The 15th Annual Anne Drummey O’Callaghan Lecture on Women in the Church
The Example of Élisabeth Leseur and Soeur Marie Goby
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:30 p.m.
Dolan School of Business Dining Room
Janet Ruffing, RSM
Professor of the Practice of Spirituality and Ministerial Leadership
Yale Divinity School
A contemporary of Thérèse of Lisieux and Charles de Foucauld, Élisabeth Leseur (1866-1914), a French married woman and mystic, is a compelling model of lay holiness and a precursor of Vatican II laity. Married to the journalist, diplomat, and unbelieving Felix, she lived her rebirth of belief in God in her marriage and the secular social milieu within which she heard and heeded this call.
Élisabeth embraced a path of hidden union with God while radiating to those around her a loving presence. Unlike the cloistered Thérèse, Élisabeth was surrounded by people who were incapable of appreciating or sharing the deep spiritual experience that gave meaning to her life. Her marriage was loving despite the inability to have children, share faith, and Élisabeth’s illnesses.
In1910, Soeur Marie-Goby,(1865-1922) a Hospitaller Sister of St. Martha of Beaune, unexpectedly entered Élisabeth’s life. Goby’s dedication to the sick poor she cared for in the hospital, in her village, is clear from her community’s testimony and her correspondence with Élisabeth. Goby served at the historic Hotel-Dieu as a nurse, except for the few months she spent taking care of her ill mother in 1911-12 and again in 1921. Élisabeth’s visit to Beaune, already a place of pilgrimage, initiated the deeply mutual, epistolary soul friendship that developed between them.