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Sœur Marie Paule Gay

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 14/09/2020

Sister Marie Paule (Paulette Gay)

Born 9 August 1927 at Montpellier, France

Religious Profession SMSM 9 March 1953 at Ste Foy-lès-Lyon, France

Died at Médipôle Hospital, Dumbéa, New Caledonia 14 September 2020


Sister Marie Paule was born and grew up in Montpellier, France.

From an early age she belonged to the Brownies and then the Girl Guides, a movement that marked all her education and her youth. Even when she had reached her senior years, she had retained accurate memories: the long marches in the south of France, the summer camps that had shaped her character, the scout songs... The spirit of the scouting movement and the motto: BE PREPARED gave her the sense of duty that permeated her whole life. 

After her studies in Montpellier and having attained her Leaving Certificate, Sister Marie Paule worked in the telephone communication section at the Post Office of Montpellier. In September 1950 she decided to respond to the Lord calling her to a missionary life.  Her childhood friend, Sister Marie Stéphane Grassous from Montpellier, introduced her to the SMSM Congregation. She entered the postulancy at Ste Foy-lès-Lyon on 7 September and made profession as a Missionary Sister of the Society of Mary on 9 March 1953 after two and a half years of postulancy and novitiate.

Before leaving for her appointment in Oceania, Sister Marie Paule completed some months of teacher training at the Catholic Training College in La Mulatière, Lyon. In December 1953 she arrived in Wallis where she was awaited at the school of Malaetoli. For almost 15 years she put her whole heart and her competence into helping the children, boys and girls, to be best prepared to begin secondary school. On 9 March 1959 she committed herself forever through Perpetual Vows in the Congregation.

Then the school at Mata-Utu became the focus of her energy. Principal of this large primary school with nearly 500 students, her organizational gifts were appreciated. An educator to the core, she cared for the slow learners as much as the bright ones. Concerned about academic success as well as the human and religious education of the students, she spared no efforts to train the teachers to collaborate with and support her. In addition to her role as Principal, she was appointed Regional Superior of Wallis-Futuna.

After 20 years of mission, in 1973, she returned to France and to her family for the first time. Always keen to renew herself and strengthen her skills, she spent the year of 1974-75, studying at the Higher Educational Institute of Catholic Education in Angers. At the end of 1975 Sister Marie Paule went to the New Hebrides. She then discovered another culture and another ethnic group. For nearly 6 years she was the principal of the Ste Joan of Arc school in Port-Vila. With the same ardour and great competence, she devoted herself to teaching the little Hebrideans. Her former students still remember this. Here is a message received from Port Vila:

We are united with you in prayer and affection! Some families and former students of Montmartre and St Joan of Arc have asked me to tell you, and particularly you who are in Caledonia with her, that they are united with us in the loss of our Sister and that they offer their sincere condolences! We give thanks for everything that she has done here in our country for young people, in education, catechesis, with families, in our Church in Vanuatu and with us, her SMSM Sisters! May Mary continue to accompany her and may she rest in peace with Jesus! God speed to the place where you are going, Marie Paule, and do not forget us!

Your sisters and friends from Vanuatu, Sister Anita

After Ste Joan of Arc school, Marie Paule went to the college at Montmartre where she taught French, then she worked in the college library. In 1986, she left for Ste Foy-lès-Lyon where she helped in the community at Le Signal. At the same time, she regularly returned to Montpellier to take care of her mother who was alone. She did not return to Vanuatu until 1993; there she lived at Montmartre, Paray and then the Foyer Nabanga. She actively participated in the life of the parish through her involvement with catechesis until 2014 when she suffered a fall and fractured her femur. She was evacuated to New Caledonia for surgery. When she left the hospital, she joined the community of Nazareth in Rivière Salée. It was very difficult for Sister Marie Paule to recuperate from this accident.

In 2015 the community was transferred to Mont-Mou. Marie Paule wanted to remain active and helped out in many ways: sweeping the verandas became the focus of her attention! She made herself walk every dayusing her stick to go back and forth around the property. There she discovered the numerous birds that live around the house: so she set up a little feeding tray in front of her room where every morning she placed breadcrumbs, the rest of her breakfast. She then had immense joy in seeing sparrows, Moluccan blackbirds or turtledoves pecking ...

Unfortunately, in 2016, she had another fall, with, again, a fractured femur. After discharge from the hospital in Noumea, a time of rehabilitation in Nouville helped her to recover, but she continued to have difficulty walking. She returned to the community of Nazareth, and despite her difficulty in moving, she continued to help. She participated in arranging the leaflet, Esperance, for hospitalized patients. But little by little her memory diminished, and she became more and more disoriented. On 9 September she was hospitalized at Médipôle for a serious lung infection. She did not recover and went to God on Monday, 14 September at 9 a.m., Feast of the Holy Cross.

After a very full life, totally in the service of others, may the Lord welcome her: "Come good and faithful servant ...".      

Thank you, Marie Paule, for your example of fidelity, of integrity, of Marist simplicity …


Sister Marie Ida smsm