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Sister Emmanuelle

 (1908-2008)

Sister Emmanuelle was born Madeleine Cinquin in Brussels, and after studying Philosophical and Religious Science, she joined the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Sion and was sent to teach literature at the community’s schools in Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt. On reaching retirement age in 1971, she decided to live among the rag-collectors in Cairo and to work with them to improve their living conditions. By 1976, she had built medical dispensaries, kindergartens and schools, and was joined by Sister Sarah, an Orthodox Coptic nun who took over the day-to-day running of the facilities, while Sister Emmanuelle travelled the world raising funds. Recalled to France in 1993 by her community, she continued to write books and speak at conferences and in schools, as well as supporting charities working with the homeless in France. She has often been compared to Mother Theresa of Calcutta. In 2002, President Chirac made her a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur and in 2008, President Sarkozy promoted her to Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur. Two of her memorable quotations are “Si tu veux vivre, tu dois aimer” (“If you want to live, you must love”) and “Tant que je peux marcher et être utile, je marche; et le jour où je tomberai, eh bien quelqu’un d’autre prendra ma place et continuera le mouvement” (“While I can still walk and be useful I will walk, and the day I fall, someone else will take my place and continue the movement”).

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