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October 2

Saint Émilie de Villeneuve - October 2

Saint Émilie de Villeneuve
Nun, Foundress
(1811 – 1854)

“I listened to the cry of the poor and I heard the cry of God.”

Saint Émilie de Villeneuve

Her Early Years

Émilie was born on March 9, 1811 in Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, France to Louis de Villeneuve and Rose d’Avessens. She was the third daughter of a wealthy French businessman living in Château d’Hauterive, near Castres, where her sick mother had withdrawn for treatment. Émilie’s life was strongly marked by her mother’s illness, which began with the birth of her little brother Ludovic. At the age of 14 in 1815, her mother died. Then, three years later in 1818, her sister Octavie died. As a teenager, Emilie got into the habit of confiding her joys, sorrows and choices to the Virgin. After her mother’s death, Émilie lived some time in Toulouse where her grandmother supported her education and that of her sisters.

Foundress of “The Blue Nuns”

At the age 19, Émilie came back at the Château d’Hauterive to run the household while her father was the mayor of Castres. She planned on joining the “Daughters of Charity”, known for their work with the poor, but her father asked her to think for four years before making a decision. After a period of discernment, Émilie created (with the approval of her bishop), and in collaboration with two companions, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Castres in December 1836. Here, at the age of 24, Émilie professed her vows and was known as Sister Marie. Her religious community rapidly became known under the name of “The Blue Nuns” because of the color of their habit.

Emilie confided to her sisters in a letter at the end of a retreat in 1845: “Let us revive the faith, let us make ourselves worthy of our beautiful vocation, let us help one another”.

Her Congregational Ministry

In the early years, her congregation aimed at addressing the pressing needs of the poor and marginalized by focusing on the education of girls and children and caring for the sick, including convicts and prostitutes. Under Émilie’s guidance, the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres worked tirelessly to provide quality education to countless underserved girls and children. They recognized the transformative power of education, particularly for those who lacked access to it. Through their efforts, these girls and children were given the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop the skills they needed to create better lives for themselves. Additionally, Émilie and her sisters dedicated themselves to caring for the sick, tending to their physical and spiritual needs. They offered comfort, compassion, and healing to the suffering, reflecting Christ’s love through their actions.

Émilie called on others to become missionaries wherever they were, daring to take a stand for justice, peace, respect and attention to the smallest in all our places of life, to do all this out of love, according to the motto taken by the congregation: “to go where the voice of the poor calls us”. Their commitment to healthcare extended both locally and globally, as they fearlessly ventured out as missionaries, spreading the message of God’s love to the African countries of Senegal, Gambia, and Gabon to do Christ’s work.

The sisters went on a mission to African countries of Senegal in 1848 and then to Gabon in 1849. Émilie corresponds regularly with her sisters, allowing them to discern the most appropriate mission in the context in which they live.

Her Death

Five years later in 1853, Émilie resigned as Superior General to be replaced by Sister Hélène Delmas. Tragically, Émilie’s life was cut short when she succumbed to cholera on October 2, 1859 in Castres, Tarn, France.

In his homily, Pope Francis observed how Saint Émilie de Villeneuve “consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love.”

Her congregation started to expand in Europe in 1903, in Latin America in 1904-1905, and eventually in the Asia Pacific region in 1998. Today, there are around 600 members spread in 124 communities in Africa (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo); Asia (Philippines); Europe (France, Spain, and Italy); North America (Mexico and Haiti); and South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela).

Born :                   March 9, 1811 in Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, France

Died:                    October 2, 1854 in in Castres, Tarn, France

Beatified:            July 5 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI

Canonized:         May 17, 2015 by Pope Francis

Feast Day:          October 2

Patron Saint:     Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Castres



Saint Émilie de Villeneuve’s life was full of deep compassion for the suffering and her tireless efforts to alleviate it. She recognized the dignity of every person, especially the most vulnerable, and sought to empower them through education and compassionate care. Her dedication to serving the sick, the poor, and the marginalized reflects the teachings of Christ to love one’s neighbor and to care for the least among us.

While we may not all start a new order like Saint Émilie de Villeneuve did, we all can recognize the dignity of every person. What can you do today to empower the sick, the poor, and the marginalized through compassionate caring acts reflecting Christ’s love of neighbor?


Saint Émilie de Villeneuve,

You who dedicated your life to the service of the poor and marginalized, intercede for us before the throne of God.

Inspire us to follow your example and to reach out to those in need with compassion and humility.

Help us to recognize the dignity of every person, especially the most vulnerable among us, and to strive to empower them through education, healthcare, and love.

May we see the face of Jesus in each person we meet and act accordingly.

Saint Émilie de Villeneuve, pray for me and for all who invoke your aid. Amen.

Saint Links 

Catholic Saints – Émilie de Villeneuve: A Beacon of Selfless Love and Devotion

La Croix – Who was Saint Emilie de Villeneuve? (French)

Melanie Rigney – Wednesday’s Woman: St. Emilie de Villeneuve

Mission Priest – St. Émilie de Villeneuve: Founder of the Blue Sisters of Castres

Patrica Mathson – Émilie de Villeneuve

Saint for a Minute – Saint Émilie De Villeneuve

Video Link

Saint Emilie de Villeneuve-AMSHJ – YouTube (A M S H J – H R M)