And there, in the middle of Paris, sat 140 rue du Bac - the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity, a religious community that had celebrated its 300th anniversary not too long before, and home to the chapel where the Blessed Mother appeared to St Catherine Laboure the century before. The Daughters, by this time, had already spread throughout the world. There were Sisters in countries under Axis and Allied occupation. And now, the city of their motherhouse, the home of the community, their whole history was now under the Germans.
|Sister Helene Studler|
|Sister Agnes Walsh|
|Sister Marejanna Reszko|
Yad Vashem Photo Archive
In nearby Hungary, Daughters of Charity hid Jews in an all-girls school. The Sisters there were crafty, making the school a fake military workshop until that city was liberated and the hidden Jews were saved. The provincial house in Hungary, under the leadership of Sister Klara Rath, also served as a hiding place. The Nazis constantly appeared wanting to search the house, yet miraculously went away every time because of Sister Klara's doings - whether it be distracting them with drinks, claiming the children there were all baptized Christians, or quoting a dangerous line of the Hungarian anthem. All the Jews there were also saved.
The war was trying for the Daughters of Charity, yet it seemed that it only set their heart even more afire for love of the poor, the persecuted, the abandoned. Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944 and the war would end within the year. Sister Helene, that brave non-violent woman of the French Resistance, wouldn't live to see the end of the war. In December, just a few months after the liberation of France, Sister Helene died of a painful cancer. Sister Agnes, however, did survive the war as did the Jewish family she hid. She lived to the age of 97 and was posthumously honored as one of the British Heroes of the Holocaust. Sister Klara of Hungary also survived the war. She died in 1991 and now has the title "Righteous Among the Nations".
These women, although their history now dates back seventy years or so, still remain alive to me. Their stories still resonate with me. Their bravery inspires me. I thank them for their service, I thank them for their dedication to our mission as Daughters of Charity, I thank them for the example they give to me and all the Daughters of Charity now and to come and pray that they will never be forgotten.