Anne Marie Javouhey, familiarly known as Nanette, was the foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. She was born in Burgundy, France on 10th November, 1779. She grew up at a time when the country was in the grip of the French Revolution. Churches and schools were closed, the religious, priests and believers were persecuted. It was under these circumstances that Anne Marie as a young girl tried to meet the spiritual needs of the people around her, by teaching catechism, preparing them for the sacraments etc.
Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey, urged by the desire to seek, find and accomplish the will of God founded the Society of St. Joseph of Cluny on 12th May, 1807, in France under the patronage of St. Joseph. She along with her three sisters and five others, made their profession in Chalon - sur - saone, and later established themselves in a house in Cluny (France). The Congregation from then on began to be called the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.
She founded the Congregation of the sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny to help care for orphans and educate children, first in France, then in other continents where she undertook the human development of the coloured races. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was unusual for a woman to traverse 45000 kilometres of ocean in a sailing boat, but from 1817 onwards this is what Anne-Marie and her sisters did, thus fulfilling their missionary vocation in the four corners of the earth.
Anne Marie felt called by God to do a little good to a great number of people. She was deeply convinced that God loves all without distinction of race, culture, religion or social status, that their dignity should be recognized and their rights defended. She instinctively went towards the most deprived without, however, abandoning the others.
In fulfilling the will of God, she went beyond the boundaries of France to Africa and to Mana (South America). At Mana, she was the pioneer for the liberation of African slaves (apartheid). She worked for the formation of the African clergy and was the outstanding liberator of slaves. In her own life time, her missionary activities were extended to the five continents. She was so recognized for her devotedness, ingenuity and audacity that she was acclaimed as the Liberator of salves, The Valiant Woman, The Apostle of Negroes, and The Mother of Black - Races
Her sisters scattered over the five continents imbued with the same zeal carried on her mission in the social, medical and educational fields.
In 1826, the first three Cluny sisters came to Pondicherry. They were followed three years later by Mother Rosalie Javouhey, Anne Marie's youngest sister. In accordance with the spirit of the foundress, they launched out into various fields. To impart sound moral, spiritual, human and social values to the students for life and to prepare them for their respective roles in society, schools were established.
Anne Marie worked for the formation of a local clergy and in 1840, the first three Senegalese Priests were ordained in Paris. Her work in and for the Church was a prophetic intuition.
Anne Marie Javouhey was a woman who dared:
To stand as counter witness to the spirit of the age,
To search for God's will for her in the challenges of her day,
To risk everything in complete confidence, in order to announce Jesus Christ,
To believe in the dignity of the poorest and work to promote freedom from oppression,
To love, even to the Cross, in accepting humiliations and calumnies.
This spirit she left to her Sisters to inspire them to serve the Church and the world to-day.
I am called to feed and clothe the poor of Jesus Christ... to teach them to know God. How beautiful this work is! How well I know the value of it .
Anne Marie Javouhey, died on 15th July 1851 and was beatified on 15th October 1950.