In the morning of Sunday 26th November, Feast of Christ the King, God called Marie Madeleine to the fullness of life, aged ninety-two, and after sixty years of perpetual vows.
From Antwerp, in Belgium, Marie Madeleine was born in March 1925, one of seven children, and attended the Sacred Heart school in Lindhout until she was seventeen, then spent two years at the Sacred Heart school in Ixelles. As the War ended she volunteered to work with an organisation repatriating prisoners of war. In August 1948, aged 23, she entered the Society at Jette, where she made her first vows in February 1951, and made her final vows in Rome, on 31st July 1957.
Until 1968 Marie Madeleine alternated between the communities in Jette and Louvain, teaching in the schools there. From 1968-70 she was part of the community in Jauchelette, then she moved back to her native Antwerp, where she taught, for the first time, in a non-Sacred Heart school.
In 1985 she was asked to move from her hometown to another country - to Warsaw, in Poland, to teach French to the novices and younger sisters, so that they could participate in international meetings and formation programmes. She remained here for six years - apart from four months spent in Heliopolis, in Egypt - witnessing the fall of Communist rule and the beginnings of democracy and more openness and western influences.
In 1991 came another change, as she moved to England, initially to Bexhill to learn English. She was to remain in England and as part of this Province, very happily, for the rest of her life. In our communities in Roehampton, Portsmouth and Hayes Emmaus she volunteered in hospital chaplaincies and did whatever she could in the local parish. By 2011, though, her health had begun to decline, and so she moved to Duchesne House, where she spent her final six years, becoming increasingly frailer and less mobile.
In the end, Marie Madeleine left this life very quietly and swiftly, after a short illness. She received the Sacrament of the Sick and visits from two RSCJ whom she knew well, and who had each lived for a time in Belgium, and seemed to be at peace and waiting for God. And then, on Sunday morning, as the Church ends its liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King, Marie Madeleine slipped away, most surely into the arms of the Shepherd King she had loved and served so faithfully for seventy years. We are confident that Jesus has welcomed her into heaven with the words of that day's Gospel: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world..." (Matt 25: 34)