Soeur Marie Cronier, MSC
Sister Marie Cronier, MSC
1916 – 2013
Odette Cronier was born on September 15, 1916 in Breil-sur-Mérize in the Sarthe. She was baptized as an infant but was raised with no religion. Her younger sister, whom she loved very much, had not been baptized and died after a serious illness. Odette was very affected by this and the chaplain at the clinic told her, “Through you, she knew the Lord and truly desired Baptism.” This was a great consolation, despite the pain,
Until she was 18, Odette remained very close to the Sisters of Providence of La Flèche. She used to visit them daily and it was there that she felt the call of the Lord. She promised herself that she would enter religious life “there where she would make her first Communion.” She had a great desire to live with God!!
When she was twenty years old, Odette arrived at Précigné. In contact with the community, she learned to know Jesus better. As her love for Him grew, so did her desire to speak of him to the poor and to the sick, even in foreign missions.
On August 15, feast of the Assumption, when she received her first Holy Communion, Odette undertook seriously her childhood desire and prepared herself little by little to fulfill it. On October 9, 1937, Odette entered the Marianite postulate at Précigné. She began her novitiate on June 3, 1938, when she received the habit and the name Sister Mary of the Assumption. Later she did not go back to her baptismal name but kept the name of Marie, becoming Sister Marie Cronier.
Sister pronounced her first vows on June 14, 1939, and remained eight years at the motherhouse in charge of the laundry. She stayed there all through the Second World War and afterwards. Much of what follows is told by Marie herself.
“Time passed. I left for New York on March 24, 1947, and the trip was so treacherous I thought I would never see land again. It was the first time I had seen the sea and such a ship. When I arrived in New York, I told the sisters, “I never want to return to France.”
“They answered me, ‘but you will, in a few years.’ I found myself working in the admissions office of French Hospital without knowing a word of English. I was given charge of the sacristy. I often implored God’s help to fulfill my task. “Always wanting to serve the poor, I was happy to leave for Haiti on October 1, 1951. My first mission there was working in the kitchen of Notre Dame School in Cap Haitien with the Canadian priests and brothers and the Haitien seminarians and employees. I was very much at ease with them all and learned Creole and lots of other things during three years there. In 1954 when Carenage School opened, the sisters were lodged at the Little Seminary on the hill above the school. I worked there in the laundry and the linen room.”
“When a new foundation was created at Pilate far out in the country, I arrived there in 1956 to help with the organization of things in the care of the sick. This was what I had desired for so long. While caring for their infected wounds, I thought of the lepers in the Gospels.”
“In 1964, I returned to France for a few years. I brought my experiences with the kitchen and the laundry to the motherhouse at the Solitude. Then I went to Pontvallain to fulfill similar roles at the
Prieuré. In the parish, I worked with catechism for the children. I had to get formed in order to use the new methods which would serve me in many ways.”
“Following a year of service at Gazonfier, I returned to Haiti and Carenage in 1971. The Sisters of Holy Cross asked me to work in the dispensary of Milot. I was the first Marianite to work with the Holy Cross sisters and for me, it was a very enriching time. Later at Cap Haitien, a Haitien doctor organized a dispensary to which I welcomed the patients. Later the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Vallier asked me to take charge of a dispensary in Pignon; they considered me as one of their own and I loved them all. Finally the Sisters of Holy Cross asked my help in preparing a center to care for patients with tuberculosis in Pilate.”
After twenty-three years in Haiti, Sister Marie returned to France. In 1981, a new life began for her at Pontvallain, the small village which she knew very well. For two years she assisted at the Prieuré, taught catechism, and also cared for a severely handicapped person. Well-known to the inhabitants, Marie welcomed everyone with graciousness and charm. She was available for friendship, advice, or just a chat. Her major preoccupation, now that she could hardly move about, was to crochet, and she prepared many articles for the annual “kermesse” of La Faigne, a pilgrimage quite popular in the area. At the convent, she sorted clothes and other things for the Red Cross. It was a tiring and difficult work, but it was for the poor!! Wherever Sister Marie served, she did it with all her heart, never sparing herself.
With Sr. Bernadette Marguerite, she remained in Pontvallain until December 2012, a mission of more than thirty years. Following a fall, Sister underwent two operations to replace her “prothese de hanche.” After several weeks in the South Pole Clinic in Le Mans, she weakened rapidly and passed away on January 25, 2013, just after her sister-visitors had left. She was ninety-six years old and had been a Marianite for seventy-six years.
Her body was brought to the Solitude where Sr. Bernadette and several people from Pontvallain joined the Marianites for an hour of prayer for Sr. Marie in the oratory. The funeral celebration took place on January 29 in the chapel of the Solitude with the priests from Le Lude and many who had known her well in the parish. A large and prayerful assembly showed how much she had marked their lives. A good number of her friends accompanied the community to Holy Cross cemetery for a final prayer and her burial.
Let us thank the Lord for the life of Sister Marie. May she rest now in the peace and joy of Christ.