Sr Thérèse Pagnac, Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, was 100 years old in March 2018.
We celebrated her birthday at the EHPAD in Meaux, France, happy to benefit from this beautiful moment of sharing. Therese prayed the Our Father in the Dagari language, “as I do every day,” she told us! Then she spoke abundantly about her life, with gratitude for the past and optimism for the present. Thank you Therese!
Therese, how do you feel now that you are 100 years old?
I think it’s amazing. I wondered if I was going to get there. At least three times in my life, I was at the end. It was because of malaria. During the years of the great war, with so little quinine, each Father and Sister had only one tablet a day (to be taken in the evening). Once, Bishop Dupont told the Fathers of Bobo-Dioulasso “We are going to lose a young sister” and he asked them to deprive themselves of quinine for 8 days so that I could double my dose.
During another cerebral malaria, I thought I would be buried alive!
Deep down, I was never afraid of death. In my youth, my father kept for the whole village a deposit of burial wreaths!
In Africa, there were many opportunities because we participated in each grieving. Once, at the funeral of a woman leader, I fell asleep at the foot of a tree, at least half an hour. Seeing that I had stayed a long time, the women said to me, “You loved this one! They did not realize I was sleeping!
What do you want to say to us?
I am at the end of my days and it is beautiful what is happening now. We started so small, and now it’s extraordinary. Africa has become an apostle. The congregation can move forward. Do not overemphasize the past. I was very sad to leave Africa in 1976. I was devastated for not being able to return. Today, I think that the superiors did well not to send me back. I lived very beautiful things in Africa and wonderful things for 20 years at the chaplaincy of Sceaux, with the baptisms of young people.
Tell us about a memory that you have today
It is about a “rejected woman”, saved by the Fathers. Her work at the mission was to sweep the big church. Because of this, she heard all the catechesis for 3 years (time then asked to prepare for baptism). But before baptism, there was an examination with questions. Admitted with the other catechumens of that year, she was afraid to not be able to answer and she said to me: “It is a long time that I listen to all these catecheses and I do not remember anything! Then she recited the Sanctus! So I had this conviction: “I’ll tell the Fathers, and you’ll be baptized!” Now, when I hear the Sanctus, I think of it!
Gathered by Sr. Nicole Robion, Sceaux Filmins