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Sœur Marie Yolande BIRGENTZLE

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 24/10/2019

SMSM SistersSœur Marie Yolande Birgentzlé, smsm

25 June 1928 – 24 October 2019

Yolande Birgentzléwas born at Sainte Croix en Plaine, near Colmar, in Alsace, on 25 June 1928, the daughter of Richard Albert Birgentzlé and Anne Catherine Thuet. On 23 April 1939, she received the sacrament of confirmation, shortly before the declaration of the second world war. Very soon she saw two of her 

brothers set out for the front, and she had to work hard to help her father. Neither of her brothers ever returned. She developed a very deep affection for her only sister Aline, who never married. At 26 years of age, she entered the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary. Sr Marie Ancilla recalls her arrival at Sainte Foy-lès-Lyon: “a beautiful young woman, tall, joyful, decisive, and with amazing red hair! Sr Marie Joël had already announced that she was a ‘flamboyant’!”[1] Sr Marie Yolande pronounced her first vows on 8 September 1956.

After profession, she remained in France to study catechetics, then nursing. In 1961, she was missioned to Algeria, which was then struggling for its independence. She disembarked at Alger on 15 January and participated in a course on tropical medicine. Five months later, she arrived in Rivet, the big village of the Mitidja region which took the name of Meftah when the country became independent in 1962, the year of her perpetual vows. She worked in the dispensary, and there she had to change from speaking French to speaking Arabic, just as she had had to change from Alsacien to French at Sainte Foy. Very soon she was named the superior of the little community.

She made her second novitiate from 1 October 1966 until 25 March 1967.  Then she accepted to remain in France to be in charge of the household at the novitiate.

On 27 September 1969, Sr Marie Yolande returned to her beloved Algeria and her friends at Meftah welcomed back their “sis”. She was again responsible for the dispensary, but she also gave sessions at the school for nurses, and led the health teams in the douars working for good hygiene in the schools. The little community of Meftah – three sisters – maintained good relations with the community in Hydra, where nine sisters worked in the primary school and in the kindergarten.

In 1976, when the primary schools were nationalized, the sisters in Hydra had to leave their house to go to El Biar, another suburb of Alger. Two sisters stayed behind to pack up the belongings of the community which had been there for a quarter of a century, they remember with gratitude how generous Yolande was as she came to Meftah every Friday – the free day (equivalent to Sunday) in the Maghreb – to help them pack crates of goods. 

In 1986 the house in Meftah was closed and the smsm community transferred on 1 May to Aïn Salah, an oasis in the Sahara. Bishop Claude Rault, who was at that time a missionary in Ghardaïa, and was later in Tamanrasset, recalls:

“To go to Tam, I would pass through Ain Salah where Yolande live for several years with Colette, where they made a good pair... and it was Colette who was the first to leave us! Aïn Salah was a bit like the end of the world...  they lived in a house that was loaned to them for free by a Tuareg friend who had worked in our Centre for Professional Formation which had passed over to the State.  Colette had a post as a nurse, and Yolande had taken her retirement. I went there many times to celebrate Mass… It was there that I experienced the greatest heat of my life …53° in the shade. The Sisters were well set up in their little community, living according to the rhythm of the area.  Yolande was holding on …. right up until the time when she returned to France, where she surely suffered both physically and morally, but she was never a person to complain.”

On 2 February 1997, the community of AïnSalah was closed. Sr Colette Calle opened a new community in Adrar with three other smsm, but Sr Marie Yolande had to leave Algeria. She was named to go to Saint-Victoret where she looked after the aged sisters.  On 1 October 1998, she had the joy of going to Rome for the Symposium of Sisters working in Pastoral Health Care. 

Five years later, in 2007, Sr Marie Yolande left for Sainte Croix en Plaine to go to look after her sister who was old and ill.  But she was not able to care for Aline until her death.  Loss of memory forced Sr Marie Yolande to return to Sainte Foy on 19 October 2012.

In May 2013, she went to Saint Symphorien d’Ozon, in an Ehpad and was transferred in 2018 to Corbas, where our sisters went regularly to visit her, especially Sr Monique Sergent and Christiane Barcelo. There, thanks to the professionalism and the competence of the medical teams, she benefitted from care adapted to her particular needs. We thank these people for all the attention that they gave to our dear sister every day until 24 October when she died peacefully.

Her funeral Mass was celebrated on Tuesday 29 October in our chapel at Sainte Foy by Fr Henri Blanchard, a White Father, in the presence of our sisters from around Lyon, a lady she had known at Ehpad, and some neighbours. Her two second cousins were not able to come from Alsace but were united with us through a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a very moving letter which was read by Sr Monique Sergent. Sr Christiane Barcelo prayed a prayer with references to the Koran and a refrain in Arabic.  We entrusted Yolande to the great mercy of God.  But surely she is already in his glorious presence.

Everyone who knew Sr Marie Yolande will remember always her playful expression, her bright smile, her kindness and the generosity she showed through her tireless dedication.  She loved the Congregation, she was always very attached to her mission, she lived a true Missionary, Marist and Religious life. She could be a model for us all.

“Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Mt 25, 21)


Sr Marie Claude Linossier, smsm

[1]S. M. Joël (Yvonne Mangard) was the sister responsible for vocation promotion who had recruitedYolande.