On February 24, 1849, the Institute of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary was founded to continue a shelter and an orphanage established by Father Gailhac in Béziers, France, and which had been in existence since 1834. After the founding of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary in 1849, these works were gradually transformed and supplemented by a boarding school and a small dispensary in which both the children at the Mother House and the poor and outcast of Béziers were treated.
First RSHM Foundation in Béziers, France
The orphanage, the preservation (successor to the shelter), and the boarding school were three distinct institutions, the first two being considered social welfare works. The same spirit animated them, but each had specific educational aims according to the place that each group would hold in society. The orphanage accepted children between the ages of six and ten. They stayed there until they were twenty-one years of age or until some member of the family took them. The specific objective of the orphanage was to educate the children to be good Christians and devoted employees. The preservation accepted girls between the ages of eight and twenty, who "for want of care or due to the behavior of their parents or because of the difficulties of their age, we are exposed to various dangers." The aim of the preservation was to educate them in the practice of virtue and to provide the instruction appropriate to the position they would occupy in the world. The aim of the boarding school was two-fold: the Christian education of daughters of the well-to-do, and financial help for the social welfare works.
RSHM Community in Béziers, 1881 - 1882
Back Row: M. St. Cyrille, M. St. Gregorie, M. St. Elizabeth; Front Row: M. St. Paul, M. St. Felix,
Father Gailhac, M. St. Charles
Other foundations established in France included those at Cambrai, Paris, Rennes, and Montpellier. Today, in France, the sisters are engaged in parish and school ministries, including an international school in Paris, and adult religious formation.
The original Mother House in Béziers is an RSHM education and heritage center, staffed by a multi-lingual community of sisters from all parts of the Institute.