By: Maria Antónia Quinteiro Lopes, rscm
More than 200 years have passed since my birth! Two centuries is a long time from the perspective of history! However, for me everything is present. I see my whole life: luminous, unified, comprehensive. Nothing is left out!
As you know, I was born in Murviel, France. I had a happy childhood, surrounded by affection and all the assets that a child can have in a wealthy family that respects Christian values. At a very young age, I met my future husband, Eugène Cure, a wonderful boy from Autignac, a small town near Murviel. Our parents were friends and longed to bring the two families together in our marriage. I was fond of Eugène and even fell in love with him.
However, a very black cloud appeared in the midst of so much happiness. My parents both died in a short time. The world seemed to collapse on me! My profound sadness was joined by a tremendously hostile environment created by my older brother and my uncle. They did not support my marriage. They feared that my inheritance would end up in Eugène’s hands. My brother did harm to me. Eugène, being a lawyer, was always by my side and gave me security not only with his knowledge, but above all with his true love. We married, separated our assets, and later made our wills leaving our assets to each other.
The love, the tenderness, the courage to live, the strong sensitivity to those who needed it most, cemented our union, our happiness and our faith. We lived in Autignac for some time, then went to Béziers. Eugène practiced his profession. I tried to fulfill my role as wife as best I could. I welcomed my husband’s friends, participated in everything my social position demanded of me and was attentive to those who, being poor, knew that they would find help in our home. I was always struck by the situation of a strange and sad underworld that roamed the streets of Béziers.
Eugène’s great friend, Fr Jean Gailhac, was among the people who frequented our house. They met at school and always maintained a deep friendship that also included me. It was a pleasure for us to see him come to us in a good mood, speaking with enthusiasm of his apostolic action. It wasn’t all roses! The difficulties were many and diverse!
And we dreamt about him! We had no children … who knew what God would expected of us? Why not help Jean Gailhac with his beautiful and daring projects? Every need, every sign – if we could – we should respond. That was our way of thinking and acting. We felt the flame of Gailhac’s faith, the warmth of his zeal and “embarked” on his dreams. It was a truly happy and committed time! … We created much stronger bonds of friendship. We actually formed a family with him.
Twenty years passed. My husband passed away. Having no children, and without the support of family members, I felt myself in a dark tunnel without seeing any way out …
All I had left was faith and the one who was always our traveling companion – Fr Jean Gailhac – so very involved in his beloved projects. He always helped us to face life and to trust God’s love without measure. But, in this very difficult moment, I felt that God touched me differently in Jean Gailhac’s tireless dedication. He taught me that God is the true source of kindness and tenderness. And Gailhac was truly a person of God! I was able to trust him with my pain, my fears, my immense longing for my husband, my gratitude. We had conversations that comforted me and sustained me … If the crisis was great, then even greater was God’s continuous love. Maybe it was time to start something new . And it was! God has this apparently bewildering way of acting. He needed me with the young people and children, who also lacked affection and everything. It was time to say YES without reservation, to surrender myself to serve unconditionally. I gave up and gave what I had! “I never lacked courage” as well as the desire to love only God and all those that He entrusted to me. Long and painful walks where the longing and sadness of the loss were mixed with the joy and enthusiasm of those who advance steadily and know where they are going. Fr Gailhac “was my father and mother” following, as my parents had done before, the joys, challenges and fears in this new beginning…
You know the rest well. I was a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. I was in the beginning of this new congregation, to which I belonged and in which I lived. I didn’t die, I was born again! In God I enjoyed the totality of the gift, of life, of unity. In God I find you all and contemplate you as the face, hands, feet and heart of God … fighting, building, weaving LIFE, LOVE, JUSTICE, PEACE, in a world different from mine, with other calls and signs.
Appolonie Pélissier Cure
(Madre Saint Jean)