blind.


Our Province’s Younger La Salettes: Lastly, we thank our younger Province members who spearhead our efforts to make Mary’s message known. They recently met with Fr. John Cecero, SJ., for a Visionary Leadership workshop in the La Salette continuous education series.


We thank God for the gift of their lives in the service of God and the Church. As members of the Congregation of the Missionaries of La Salette, we entrust their ministries under the protection of the Beautiful Lady. Let us accompany them with our prayers.



Prayer of Thanksgiving to Our Lady of La Salette for Her People

Loving Mother of La Salette, how can we ever express sufficient thanks to your Son for the many blessings he has showered upon us through his loving concern for all his children? As Mother of the Church, you teach us by word and example how to praise and give thanks to God in moments of joy and in the more difficult challenges of life.

We thank you and your Son for the mighty power of God's Spirit living within us, showing forth even in our weakness. May Jesus make us worthy, most gracious Lady, of these precious gifts until we can thank him one day with you in Paradise. Amen. (3)


      Our Lady of La Salette, Reconciler of sinners, Pray without ceasing for us who have recourse to you.


(1) Elizabeth McDonough, O.P., Charism, and Religious Life, in The Best of the Review (Review for Religious) – 5: The Church & Consecrated Life, Edited by David L. Fleming, S.J., and Elizabeth McDonough, O.P., St. Louis, Missouri, 1996, pgs. 136, 139, 143;

(2) Fr. Ron Gagne, M.S.;

(3) Ibidem.