Helene Marie Philippine was born in France to a noble family. After a short stint with the Poor Clares she joined a contemplative community in Toulouse, the Society of Mary Reparatrix, where she took the name Mary of the Passion. In 1865, she was sent to Madurai in southern India, where her order was helping to establish a congregation of Indian sisters. There she proved so adept in leadership that she was named provincial superior. In 1876, however, long-simmering divisions in the community erupted to the point that Mary and nineteen other sisters withdrew and established a community under the aegis of the Paris Foreign Mission Society.
At this point, Mary conceived of a new congregation that would combine contemplation with active mission work. After becoming a Third Order Franciscan, she received permission from Rome to establish the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Her community grew with impressive speed. In India, she directed her sisters to provide medical care for women, whose health was compromised by their unwillingness to be seen by male doctors.
Mary’s sisters spread across the world, often in perilous situations. Seven of them (later canonized) were killed in China during the Boxer Rebellion. Mary remained the superior general until her death on November 15, 1904, at which time there were over two thousand Franciscan Missionaries of Mary working in eighty-six countries. She was beatified in 2002.