History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyrs: Sisters Angèle-Marie Littlejohn and Bibiane Leclercq

Sisters Angèle-Marie Littlejohn and Bibiane Leclercq were returning from Mass on September 3, 1995, when assassins cut them down.

For 35 years they had lived in Algeria training hundreds of working class girl dropouts in dress making, embroidery, and sewing. In addition they modeled those beautiful and unique virtues of compassion and maternal encouragement that characterize women, leading to enduring friendships with the ladies who had sat at their feet. They were loved all the more because the Sisters had exacting standards and would not accept their pupils’ mediocrity because they knew the ladies were capable of better, and they pushed them to do so.

Since these religious took pains to know all the girls they taught, they were well known in the neighborhood. In fact, according to writer Fr. Martin McGee, OSB, “Not so long before their deaths, a local victorious [soccer] team had assembled in front of the sisters’ balcony to show off their trophy to them.”

Uttered just minutes before her death, the last words known to have been spoken by Sister Angèle-Marie were, “We must not be afraid. We only have to live well in the present moment … the rest does not belong to us.”

The Sisters’ murder shamed the Algerians because, according to Archbishop Henri Teissier, “they were aware that the people who had been struck down were innocent and working for the good of the people.”

On the altar of their convent was found an open lectionary turned to St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, which read, “The language of the cross is foolish for some but for others it is the power of God.”

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