Mary of the Passion, born Helene de Chappotin, began the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in 1877. She was born in France in 1839, the youngest of five children. After the death of her mother, when Helene was 21, she , she entered a Poor Clare Monastery. Here she encountered the spirit of St. Francis, the poor man of Assisi, and this experience marked her for life. Poor health did not allow her to continue the life of the Poor Clares. In 1864, guided by her spiritual director, she entered the newly-founded Society of Marie Reparatrice, where she took the name Mary of the Passion.
Before the end of her training period, Mary of the Passion was sent to India as a missionary. After a short time, she was chosen to assume responsibility for the mission. For more than ten years her missionary experience was intense. A series of events and difficulties led her to begin a specifically missionary institute. Her great desire was to spread the love of Christ in our world to everyone, everywhere.
In late 1876 she went to Rome, and on January 6, 1877 Pope Pius IX approved the foundation of a new missionary institute. In 1882, this Institute became part of the Franciscan Family, and since then, has been known as the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
When Mary of the Passion died in 1904, she had founded more than 80 houses throughout the world, and there were more than 2,000 sisters. Young women from different countries joined the new missionary institute which rapidly growing. From the beginning, sisters of different cultural and national backgrounds were sent on mission together. This internationality soon became a distinguishing characteristic of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Today FMM continue to live out this intention of their foundress through their readiness to live in international/intercultural communities, and commit themselves to live an attitude of openness to the whole world.
Among those who preceded her in death were seven women who gave their lives in China in 1900. A year after her death, another sister, Maria Assunta, died in another region of China. Her simplicity and purity of intention deeply touched and inspired people. The Church publicly recognized the holiness of the seven martrys on October 1, 2000 when they were canonized. Assunta’s holiness was also recognized by the Church at her beatification in 1954.