Who is Estelle?

Estelle by herself

Estelle Faguette left us her autobiography, from her youth to her apparitions, published under the title “Estelle nous parle”.

Listen to the audio version of this biography. (in French)

Holiness of Estelle

What is striking when we try to characterise Estelle’s holiness is, first and foremost, her patience in the face of trials. There was no shortage of them: illness in her youth, until she was cured by the Virgin Mary in 1876; misunderstanding on the part of the Countess, who wanted to attribute the privilege of the apparitions to her family; persecution on the part of priests, who let all sorts of slanders be spread about her and her illness; persecution on the part of his grace Bishop Servonnet, who, at the request of the Prefect of Indre, wanted to ban the pilgrimage from 1903 onwards.

Her great humility is also noteworthy, as she never put herself forward, seeking to avoid honours and never defending herself even when attacked from the pulpit by Abbé Boulanger, appointed in 1902 by Bishop Servonnet to replace Reverend Salmon, who had moved to Massay in the north of the department.

Finally, her perseverance is also worthy of note: even in her very old age, she never wavered in her declarations. “Invited by his grace Archbishop Izart in 1923 to swear before God that everything she had affirmed was in accordance with the strictest truth, Estelle threw herself on her knees and, raising her hands to the crucifix, swore that she had nothing to retract from the words she had attributed to the Blessed Virgin, that she maintained the perfect accuracy of all her assertions concerning the apparitions, and she added heatedly that God, who was to judge her, knew that she was not lying, and that she had no hesitation in submitting to His Tribunal all that she had advanced”.

Youth of Estelle

Estelle was very pious: “Her only desire was to belong to God and to devote herself to her parents [1]“. At the age of 15, Estelle fell ill and was hospitalized for 15 days at the Hospice de la Charité: it was there that her desire to become a nun ‘to care for the sick’ deepened. Abbé Le Rebours, her confessor and director, advised her to join the Augustinian nuns at Hôtel-Dieu, and secretly provided her with a trousseau. During her stay, she fell ill several times, and was poisoned, which led to her departure. On September 15, 1863, she had to return home. In February 1864, she entered the service of the Duchesse of Estissac, mending linen two days a week.

In February 1865, the Comtesse Arthur de la Rochefoucauld, looking for someone to look after the children, hired Estelle on a yearly basis and she left almost immediately for Poiriers-Montbel[2], after spending 15 days in Paris where she nursed Marie Madeleine, the Comtesse’s granddaughter, who was suffering from a congestion of the lungs. This explains why, on arriving in the countryside, Estelle, who was already in fragile health, contracted acute peritonitis, caused by over-exertion[3], and finally recovered after three weeks.

10 years later, on June 1, 1875, in Paris, Estelle had such a violent attack that she was sent to Doctor Bucquoy[4]. He declared that Estelle was suffering from peritonitis, but that she was also phthisic. She had a small tumour on her left side, the size of an orange, and it was therefore impossible for her to return to her duties. Estelle nevertheless returned to Poiriers. Madame la Comtesse, who was due to go to the Château de la Tour in September, consulted a doctor in Buzançais, Dr Bénard, to find out whether she could leave without fear of Estelle dying in her absence. He declared that “you can’t make a new barrel out of an old one”. Estelle, feeling abandoned by everyone, decided to write to the Virgin Mary in the early days of September, and the next day had the letter taken to the little grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes that the children had caused to be built in the park at Poiriers. From then on, she said, “I saw no one”. On December 18, 1875, she received the last sacraments for the last time, surrendering herself entirely to the Will of God.

On January 20, 1876, the Count and Countess had to return to Paris, so they decided to have Estelle taken to the house in Pellevoisin, where her parents would come to live with her, so that her mother could look after her. She was taken there on January 20. On February 1, the Count and Countess left for Paris. People from the village came to look after her, as did the nuns from the Ecole Sainte Anne. At the Count’s request, Doctor Hubert came to see her on the evening of February 14, 1876, and declared that she would only survive a few more hours.

[1 ] See ‘Pellevoisin. Estelle nous parle’ Pilgrimage centre. Pellevoisin. 1993

[2] Château belonging to the de la Rochefoucauld family, a few kilometers from Pellevoisin.

[3 ] This illness lasted twelve years.

[4] Member of the Académie de Médecine de Paris, physician to the Archbishop of Paris and, during his vacations, diocesan to his grace Bishop Touchet of Orléans.

The apparitions

Find the complete accounts of the apparitions , as transmitted to us by Estelle in her autobiography “Estelle nous parle”, accompanied by their audio version.

After the apparitions, the contradictions

After the apparitions of 1876, Estelle’s life was obviously totally transformed. As the Virgin had announced to her in the 5th apparition: “You will have pitfalls, you will be called a visionary, exalted, mad; pay no attention to any of this, be faithful to me, I will help you”, all this was to come true.

On January 24, 1877, Monseigneur Sautereau, Vicar General, wrote a letter to Father Salmon, echoing rumours of misconduct passed on by Reverend Lèbre, parish priest in Buzançais. In October 1879, Estelle fell ill. The Countess freed her from her job and allowed her to stay in the little house where she had seen the apparitions, with her mother and niece, and a small annuity of 600 francs. Estelle lost her father on December 31, and was unable to attend the funeral. In 1886, the chapel was closed by Count Arthur de la Rochefoucauld, on the orders of Prefect Lépine. Estelle continued to admit pilgrims as if nothing had happened. In 1893, Estelle’s mother died. The Countess was then able to reclaim the site of the apparitions, just as she was planning to set up the convent, against Estelle’s advice. She had a small apartment built for Estelle at the end of the guesthouse building. Estelle wrote to the Duchesse of Estissac: “My life is – and will always be – one of sacrifice.” In May 1895, Estelle had to leave the house where she had seen the apparitions for good and move into the courtyard. It was then that Estelle’s family bought a small plot of land and had a house built, which in 1899 became the Villa Saint Jean – allowing Estelle to escape somewhat from the Countess’s invasive influence. As Sister Mary of the Holy Sacrament, member of the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Anne, testifies, “Mademoiselle Estelle was a very humble, well-balanced person. Above all, she was kind, very charitable, charitable in action. For example, she couldn’t stand people’s misery, whether it was little children or the poor. She would easily have shared her meal to feed the pilgrims who passed by with nothing. She preferred to deprive herself of the necessities and give what was needed, and for anyone. It was a quality. There was nothing extraordinary about her piety. There was nothing exaggerated about her demeanour in the chapel. She was very simple. You wouldn’t have thought she was privileged. When asked about the apparitions, she spoke quite simply. From the pulpit in church, Reverend Boulanger, parish priest of Pellevoisin appointed by Bishop Servonnet to replace Father Salmon in 1902, would rebuke her while she was present. She put up with it without complaining, without saying a word.”

In 1897, Bishop Servonnet was appointed to the episcopal see of Bourges. This marked the beginning of what could be called the “Ordeal of Pellevoisin” and “Estelle’s Ordeal”. It lasted 12 years, until the bishop’s death in 1909. And yet it all started well: on September 9, Bishop Servonnet was the first archbishop of Bourges to preside over the pilgrimage and wear the scapular. But the untimely interventions and imprudence of Reverend Bauron, parish priest of Saint Eucher and director of the Revue Mariale, and of Father Salmon, both ultra-monarchists, ended up warning the republican archbishop against the “hotheads” in his diocese. The first imprudence of Father Salmon and Reverend Bauron was to have implied to the bishop, in a letter dated December 4, that the secret entrusted to Estelle during the 7th apparition was of a political nature – which Estelle later denied, pointing out that this secret was above all personal and that she could only tell it in confession. In 1899, during the third canonical inquiry ordered by Bishop Servonnet, the slander of Abbé Lenoir’s housekeeper about Estelle’s “pregnancy” was repeated in Lenoir’s report to the commission.

The year 1900 marked the climax of the crisis. On January 30, Estelle, taken there by Bishop Touchet and the Duchess of Estissac, met Pope Leo XIII in Rome. Around February 11, Estelle met Father Joseph Lémius, Procurator General of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who proposed that Estelle and Father Salmon give his congregation (the Oblates of Mary Immaculate) the task of propagating the scapular. Estelle agreed, on condition that Pellevoisin remain the cradle of the scapular. A few days later, the same Father Lemius returned to submit to Estelle a letter concerning approval of the scapular, addressed to the Pope. There was no question, he said, of mentioning Pellevoisin, as “that would cause everything to fail”. Estelle asked the priest to at least add a mention of the All-Merciful Mother and – in the end – refused to sign. Lémius’s manoeuvre did however eventually succeed. May 19: a letter was sent from the Congregation of Rites to the Oblates modifying the scapular: “All merciful Mother” became “Mater Miséricordiae” and the delivery of the scapular was entrusted to the Oblates of Montmartre. This document gave the right of blessing, imposition and distribution to three churches: Paray-le-Monial, Montmartre, and Rome, with the power to delegate to others. On June 14, 1900, Cardinal Mazella wrote to the Duchess of Estissac that the Pope had asked that Pellevoisin no longer be officially mentioned. In December, after his trip to Rome, Bishop Servonnet wrote to Father Salmon to pass on Rome’s provisions regarding Pellevoisin: a) To pronounce no judgment – neither for nor against. b) To preserve the cult of the Blessed Virgin and make the archconfraternity flourish. c) To diminish and gradually make people forget both the visionary and her apparitions, as incidental goods, in the face of the honour, love and trust due to the Blessed Virgin, whom the Church calls Mother of Mercy. In 1902, Bishop Servonnet came to believe the terrible calumnies against Estelle. On February 24, Estelle underwent a virginity examination by Doctor Bucquoy and Doctor Guéniot of the Paris Faculty of Medicine, who concluded that she was a virgin. In October, Father Salmon was transferred to Massay by Bishop Servonnet and replaced by Abbé Boulanger, who became Estelle’s confessor. The chapel of the apparitions was closed by order of Bishop Servonnet, under pressure from the prefect, to prevent unrest. Camille Cartier, Estelle’s great-niece, would later testify in 1958 about her aunt: “A great trial took place in her soul, when her confessor and director had to leave the parish of Pellevoisin, he who had witnessed the great miracle of her healing, he who directed her in all the decisions to be taken, and at the same time raised her soul more and more towards God; but it was necessary to obey the decision of the archbishopric; it was also a great and cruel trial for the good Canon Salmon. Abbé Boulanger, sent to replace him, had the task of annihilating the supernatural facts of the apparitions; he did this well, even with violence, which caused double the suffering to the visionary; but the Blessed Virgin was there, and the words she had spoken to her comforted her”.

A happy old age

In 1909, on October 18, Bishop Servonnet died and was replaced by Bishop Dubois. 1910, September 9: Bishop Dubois presided over the annual pilgrimage and transferred Abbé Boulanger, who was replaced by Abbé Chouzier. In 1912, at the end of March, Estelle was received in private audience in Rome by Pope Pius X. In 1920, on June 14, the Countess died and was buried in her Dominican tertiary habit at Pellevoisin. A few months after the death of Father Salmon (June 9, 1922), on November 22, Rome finally granted Pellevoisin the privilege of imposing the scapular as was already the case for Montmartre, Paray-le-Monial and Rome. In 1923, Archbishop Izart met Estelle, who signed the minutes of the meeting. The minutes state: “The loyalty of the answers and the precision of the details proved that Estelle, who was to turn eighty on the following September 12, enjoyed the fullness of her faculties and was still gifted with an uncommon fidelity of memory. Questioned about the veracity of her statements, and invited by the archbishop to swear before God that everything she had said was the strictest truth, Estelle threw herself on her knees and, raising her hands to the crucifix, swore that she had nothing to retract from the words she had attributed to the Blessed Virgin, that she maintained the perfect accuracy of all her assertions concerning the apparitions, and she added heatedly that God, who was to judge her, knew that she was not lying, and that she had no hesitation in submitting to his Tribunal all that she had advanced.”

In 1925: Estelle entered the Dominican Third Order after taking the habit in 1923, under the name of Sister Marguerite-Marie. On August 23, 1929, Estelle died at the age of 86, still firm in her belief in the apparitions. Later, on September 17, 1958, Camille Cartier wrote: “My son Elie and I attest to having witnessed the last moments of our aunt Estelle Faguette on August 23, 1929, at around 7am. The priest assisting her, Father Fontbaustier, asked her: “Estelle, are you happy to be going to see the Blessed Virgin again? In a last effort, stretching out her agonizing hands before the statue of this Good Mother, she who had not spoken for several days, replied: “Oh yes, certainly”. Her life was full of hard trials, accepted with resignation, strengthened by the great graces she had received. Her death was very sweet and calm. Estelle experienced many humiliations, calumnies and lies directed against her during her long life; despite all this, she never wavered, tirelessly repeating the words that the All-Merciful Mother had spoken to her: “Publish my glory. I have come for the conversion of sinners. Courage and trust”.

So it’s easy to see how Estelle had to suffer hardships and contradictions that got in the way of her mission. She also had to suffer, to a lesser extent, from the actions of all those who wanted to take over the message of Pellevoisin in a political sense, narrowing its scope. She bore it all with calm, courage and confidence, and perhaps one day this will work in her favour, in the context of a beatification procedure. In any case, the situation now seems to have calmed down, and the message can now regain its influence. Moreover, as his grace Monseigneur Plateau, Archbishop Emeritus of Bourges, said on August 29, 1979: “For the Church, the spiritual fruits of a devotion are among the best criteria for recognizing an apparition and its message. If, despite all kinds of vicissitudes and sometimes polemics, the sanctuary of Pellevoisin remains a place of spiritual renewal and forgiveness, we will know the tree by its fruits…”.