Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon

Written by Allison Leigh, Ph.D.

“O my God, my heart is too small to love you, but it will see to it that you are loved by so many hearts that their love will compensate for the weakness of mine” Adèle de Batz, Letter 325, May 14, 1818

At just 11 years old, Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon knew she wanted to devote her life to God. Born a wealthy aristocrat, she turned down an offer of marriage and spent her life in service to the poor and building a community of women of faith that would later become the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, also known as the Marianist sisters. In her short life, she combined her orientation toward love and prayer with service and action. Her life offers women of all ages an example of how to live with hope, dedication, love, and courage.

Adèle was born in 1798 in Agen, France during the French revolution. During this turbulent time, her mother raised both Adèle and her younger brother. In 1797 her family was sent into exile, and her mother took her children to Spain. For the first time at age 8, Adèle was able to witness people openly practicing their faith (the government in revolutionary France suppressed religious practice). Adèle dreamed of becoming a Carmelite nun, but at age 11 her mother insisted she wait. Instead, she connected her with a spiritual director and tutor who created a detailed and rigorous rule of life for her to follow. She would follow this rule for the rest of her life. Shortly after this, Adèle was confirmed, and met a woman who would become her closest friend, Jean Diché.

Adèle and Jean Diché formed an association based on their mutual devotion to God. The association existed for prayer and support and quickly attracted many other women. In 1808 there were 60 members; in 1814, over 200. These women lived all over France and kept in touch through letters. During this time and through a series of circumstances, Adèle was put into contact with Fr. Chaminade. Fr. Chaminade was forming a sodality of lay men and women to gather in faith and prayer and work to re-Christianize France. Through their contact with one another, they realized they shared a common commitment despite their age difference of nearly 30 years. They brought the Association and the Sodalities together.

As membership increased in both groups, there was a desire of many members to form a religious order. Adèle realized this was chance to combine her love of serving the poor with the prayer life of the Carmelite sisters she had always admired and practiced herself. Forming this order became known as her “cher project” or dear project. Throughout this time of forming a new religious order, that still exists today, Adèle also maintained her correspondence with her friends and supporters through letters, and continued her work and service with the poor. Adèle died of tuberculosis at just 38 years old.