top of page



Auxiliary priest of the Little Sisters of the Poor
1826 - 1889

It was in one of the most beautiful hotels in Valenciennes that the first child of Mr. Lelièvre and his wife, Adèle Bernard-Beaussier, was born on April 13, 1826. A true industrial dynasty, the Bernards filled the North with their name and their works at the time. In 1837, his mother died and his father married his second wife, Élisabeth Bernard, Adèle's sister.


At the end of his classical studies, Ernest Lelièvre made two successive stays with the Jesuits  of Saint-Acheul: he thought he was called to enter the Society of Jesus... He is only 17 years old. His father asked him to finish high school first. He received a bachelor's degree in 1844, with honors. Recently, he has become an active member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The following year, Ernest Lelièvre was in Paris where his father thought it wise that he prepare his law before thinking of the Society of Jesus. After his bachelor's degree, he took his doctorate there. His situation as a wealthy student allows him an easy life. Soon the call felt at Saint-Acheul became distant, his faith waned. Doctor of Law on December 3, 1851, he left for Rome in mid-January 1852, saying goodbye to a bright future to prepare for the priesthood. He entered the Ecclesiastical Academy of the Nobles, placed under the direct dependence of the Pope. He received the diaconate in Rome in 1854 and priestly ordination on June 2, 1855 in his diocese of origin, according to the desire of the Archbishop of Cambrai and immediately he became an auxiliary priest of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  As a contemporary of Saint Jeanne Jugan, he would have had many occasions to meet her.  He spent his  life and his wealth in the service of the Congregation, travelling the world from Europe to North America, to establish Homes.  In his wake, foundations flourished.  His happiness was to see the elderly poor welcomed and loved rediscovering a living faith in God. 


He was not only the founder and the missionary, but he was also the spiritual visitor, the preacher, the apostle of the Little Sisters and the elderly His works praise him by themselves. Let us judge: the hospitaller family numbered about thirty houses when he joined it; it numbered two hundred and sixty-three establishments when he died. He had been one of the main instruments of this marvel 

Father Lelièvre died at the age of sixty-three, after thirty-four years of priesthood and ministry in the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Poor.


"One does not know the happiness that there is to be entirely in God, if one does not taste it. If I opened my soul to you, it is probable that what I would say to you would seem exaggerated, since I cannot understand it myself. God was merciful to me. I owe him everything, I expect everything from him; he is my life ". These lines were written to Mr. Despierre after two months of ministry with the Little Sisters.

images (18).jpg
La Tour.jpg

At the beginning of 1856, Ernest announced to his father that the Little Sisters were "on the verge of doing a great madness" or rather "an act of faith". They embarked on the acquisition of a large property in the town of Saint-Pern, to relocate the Motherhouse and the Novitiate. “We could no longer hold out in Rennes,” explained the letter. “The new situation in the countryside is excellent: God has shown with insistence that it suited us and that he intended it for us. The contract was therefore made and the first payments lodged. After that, we found ourselves in the Novitiate in inexpressible joy, for the fund had just been emptied to the bottom ... This is how we find ourselves, without the smallest resource, that is to say, in a state where it is necessary to die of hunger, if God does not make himself the provider of his children ... and yet, no one is afraid; all hearts are happy. This is our existence ".

After the Ascension of 1858, Father Lelièvre left La Tour, a veritable "pickaxe paradise", to reach Paris. To his brothers he wrote: "Here I am among the poor to whom I serve as chaplain, and I am in a calm ten times greater than I was at the Motherhouse."   He is divided between the house on avenue de Breteuil and that on rue Beauvau, "so happy to be there, with the poor and the good Lord!" Paris remained his headquarters from 1858 to 1861. From this centre, he shone in the provinces "as visitor, founder, preacher of the houses of the Little Family".

images (20).jpg

We find him in Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Poitiers, while with the collaboration of his family, he works on new establishments in the North: in Valenciennes, then in Escaudoeuvres and Roubaix. Later, he assisted with establishing Homes in England and he accompanied the Little Sisters to North America where he was instrumental in establishing Homes in that country.

Having thus consumed his life for the glory of God, exhausted, Father Lelièvre died on 3rd July, 1889 at the age of sixty-three, after thirty-four years of priesthood and ministry in the Homes of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  He is buried in the little cemetery of the Motherhouse, la Tour Saint Joseph, St. Pern.

Although he did not travel to Oceania, he would have known and probably been involved in the planning of the first foundation in Melbourne.

images (16).jpg


Prayer to Father Ernest Lelievre

         Lord Jesus, through the life and ministry of Father Ernest Lelièvre, You gave Your Church a friend of the poor and a tireless missionary in the service of the Elderly, in the religious family founded by Saint Jeanne Jugan. You gave him the grace to have immense confidence in Saint Joseph, the Bridegroom of Mary.

            Deign to answer our prayers and grant us the grace we ask for through his intercession ...

(formulate the requested grace)

          We ask this of You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

With the authorization of Mgr Pierre d'Ornellas, Archbishop of Rennes, Dol and St Malo. 

Family Home.  Chateau de Loos

Anyone obtaining graces through the intercession of Father Ernest Lelièvre are invited to contact us through this website.

bottom of page