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"Righteous among the Nations"
On Sunday 25 September 2016, the Daughters of the Holy Spirit were invited by the town council of Le Cellier, a town situated to the West of France, not far from Nantes, to take part in an impressive celebration: a representative of the Israeli Embassy was to award the Medal and Certificate of honor -the highest distinction used by the State of Israel- to four members of a local family, three of them posthumously.
From 1942 to 1944, to the risk of their lives, the members of the Guilbaud family sheltered Monique Covrigaru, a Jewish little girl aged 5. In the most absolute discretion, they inscribed her at the school which, at the time, was run by Daughters of the Holy Spirit (1829-1957). The two years she spent at Le Cellier were years of immense happiness both for her and for the two young women of the Guilbaud family: Yvette, 16 years old and especially Madeleine 19 whom Monique regarded as her “second Mummy”. After the war, Monique joined her parents in Israel, from where she flew to the USA where she married Mr Ritter. It was from Houston (USA) that she came to Le Cellier for the ceremony, accompanied by her son, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter. Today Monique is Grandma. It was with great emotion that she encountered Yvette, 90 years of age, the last of the Guilbaud family who lived through and witnessed that horrible episode in History.
All the official input highlighted the humility and courage of the family. “These most humble men and women who, one day, listened to their hearts and their conscience and chose to come to the help of a little Jewish girl to the risk of the lives, are the pride of our country”. Thereupon, one could hear words that spoke of compassion, generosity, humility, everyone recognizing that it was important to keep alive this historic event so that it might throw light on to our future. The participation of the mayor of the German town twinned with Le Cellier expressed by itself that the twinning had attained its objective: reconciliation. “The Guilbaud family deserves our homage for the respect, tolerance and courage they did show: there won’t be any peace in the world without such noble persons”, he said. A harpist lady, the school children and a choir were associated to the ceremony which ended with the national hymns of Israel and France.
Then we had a drink to celebrate our happy get together and Monique expressed her joy to see that Daughters of the Holy Spirit had been able to come and participate in the event. Like many women who were at school with her and never knew anything about her history, she keeps a wonderful memory of the Sisters and of their “beautiful white cornet”.
We address our warm thanks to Mr Fernand Boursier, the dynamic secretary of the Association “Le Cellier History and patrimony” who showed us round the places where the Sisters used to live, teach, take care of and pray with the people who live alongside this magnificent bank of the river Loire.
Sisters Anne Arzur, Annick Le Thiec, Priscilla Madumere and Anne-Marie Foucher. Published on 29/09/2016
The photos: 1- Monique and Yvette. 2- The Officials and the family. 3- Mr Ferdinand Boursier. 4- Monique and Sister Anne-Marie. 5- Sisters Anne and Annick, and former pupils at Le Cellier school. 6- Priscilla and former pupils. 7- The house and the school of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit at Le Cellier.