Sister Paul Helene
It is with great joy that we celebrate the beatification of the Algerian Martyrs on December 8th.
Sister Pauline LSA is one of the martyrs, on May 8th 1994 she gave her life in the service of Muslim youth in Algiers.
We also remember Brother Henri Verges, a Marist brother who was assassinated with her.
Sister Pauline was born in Paris in 1927. She joined the LSA community and made first vows in 1954.
In 1964 she went to Maghreb, North Africa and spent 30 years as a nurse and social worker. When she retired she went back to Algiers and for 6 years she worked in the
Ben Chebeb library.
On the on-8th May 1994 Paul Helene left her home in Kabash and went to the library
arriving at 1.30 pm. The library was a service to more than 1000 Algerian youth from the poorest sections of Algiers, they could access books there that were not available to available to them. They were welcomed by Paul Helene and Henri; the library gave them a place of resources and silence to help them study.
Three men appeared from the Armed Islamic Group and said “Police”.
They asked for the person in charge, Paul Helene led them to Henri’s office, she was shot and fell back, killed instantly. Henri was shot when standing up in his office.
The work of Paul Helene and Henri was not easy. There was a lot of tension in the country, many attacks took place, yet they decided to remain continuing to serve the young people and families who trusted them.
They were killed because they were Christians serving the young people of the poor neighbourhood. There was a civil war in the country and they were seen as foreigners and unwelcome.
Not all Islamic groups agreed with their killing, the Islamic Solidarity Front reminded people that “the murder of religious is contrary to Islamic law that recommends they be shown respect”.
Paul Helene chose to do this work and go to the library every day despite risks and warnings. She received a great deal from the young people, learning to understand prejudice and racism and respecting their values as Muslims.
The Beatification Mass will be celebrated at Notre Dame de Santa Cruz church at 1 pm on the 8th December.
We join with all those celebrating that day and give thanks for all their lives.