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Marie Astrid Vanhalst

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 31/05/2010

Sr M. Astrid (Maria VANHALST) was born in Belgium on April 30th 1925, into a good Christian family that later migrated to France. She herself became a French citizen in 1982.

She entered the postulate in 1951, at Sainte Foy-lès-Lyon and made profession on March 9th 1954. After a time at l’Hôtel-Dieu in Lyons, she left for New Caledonia and worked for a long time at the Magnin Clinic in Noumea.

Until 1996, always available and smiling, she served the mission in many ways:
- as a teacher in Koné, Bourail, and Touaourou
- as house manager at the hostel of Our Lady of the Missions in Noumea.

In 1968 she returned to France for a holiday, and ongoing formation. She completed her stay in Europe with her Second Novitiate in Lyons, in 1970. On her return to Noumea, she was superior of the hospitality house, and then opened a Hostel for young workingwomen in the Vallée des Colons.

In 1973, she was assigned to the community of Pierre Lanquette, living in an apartment in a crowded working class district, where she did catechesis and social work, visiting the families.
Returning to France in 1976 she did a course in catechesis in Paris and also one at CLER for work with families. She also discovered the Billings method, and, on her return to New Caledonia began to teach it to Christian couples. In connection with teaching this method, she went to Melbourne, Australia, in 1978 then to Tonga in 1981. She also did a course in pastoral work with families, which was given in Noumea by Monsieur Xavier Lacroix, from the Catholic University of Lyons.
In 1977, she was superior of the new community at Rivière Salée where she gave herself without counting the cost to catechesis and pastoral work with families.
In 1983, she was named Regional financial administrator for New Caledonia.
In 1987, she was a member of the Provincial Chapter of Oceania.
In 1993, she was assigned to the community at Koumac, still doing pastoral work.
In 1995, she did not recover well from a bad leg fracture. She was therefore welcomed into the community of senior sisters at Saint Louis then returned to France in 1996.

After a time of convalescence and holiday, she was assigned to the community of La Fare-les-Oliviers, in Provence, where she helped in the parish to the extent that the terrible malady of Alzheimer’s disease permitted her.

In May 2008 she came to “41 chemin du Signal.” Her illness did not permit her to stay a long time. She was admitted for a long stay at the Pierre Garraud hospital where she died in her sleep on May 31st 2010, the day of the Visitation of Mary. Several Sisters had visited her the night before but no one could foresee that the end would be so soon.

Wherever Sr M. Astrid went, she left the memory of a sister who was welcoming, available, very much at ease with everyone. She loved the contact with families and was not stingy with her time. She knew how to listen attentively, and helped many couples.

She was a woman of prayer, and the parishioners often came to confide their intentions to her. In community she was a friendly companion, even-tempered, discrete, sensitive and available.
Despite the mystery of this terrible illness that led her, little by little, into “another world”, she kept her beautiful, welcoming smile. We are grateful for this life of complete self-giving in great simplicity and a humility that brought her close to everyone.

She died on the feast of the Visitation, she who loved Mary and sought to resemble her, in her attitudes. Her funeral was held in the chapel at Sainte Foy on June 3rd. Several members of her family were able to join us.

“If we have loved our neighbor with all our heart, in truth,
Before You, Lord, we will have peace of heart.
Those who love have already overcome death,
Nothing can separate them from the love of the Living God”
Liturgical Hymn

Sr Marie-José de Préville, smsm