Sister Alice Bourdoiseau, MSC
Sr. Alice Bourdoiseau was born in Précigné, France, on April 14, 1928. The eighth child of a modest but esteemed family in the village, Alice’s baptism on September 8 was a special occasion for the family, a ceremony of which her mother often spoke. Her parents provided a Christian education for Alice, an education which supported her all her life. Family life was disrupted by the death of her father in 1938 followed by trials, the struggles of daily life, illness, the War, and the death of her mother in 1944.
Before she was 14, Alice had begun to question her future and what God might be asking of her. The thought of religious life grew stronger and stronger, and following her mother’s death, she wanted to answer God’s call as soon as possible. She was sixteen years old and asked to enter the Marianites. At that point in history, the Congregation could not admit a 16-year-old with a handicapped arm without reflection. Alice was obliged to wait a year before being accepted into the postulancy of the Marianites. During that waiting time, Alice worked at the Préventorium of Précigné. She was finally admitted to the Marianites on August 2, 1945. Alice affirmed that this was indeed the most wonderful day of her life. Postulancy and novitiate were happy times for Alice, but she could not prolong them since this was not the goal of apostolic religious life.
On April 10, 1947, Alice pronounced temporary vows and received her first obedience – to help care for the quarantined children at the Préventorium. This was a pleasant and easy task for Alice since she knew the place and loved the children so much. But very soon, obedience called her elsewhere.
On February 2, 1950, Alice answered a need at the Marianite Clinic in Le Mans – to ensure the work of admits and exits of patients to and from the Clinic. In 1960, she began secretarial and accounting work. When her competence and availability were recognized by the community, she was named local assistant. The years passed, with their highs and lows, until September 1969.
Following the Marianite general chapter, Alice was named general econome (treasurer) and came to live at the Solitude. Not knowing how to say no to what she saw as God’s will, she fulfilled “to the best of my ability this thankless but absorbing task.” Nevertheless, being at the Solitude, origin of Holy Cross, did bring her much joy.
In 1973 Alice was called to other horizons – to the east of France and St. Pierre Fourrier Clinic in Epinal. There she had the mission of the responsibility and accountability for the personnel. She found much comfort and was well-received by the staff and families in the Vosges. Despite all that, she felt the need to return toward the west and the cradle of the Congregation. The great distance had weighed heavily on her.
On her return “to the source” on October 3, 1978, Alice found herself at Clinique Ste Croix in Le Mans, the “new” Marianite clinic opposite the Solitude. The administration then confided to her the responsibility of accounting. In 1981, Alice had to add a half-time responsibility as treasurer of the Province until 1996. Then came another ministry for Sr. Alice where she gave herself completely to her work with the sisters of France.
Elected to the provincial council of France to serve as assistant from 1989 to 1995, she continued her task as econome of the Province. She performed with great pleasure, skill and dedication what she called “social service” for the sisters. In all the administrative tasks she performed. Alice researched retirement possibilities for each one and found solutions to any problems that existed.
In spite of all the time spent with numbers and administrative cares, Alice always considered her apostolate an integral part of the mission. At the Marianite general chapter of 1981 it had been said that “stewardship is at the root of the mission.” For Alice, this was a consolation. But more importantly, “It’s not what I have done but the interior peace, serenity that I found there, knowing that I was where the Lord wanted me to be” said Alice.
The last great work of Alice for the Congregation was the renovation of the Solitude, something the elderly sisters of France appreciated greatly. It suffices to read the minutes of the eighteen months of construction of Notre Dame de la Solitude to see how much she did. As a tribute for her presence and her encouragement toward the workers and toward all involved in the project, Alice received the “OSCAR 1996” from the site manager on the day of the inauguration on February 1, 1997. Thanks to you, Alice, from all your sisters that, because of you, the Solitude continues to live in serenity and welcome to all.
In 1996, Sister left the Clinic and came to live in the community of Tilleuls for several years. It was in 2008 that the great trial of illness awaited Alice. Following a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), Alice moved to Notre Dame de la Solitude on January 16, 2009. Having become dependent, she suffered from no longer being able to serve. But all the way till the end she followed community life for prayers, for meetings, and asked that she be taken there by others, but her physical strength diminished more and more.
The last week of her life was spent in the hospital where she was cared for by the hospital staff. Sister Stephanie Brignac, our assistant congregational leader, was with Alice and sisters from the Solitude as she received the last rites. Sisters Marie Jo Gruau and Marie Dominique Tourteau assisted Alice in her last moments on March 3, 2016. The next morning when her body was brought back to the Solitude, the sisters gathered to share memories of their dear Alice.
The funeral Mass was celebrated in the chapel on March 8, 2016, and was attended by several members of her family including her nephew, Gerard, who remained her closest family tie. Alice’s former coworkers, the Solitude personnel, and many friends joined us for the celebration.
We accompanied our sister to her final resting place in Holy Cross Cemetery, Le Mans. May God continue to keep her in his peace, his light, and his joy.
Farewell, dear Alice, and thank you . . .