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Blessed Marie-Anne Vaillot and Blessed Odile Baumgarten of the hospital in Angers

  • Shot on 1 February 1794 in Angers
  • Beatified on 19 February 1984 along with 97 other martyrs of Angers
  • Liturgical feast 1 February

Beginning in September 1791, the Sisters of the hospital of Angers observed the escalation of religious persecution. Following their Bishop, numerous priests refuse to take the required oath. Expelled from their parish, they were quickly caught and imprisoned. A year later, in September 1792, 400 chained men crossed through the city of Angers on their way to the penal colony!

In 1793, the members of the Municipal Council went to the hospital to demand that the Sisters take the oath of liberty-equality. They were very eloquent, insisting on the importance of the service of the sick. Each Sister was allowed time for reflection. The community strove to act as one body. Very quickly, the revolutionaries realized that the Sisters were under the influence of three of them:

Sister Antoinette Taillade, a native of Cahors, was the Sister Servant of the community. Fifty-four years old, she had been a Daughter of Charity for thirty-four years. The Sisters appreciated her prudent wisdom, great piety and strength of character.

Sister Marie-Anne Vaillot, a native of Fontainebleau, was fifty-nine years old. She had been in the Community for thirty-two years. She competently and accurately held responsibility for finances.

Sister Odile Baumgarten was born in 1750 in Gondrexange in Lorraine. She entered the Daughters of Charity in 1775. She prepared medications in the hospital pharmacy.

Plans were made to arrest these three Sisters, which took place on Sunday, 19 January. Sister Antoinette Taillade was separated from her two companions and imprisoned in the Convent of the Penitents; Sister Marie-Anne and Sister Odile were taken to the Benedictine Monastery of Calvary. They were struck by the filth and misery in which the prisoners were left. While awaiting trial, the Sisters listened to the suffering of these imprisoned mothers and their children and strove to comfort and above all encourage them. Death lay in wait everywhere.

On 28 January, the two Sisters were summoned before the revolutionary tribunal. Faced with the violence of her judges, Sister Marie-Anne simply replied, “You can do with me whatever you want.” Judged a fanatic and rebel, she was sentenced to be shot. Sister Odile, after having heard the record of the interrogation of her Sister, added, “My conscience does not allow me to take the oath.” The sentence was the same: death by the firing squad.

Like the other detainees, the Sisters were taken back to their cell. On the morning of 1 February, a captain came to the prison and called those condemned to death, including the two Sisters. In the damp cold, a long procession of 200 women, tied two-by-two to a central rope, set off with difficulty towards the “Martyrs’ Field.”

Throughout the three kilometers, the Sisters prayed, asking Mary to accompany them on their journey. Suddenly, Sister Odile dropped her rosary that she had hidden under her dress. A guard saw her bend down, leaning on a milestone, to pick it up. Immediately, he kicked her. Sister Odile tottered. Sister Marie-Anne held her up, afraid that she would be thrown into the cart transporting the dying. The rosary would be collected by a woman who would later return it to the Sisters of the hospital.

Upon their arrival at the Martyrs’ Field, the victims realized that the Sisters were present and were moved to ask that they be pardoned. To their astonishment, the commander of the execution battalion approached and offered to save the two Sisters by saying that they had taken the oath. Proudly, Sister Marie-Anne answered, “Citizen, not only do we not want to take this oath, but we do not want to pass for having done so.”

A song broke out! “I place my trust, Virgin Mary, in your help.” Rifles rose, bodies collapsed. The fell into a pit. A great silence and the peace of God descended upon this Field of Glory.

At the hospital, the administrators continued to harass the Sisters. Each one, in complete freedom, made her decision. Ten Sisters took the oath of freedom-equality in order to stay with the sick. The other seventeen, having refused, were arrested on 11 March and joined Sister Antoinette Taillade in prison. A few weeks later, along with other nuns, they were taken, mostly on foot, to Lorient to be deported to Cayenne. For long days, they waited. The commander of the arsenal where the Sisters were imprisoned saw the care that the sick sailors received from these women. He refused to allow them to board on the ship prepared for their deportation. The Sisters were able to return to the hospital in Angers around 1804.