PETALING JAYA, April 26 — The story of St Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, a French Catholic nun who devoted her life to providing refuge to women and girls in difficulty, is one that is of great inspiration.
But it is also a story that is relatively unknown.
Born in 1796 as Rose Virginie Pelletier, Mary Euphrasia founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd when she was 39.
Declared a saint in 1868, her legacy lives on 151 years since her passing in 1868, in 73 countries where the Good Shepherd Sisters welfare organisation can be found.
Today, her incredible dedication to helping the vulnerable at a time when it was uncommon for women to be trailblazers comes to life on stage in “Euphrasia the Musical”.
It is produced by the Good Shepherd Sisters and The Actor Studio Seni Teater Rakyat.
“Euphrasia the Musical” stars Nikki Palikat as Euphrasia, Megan Chng, Qahar Aqilah, Doreen Tang, Ho Soon Yoon and Alia Kearney, and it is directed by Dominic Lucien Luk and written by Terence Toh and UiHua Cheah.
Composed by Mia Palencia, the musical also features a live orchestra, making it unique to other local productions along with a massive team of 60 including cast, crew and musicians.
“Not too many people perhaps know of Mother Mary Euphrasia and all the more reason they should come and want to know about her story because she is a fascinating woman and her story is fascinating too,” said executive director Datuk Faridah Merican.
“She was a strong woman who went out of her way to do wonderful things to help the women and children of the 1800s.”
Producers of “Euphrasia” believe anyone can relate to her story.
Province leader Sister Joan Lopez said the Good Shepherd Sisters wanted to work on a musical since 2017 to celebrate her 150th death anniversary last year.
“What we wanted to share was not about a religious person but rather this woman with great commitment in an era that was very difficult for women to come out and do things.
“Yet she overcame these obstacles and she really came through,” Lopez added.
The work the Good Shepherd Sisters do today is no different to the work Mary Euphrasia carried out in the 1800s.
In Mary Euphrasia’s post-French Revolution world, there were widowed and homeless women, and orphaned girls who were forced into sex work to make ends meet.
“Today we still do the same work. One of the things we want to do through this musical is to help people to be aware that these issues are still happening such as trafficking, exploitation, abuse and discrimination.
“Hopefully people become more aware and do something in their own lives whether it’s social work or help someone,” Lopez said.
She added that working with single mothers, runaway girls, abused women and domestic workers as well as trafficked women requires confidentiality to ensure their safety.
Lopez added that Mary Euphrasia continues to be a source of inspiration for many in the congregation and hopes to inspire audiences.
“She’s a great role model for young people, a woman who was way beyond her time, who looks at things in an everything-is-possible manner,” Lopez said.
Asked how the modern woman will relate to Mary Euphrasia’s story, Faridah believes the women in the audience will be able to recognise Mary Euphrasia’s strength.
“Telling a story about a woman also would be good for women in our society.
“Most of the time, stories are about male heroes, if you tell a story about a woman, she’s always under sufferance and being tortured. This is not that case, this is a good story to tell women,” said Faridah.
“Euphrasia the Musical” premieres tonight and will run until Sunday at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac).
The musical will travel to Ipoh at the Auditorium RTM Perak (May 3 and May 4) and Kota Kinabalu at the Auditorium JKKN Sabah (May 10 and May 11).
For tickets, call 012 -2822214 or visit here.