The shrine of Our Lady of Montligeon came to be at the initiative of Fr. Buguet, a humble parish priest. Over a hundred years later, the vast basilica still stands out of the regional forest, like an emblem of the fecundity of his enduring endeavours.
In 1878, Rev. Fr. Paul-Joseph Buguet was assigned to La Chapelle-Montligeon, in eastern rural Normandy, France. No one could have foretold then how the new parish priest was to radically transform the vocation of the village. Both a unique and fascinating story. In order to secure employment for his parishioners, he turned into a printer, and a mud and stone digger. To mark the path from heaven to earth, he became a zealous apostle and a tireless missionary. Thus, he initiated two major charitable works. On one hand, the printing manufacture which originated in his social and factual apprehension for his parish; on the other, the Fraternity of Prayer for the deceased, a celestial and spiritual concern for souls in Purgatory. Thus, they both develop alongside one another, one benefitting the other.
Protecting the worker and providing employment
After trying hand-manufacturing gloves, Fr. Buguet sets off in printing press, alike the neighbourhing Trappists.
The beginnings are modest, he started assisted by a worker and a single hand-machine, on the premises of his presbytery. Soon activity flourished. Printing and publishing developed along that of the Expiatory Work by taking care of its publications: newsletters, etc.
Praying for the forsaken souls
In 1876, Fr. Buguet underwent three tragic deaths in his closest family: that of his brother Auguste, crushed by the bell of neighborhing Mortagne parish church, followed by that of both his nieces, grief-stricken after the loss of their father. He thus felt confirmed in his notion of establishing a work for the deliverance of forsaken souls from Purgatory.
“One consequence of what I have only recently been meditating upon”, he then said, “is the need to relieve souls of purgatory. I have only but delayed too much establishing the Work I had planned.”
Moreover, he was convinced that abandoned souls will, in return, help him develop the printing manufacture, thus providing work to people:
“I sought to reconcile a double goal: to have people pray for neglected souls and, in return, to obtain from them the means of providing a livelihood for the worker. “
Our Lady of Montligeon Basilica
In 1884, Mgr. Tregaro approved the statutes of the Association for the deliverance of souls in purgatory. Fr. Buguet became a kind of sales representative for the souls in purgatory, visiting parishes to collect funds for his charitable Oeuvre. Rapidly donations occurred. In 1887, further to the success of the first constituted pilgrimage of prayer for holy souls in Purgatory, the renown of Our Lady of Montligeon set off and outspreaded, throughout France and, soon, around the world. On June 4, 1896 the first stone of the future Basilica was blessed and laid. The very first Mass will be held on June 1, 1911, during the dedicated annual pilgrimage.
Fr. Buguet died from exhaustion on June 14, 1918, in Rome, Italy. His remains were brought back to La Chapelle-Montligeon, and rest in the crypt beneath the Basilica.