The History of the Sanctuaries of Fourvière (Lyon to Leithfield)
In the first century of Christianity, the Faith arrived in France via the disciples of St John the Evangelist and the first Christian communities were established in Lyon. The very first Bishop of Lyon was martyred there along with many others in the persecutions of the day.
In the 12th Century, a Church was erected on the hill at Fourvière in Lyon and dedicated to Mary. Devotion to Mary grew over time and by the 19th Century, many missionary orders were flourishing and going out from Fourvière.
In 1836, newly ordained Bishop of Oceania, Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier embarked on his first journey to the Pacific. With him were seven young Marist Priests and Brothers including the first martyr of Oceania, St Peter Chanel. On a later voyage, Pompallier brought the now Venerable Suzanne Aubert to New Zealand. Suzanne Aubert founded the Sisters of Compassion and ministered to local people including Māori and settler populations. Other orders from Fourvière also established themselves in New Zealand and the Pacific.
In 2014, the Community of the Beatitudes established the Fourvière Trust as its apostolate in New Zealand to offer retreats and spiritual accompaniment. In 2019, the Shrine to Mary, Mother of the Light was built and the Sanctuary of Fourvière in Leithfield was established.
In linking people to our Catholic roots, the Sanctuary of Fourvière in Leithfield invites people from all walks of life to encounter Jesus through Mary and be a missionary of the Gospel in our times.
177AD: The first Christian community of the Gauls (modern day France) was established in Lyon, where the proto-martyrs of the French Church were put to death. Among them were Saint Pothin, first Bishop of Lyon, and his companions. His successor was Saint Irenaeus, disciple of Saint Polycarp, who was a disciple of St John the Evangelist.
1170AD: The original church of Our Lady of Fourvière, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the English Saint Thomas Becket.
1816AD: the founders of the Society of Mary climbed the hill at Fourvière and promised to establish a congregation that would belong to Mary and be named after her. This became known as the Fourvière Pledge. Many missionary orders then began to flourish out of Fourvière.
1836 AD: Bishop Pompallier, the first Bishop of Oceania said a novena of Masses at Fourvière.
On the last day of the novena, Fr Peter Chanel SM, hung a heart-shaped pendant on the Statue of Our Lady containing the names of the departing missionaries. Bishop Pompallier and 7 Marist companions set sale for the Pacific.
1841 AD: Fr Peter Chanel is martyred on the Island of Futuna becoming the protomartyr of Oceania. Soon afterwards, the whole island converted.
1852 AD: 8th December: The golden statue on top of the church was inaugurated - two years before the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The ceremony was postponed because of rain, so the locals placed candles in their windows instead. This established an annual tradition of lighting candles on the 8th December. Now each year, thousands gather at Lyon each year for what is now called the La Fête des Lumières - the Festival of Lights.
1859 AD: Pompallier returns to Europe and recruits Suzanne Aubert as a missionary to New Zealand. Suzanne's spiritual home was the sanctuary of Fourvière. Her mother, Clarice, had been diagnosed with cancer in 1845 and was miraculously cured at the shrine of Fourvière. Suzanne establishes a healing ministry for Māori in a red shed at Meeani in the Hawkes Bay and later establishes the Home of Compassion in Wellington.
1994 AD: 8th December -The Beatitudes Community establish a House in New Zealand in the Christchurch Diocese, originally with the Te Rangimarie Community in Gloucester Street and later move to Leithfield.
2014 AD: 8th December: The Community of the Beatitudes establish the Fourvière Trust as a place for retreats in the Christchurch Diocese.
2019 AD: 7th - 8th December (vigil): The Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Light (Mater Lucis) is opened by the Bishop Patrick Le Gal of Lyon and Bishop Paul Martin of Christchurch at the newly established Sanctuary of Fourvière in Leithfiled.
TODAY: The Sanctuary of Fourvière welcomes hundreds of pilgrims and visitors for times of prayer, respite, retreat and conviviality.
Fourvière is the cradle of the Oceania mission, a mission that the Sanctuary of Fourvière in Leithfield, New Zealand is set to continue into the future.