Among the nineteen Algerian Martyrs, we have our two OLA Sisters
Jeanne Littlejohn – Sister Angèle-Marie – was born in Tunis on 22/11/1933. In 1957, Jeanne entered the postulate and received the name of Angèle-Marie. She professed her first vows on 8/9/1959 and was appointed to Algeria, to Bouzarea where the OLAs had orphanage and a boarding school for young girls.
She stayed there from 1959 to 1964, teaching crafts like crochet and embroidery. In 1964, when Algiers School of Art in Belcourt was open, she worked there as a teacher. She remained there until she died.
Patient, friendly and simple with the girls, she wants to instill in them a love of art and for work well done; she spoke to them in their language. Sister Angèle-Marie was deeply committed to Algeria, to its inhabitants, to its mission, sharing with the people the joys and sorrows of their lives.
When Father Bonamour, their Parish Priest, reminds them of the danger they face, and he advises them to be ever ready, they unreservedly say: ” we are ready. ”
Leaving mass the afternoon of Sunday September 3rd 1995, one sister shared her fear of violence. Sr. Angèle-Marie responded, ” we must not be afraid. We only have to live the present moment … the rest is not ours. ”
Her mission ended in this peace and simplicity. About ten minutes later, on the way home from Mass, Sr. Angèle Marie was killed with Sr Bibiane, her companion and friend.
Denise Leclercq – Sister Bibiane – was born on January 8, 1930 in Gazerau, France. She entered the sisters of Our Lady of Apostles on March 4, 1959. After her profession of vows on March 8, 1961, she was sent to Algeria to the Constantine Maternity Hospital.
She was a good collaborator who was attentive to the needs of others. Sr. Bibiane blossomed while caring for the newborn babies and their mothers. In 1964 she moved to Algiers, to take up the responsibility for a sewing centre which included crafts such as embroidery. The centre also offered training on childcare and the courses were reserved for young women who had not had the opportunity to study. Here the Sisters receive girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, families they discovered in during their spontaneous visits to families in their area. Her work and family visits enabled Sr. Bibiane to discover the great moral and material sufferings of Algerian women. She lived out her mission witnessing to her love of Jesus Christ in the “silence of words” and the simple actions of her life.
In 1994 the decision whether to stay or leave Algeria? Sr Bibiane’s answer was very clear: ” It was the people who asked for Sisters. Now they are asking us to stay.
I feel so bad, I feel helpless in front of so much suffering, but I know God loves this people and I have very great faith in our Lady of Africa. Jesus said, “the Father will give you everything you ask in my name”… This helps me discover the wonders that are hidden, the amazing solidarity, the generosity, the superhuman courage, the Spirit that is there at work in their hearts. The Word of God helps me to remain attentive, listening, to be a ray of hope: I choose to stay.”
With this inner freedom, coming home from mass on September 3rd 1995, not more than a hundred metres from the OLA Convent, Sr. Bibiane was killed with Sr. Angèle-Marie.
PRAYER INSPIRED BY THE WORDS OF SRS ANGELE MARIE AND BIBIANE
Eternal and all-Powerful God, you who gave Blessed Bibiane Leclercq and Blessed Angèle-Marie Littlejohn,
Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, the grace to imitate your Son by loving the Algerian people,
pouring out their lives there in your name, blessed are you.
Notwithstanding the growing insecurity,
they both chose to stay with their Algerian brothers and sisters :
“I choose to stay to respond to the trust shown to us by everyone and to be a glimmer of hope in this land of Algeria” ,
while the other said:
“I choose to stay to witness to Jesus and I am not afraid because I am with Him and with the Blessed Virgin ”.
Thank you for their great trust in You, trust that you placed in their hearts.
By their humble, daily service, in simplicity and prayer, they lived poor among the poor so that through the witness of their lives, You would be revealed.
Lord, by the power of Your Spirit, may this gift of their lives bear uncountable fruit
that is a source of joy and salvation for Algeria and for the whole Church.
Grant them and their companion Martyrs of Algeria the grace to see your face and to be counted among the saints of your Church.
And to us, their brothers and sisters in Christ, grant the grace to follow in their footsteps,
living in faith, hope and charity despite the many challenges our world presents to us today.
We entrust to you especially all those who live despising the faith.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Prayer by Sr Nicole Houinato, OLA, Dec 2019.