November 7, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Possible saints: Father Marie-Clement Staub

John F. Fink(Twenty-fourth in a series of columns)

Joseph Staub grew up in Alsace with a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to St. Joan of Arc, who had been from Lorraine, which bordered Alsace. Both were to figure prominently in his life.

Joseph joined the Assumptionist Fathers and took the religious name Marie-Clement in honor of the Blessed Virgin and his father. After studies in Louvain and Rome, he was ordained a priest in 1904.

After several initial assignments, he was sent to the United States in 1909. His primary assignment was as chaplain at an orphanage in Worcester, Mass., but his superiors gave him permission to preach on devotion to the Sacred Heart.

One of his biographers, Serge Saint-Michel, wrote of him, “He spoke with such conviction, such enthusiasm and love. His one desire was to spread love like a blazing fire, that the whole world might be plunged into the burning, loving Heart of Jesus.”

Mainly through his efforts, thousands joined the Archconfraternity of Prayer and Penance in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When Father Staub met with Pope Pius X in 1914, he presented him a list of 27,000 members.

By 1919, that number exceeded 100,000. The Archconfraternity tried to enthrone the Sacred Heart in homes, school and businesses, and was highly successful in that part of the 20th century. Members prayed to the Sacred Heart and did penance.

Father Staub also had a great devotion to St. Joan of Arc, especially after she was beatified in 1909. He attended her canonization in 1920, but even before that he was seeking donations to build an altar in her honor at Assumption College in Worcester.

While he was doing that, in 1913, a rectory housekeeper in Fitchburg, Mass., Alice Caron, told him that Joan wanted more than that from him.

“She wants you to provide a community of Sisters, who will offer themselves as victims of love to the Sacred Heart for the benefit of priests,” she told him.

Father Staub met with Alice and two other women on Christmas Eve of 1914, and with them plus four other women on New Year’s Eve. The result of those meetings was the founding of the Sisters of St. Joan of Arc in a cottage near Assumption College. Father Staub provided direction and vision to the community.

He continued his preaching in both the United States and Canada. In 1917, he expanded the sisters’ community into Canada. In 1920, the community received its formal episcopal and papal approval. In 1928, he established foundations in France, where the sisters became known as the Lorraines. They obtained the castle at Beaulieu-les-Fontaines where Joan of Arc had been imprisoned for nine days. They converted the dungeon into a shrine.

Father Staub continued to preach devotion to the Sacred Heart and to care for the community he founded until his death in 1936. At that time, the community had 139 members serving in 34 houses in the United States, Canada and France. †

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