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Little Sister of the Poor who died at the age of 102 was a heroine of D-Day

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Petites Sœurs des Pauvres

Bérengère de Portzamparc - published on 04/29/22

The quiet religious sister was an American soldier during the Second World War and participated in the 1944 Normandy landings.

The daily life of the Little Sisters of the Poor —“poor among the poor” as their foundress Jeanne Jugan used to say—is focused on serving others, all with the greatest discretion.

And these are not just words. If proof were needed, this message that Fr. Laurent Berthout, of the Diocese of Bayeux, posted on Twitter, will show us.

Indeed, on Monday, April 4, the funeral of a 102-year-old Little Sister of the Poor took place in Caen, France, in the community’s chapel. What a surprise it was for the few faithful present to discover the coffin covered with the American flag, and in the congregation, the presence of three American soldiers who had come from their base in Belgium especially for the occasion.

This is how we learned that the discreet Little Sister Marie-Joseph of the Assumption, who lived in France since the 1950s and carried out her mission in various French and Belgian communities, was in fact American and a soldier!

Born in 1920 in Hamilton, Ohio, Mary Ulm — as she was known before entering religious life — enlisted in the American army during the Second World War, working in communications, and as such participated in the Normandy landings in June 1944. She even went as far as Paris, marching on the Champs-Élysées.

It was during this time in France that young Mary discovered the Little Sisters of the Poor, and was particularly impressed by their kindness and devotion to refugees and the wounded. So, upon her return to America she decided to apply, and began her novitiate in Detroit in 1950.

She took her temporary vows in 1952 and obtained permission to go to France, where she took her solemn vows in Paris in 1957. Since then, Little Sister Marie-Joseph had been at the service of the very poor, in France and then in Belgium, before arriving in Caen in 2018 and blowing out the candles of her 100-year birthday in 2020.

She died peacefully on April 1, and it was only then that the mother superior, one of the few who knew of her past, notified her family. A nephew came from the United States for the funeral, and the U.S. Army sent three military women to carry the casket. If it weren’t for this lovely story being shared on social media, Sister Marie-Joseph might have left as quietly as she lived. But for once, while doing good doesn’t make noise, sometimes it’s good to hear a slight echo of it to warm the hearts and souls of the many.

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