Sr. Marie-Anne LeBreton, MSC
Sister Marie-Anne LeBreton, MSC
1923 – 2012
Maria Le Breton was born on April 14, 1923, at Tourneville, a hamlet of Annoville in the department of the Manche, in Normandy. Like all inhabitants of the French coastal region, her parents were truck farmers who raised crops to sell in the town markets. They lived near the seacoast on the road to Annoville, and Maria grew up working with her family. She loved the sea, harvesting mussels, and working in the garden. Maria handled a boat as easily as she maneuvered a plow. Each week she went with her mother to the market to sell their vegetables. Always available, she helped anyone who asked for her aid. Maria attended the free school at Lingreville where she animated a youth group and participated in parish activities.
Sister Marie-Anne left us her own testimony: “It’s thanks to my parents that I became attached to Jesus and turned to others. I think it was due to the youth group that my faith grew and deepened. For more than ten years I reflected with others on the meaning of our lives, the place and the promotion of women in the rural world, all of that in union with the gospel. An event that marked my life and my faith was that of meeting the Marianite sisters who were arriving in our area. One of them, a home-health nurse, challenged me by her devotion, her great availability and her openness. Working together with the community for the parish and for the people of the countryside, I learned the missionary spirit of Father Moreau. This is why I became a Marianite.”
The arrival of the sisters at Tourneville marked an important epoch in the village. Everyone got together to prepare for that day. The men transformed the buildings of an old farm to welcome the community who would establish and staff a retirement home. The youth took it upon themselves to receive as well as possible these religious who would arrive from Le Mans. Maria was at the head of the group; she instigated and organized the reception of three Marianite pioneers: Sisters Matthieu, Joseph, and John Bosco. She learned much from their fervor and generosity and participated in all the initiatives proposed: manual labor, sewing, outings, pilgrimages, choir and liturgy. It was during the pilgrimage to Lourdes and to the Virgin Mary that Maria announced her decision to enter religious life with the Marianites.
Maria was thirty years old when she entered the postulancy on September 27, 1953 at the Solitude of the Savior in Le Mans. She received the habit on May 5, 1954, receiving the name Sr. Mary Annunciata. During her formation, she developed more and more her spirit of faith, of prayer and the knowledge of our founders, whom she trusted and venerated all her life.
Pronouncing temporary vows on May 7, 1955, Sister made her perpetual profession on June 12, 1958. From 1955 to 1964, Maria began her mission with the children at the Préventorium of Précigné and supervised their activities. She spoiled these children who were ill and separated from their families. The community helped her to situate herself in this world so different from what she had known.
In 1964 Marie-Anne was called to the community of St. Bertrand in Le Mans where she lived until 1980. She integrated herself fully in the works of the house and the community as a parish educator. She participated actively in youth movements and shared her apostolic experiences with religious educators of the area. The time she spent with the Christian Worker Movement (priests, religious and militant Christians who worked together in this milieu) helped her own faith to grow. In 1969 Marie-Anne became the coordinator of the local community and also served two terms as provincial councilor.
In 1980, a new community was created and implanted in a neighborhood of Arnage, “La Gautrie”, not far from Le Mans. Sisters Marie-Anne (Maria), Marie Therese Huchet, and Bernadette Hingray assured the religious presence in the area, coordinating catechism classes and parish activities. Very quickly their house became a place of welcome, of listening, of sharing, of joyful availability and of prayer. For ten years their lives of service to the Church and their brothers and sisters gave witness to the community.
Another call challenged them as community in 1990. Their project was the same, but now they envisioned being in an even wider world – living side by side with other nationalities, other cultures, other religions, other lifestyles. Their discernment led them to Vernouillet, near Dreux and not far from Paris. This trio of valiant women continued their same fervor in the midst of immigrants where they had to adapt themselves to a very different way of life. They were at the service of humanity to assist people from various countries, men and women tossed about by difficult and sometimes violent ideas. Their neighbors and friends appreciated and loved these French women religious who were pillars of strength and compassion.
Following the deaths of Bernadette and Marie Therese, Marie-Anne remained in their upper-floor apartment, always open and courageous in the face of suffering. Despite her courage, Marie-Anne’s health became weaker and she returned to the community at Notre Dame de la Solitude in 2009. After some months of rendering service in the community, and despite the attention of the sisters and personnel of the house, she had to leave Le Mans in July 2012 for medical care more appropriate to the aggressive cancer which would end her life. She was sent to the Medical Center of Grand-Lucé, a long-term facility.
Marie-Anne died there on October 19, 2012. When her body was brought to the Solitude, the sisters joined in prayer to give thanks to the Lord for the generous life of Sister Marie-Anne. Their testimonies were spontaneous and heartfelt, citing particularly her spirit of prayer and her devotion to community.
Her Mass of burial was concelebrated by the Fathers of Holy Cross and the priests of the Christian Worker movement on Tuesday, October 23 in the chapel of the Solitude. Attending the funeral were a number of Marie-Anne’s faithful friends from Normandy, Précigné, Arnage, and Vernouillet. Her body rests in Holy Cross Cemetery in Le Mans.
May the Lord welcome her in peace and in joy.