Frances Joseph Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer
Frances was born in a log cabin, in Holmes Mississippi. While she was still young, she dedicated her life to prison reform which won her the won her the respect of prison officials throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. Her great efforts helped to found the Juvenile Court system. She purchased ten acres of land in order to build a school for emotionally needy children.
According to the Very Rev. Stephen Crawford, rector of St. Mary’s, Franklin, and member of the Gaudet Fund Committee:
“Frances Joseph Gaudet is a Saint. It really is a marvelous thing that we would recognize this. It was a hundred years ago (1921) that the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana received from St. Frances the ownership and responsibility of the Gaudet Normal and Industrial School for Black Youth, drawing together the life of our diocese with the life of this remarkable woman. Many are astounded by the great things St. Frances did in her lifetime. She was a poor Black woman living in New Orleans in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and yet she successfully advocated for the formation of a juvenile court, so children wouldn’t be tried and imprisoned alongside grownups. She raised money and purchased what would eventually be a 105-acre plot of land, on which she founded her home and school. As a Black woman there were restaurants she could not enter to buy food, and yet she achieved such standing in the community that she seemingly could walk into the mayor’s office whenever she needed and have a meeting with him. She authored a beautifully written autobiography, titled He Leadeth Me (G.K. Hall & Co., New York). Many impressive qualities shine through in her accomplishments: resilience, courage, compassion, savvy. I hope this essay will help those unfamiliar with St. Frances become better acquainted with her and her many wonderful qualities. But I particularly hope her most wonderful quality will come through. She was holy.”
Merciful God, who raised up your servant Frances Joseph Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness by reason of incarceration and lack of access to education; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.
Scripture: John 13: 31-35
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jewish people, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Joseph Gaudet was passionate about bringing reform to the prison system and changing the lives of many youth for the better. She vowed, “God being [her] helper, to bring about a better condition of affairs to save these helpless children, by building a home for them, and to have them committed to my care.” Are there any passions burning within you to take a risk to start something new for the benefit of prisoners and/or children? Do you have any hopes or visions of doingsomething “big” at Holy Family lifting up the poor and needy?