St. Mary Euphrasia was born Rose Virginie Pelletier on the island of Noirmoutier, off the coast of France, on July 31, 1796. Her parents were imprisoned on the island during the French Revolution. She grew up in the turbulent aftermath of that revolution. Her father was a medical doctor who provided care for other inhabitants of the island as well as for their captors. Her mother fed the hungry and cared for the sick. Thus, as a young girl, Rose Virginie witnessed that faith is expressed in action. In later years she would advise her novices with regard to those in their care, “It is not enough that you love them, they must know that you love them.”
As a teenager, Rose Virginie attended boarding school in Tours, France, and became familiar with the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity who resided nearby. This Order had been founded by St. John Eudes in 1641. She was particularly attracted to the ministry of these Sisters who cared for girls and women in difficult situations. Some of the girls were abandoned by their families or orphaned, some had turned to prostitution in order to survive. The Sisters provided shelter, food, vocational training and an opportunity to turn their lives around. Rose Virginie entered the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Tours at the age of 18, and was given the religious name Sr. Mary Euphrasia.
When she was only 29, she was appointed local superior in Tours. During this time the Bishop of Angers asked that a home be established for the girls and young women in his diocese. Sr. Mary Euphrasia was sent to set up this house in 1829 and she was appointed the local superior there as well. Her natural ability to lead others and her strong, snagging personality were the cornerstones of the legacy she would leave behind. Sr. Mary Euphrasia found a suitable piece of property and led five Sisters to Angers. These Sisters opened the home and their hearts to receive women and girls who were destitute. Soon, requests for similar ministries were pouring in from other cities in Europe and beyond. Arising out of her desire to meet these needs, Sr. Mary Euphrasia envisioned a new governing structure that would free her Sisters to respond more readily to the many needs that surrounded them. A woman endowed with exceptional gifts of nature and grace, she practiced all virtues to a heroic degree. With amazing zeal and courage, she undertook great works that showed the compassion of Jesus to those who were abandoned, the underprivileged and the lost.