Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus

     1950-vers le cameroun

 Born in Paris in1898, but originally from Lorraine, Magdeleine was the youngest of the children of the Hutin family. The War of 1914 marked her deeply as her village was bombed and destroyed, her grandmother was shot by the Germans, and her two brothers died in the War. Magdeleine’s father, a former military doctor in Tunisia, who had risked his career in order to save the life of a little Arab boy sick with diphtheria, conveyed to her his love of the North African people, especially the nomads.



     A long wait

As she was brought up with deep faith, Magdeleine, already at an early age, thought about religious life. In 1921 she read Rene Bazin’s biography of Charles de Foucauld and felt attracted to this life: to leave for the Sahara, live the hidden life of Jesus of Nazareth, and cry the Gospel by her whole life; but, it seem unrealizable because of her frail health. To earn a living, she worked as the principal of a school run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Nantes. Every evening in the sisters’ chapel, she asked Jesus, Master of the Impossible, for the grace to go to the Sahara and die there.
In 1935, her health got worse and she was in danger of becoming totally disabled. Her doctor told her that the only way of stopping the condition was to go live in a dry country like the Sahara. Her spiritual director took this as a sign from God and told her, “Always remember that it is because humanly speaking you are no longer able to do anything that I’m telling you with such assurance that you have to leave and, if you ever accomplish anything, it will be God who will have done it all. For, without him, you will be able to do nothing, absolutely nothing.” After that, Little sister Magdeleine often repeated the following:

“God took me by the hand and blindly I followed.”

Among the Nomads of the Sahara

   In October 1936, she landed in Algiers with a young woman, Anne, who shared her aspirations. She ran into a priest there who invited her to settle in Boghari, 150 km to the south of Algiers, and to open a dispensary named “The Father de Foucauld House of Charitable Works”. She took care of the poor from morning until night, but this overflowing activity didn’t satisfy her absolute desire for God. 
So, she made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Charles de Foucauld in El Golea, Algeria. There, she met Father Voillaume for the first time. He had just founded the Little Brothers of Jesus in El Abiodh. This encounter was thbeginning of a long friendship between these two disciples of Brother Charles. She also met Bishop Nouet, the Apostolic Prefect of the Sahara, who was ready to welcome her as a religious and not as a lay person. She made a novitiate with the White Sisters in Algiers. Magdeleine never had the intention of founding a congregation, but the Bishop asked her to put a draft of her constitutions in writing. Magdeleine had the intuition that the realization of the ideal of a contemplative life could be concretized in sharing the life of the poorest, living with them and like them. 


 Magdeleine made her religious profession on September 8th1939 under the name of Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus. That day marks the birth of "the very small congregation of nomad Little Sisters" who would live six months under the tent.That October, she began to live in the midst of nomads on the periphery of Touggourt, an oasis 700 km to the south of Algiers. Why? Simply because she loved them and wanted to witness gratuitously to her love. With their help, she rehabilitated an old house abandoned by

psM et enfants de Touggourtthe military which would become the first community house of the little sisters right in the                    middle of the desert. She began the Community with her nomad Muslim friends: 

“Touggourt, Sidi Boujnan, my dear little community in the dunes. That’s where my first nomad friends lived. The love between us was so great that I will never know such closeness again, for they were the first and I lived completely alone with them for some time, trusting them absolutely. And in five years of living that close, they never once disappointed me.” 


From the Sahara to the Whole World

Quite soon, several young women were interested in joining the Congregation and a novitiate in France became necessary. In August, 1941, the first novices moved into a house called “the Tubet” near Aix-en-Provence. Between 1940 and 1945, in the middle of World War II, Little sister Magdeleine criss-crossed France, giving more than 600 conferences to speak of the message of Charles de Foucauld, to make known this new form of religious life lived in Muslim lands, and to seek funds for the construction of the house in Sidi Boujnan. She had a brush with death several times during her moving about.
“God took me by the hand, and blindly I followed.”
In 1946, Little sister Magdeleine became certain that the Little sisters were meant to spread throughout the world and become UNIVERSAL. Convinced it was God’s will, she unhesitatingly renounced her cherished idea of being consecrated exclusively to the Muslim world.
 In June 1947, Bishop de Provencheres, the new Archbishop of Aix-en-Provence, raised the Community to the status of a Diocesan Congregation. He welcomed and encouraged L.Sr. Magdeleine’s most audacious initiatives: communities among the working class, gypsies, shepherds, nomads, hippies, and all those on the margins of society. 


In 1948, a search for Arab Christians praying in Arabic led her to the Middle East (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, the Holy Land) where the difficulties of war did not keep her from sending little sisters. 
In 1950, L.Sr. Magdeleine began “a trip around the world”. In 4 years, she visited every continent, seeking out the poorest and most neglected, “those to whom no one would go”, to begin communities of little sisters among them:
“You must go there out of preference because, if you don’t go there, perhaps no one will ever go to tell them that Jesus loves them and that he suffered and died for them.”
In this call to the most neglected, L.Sr.Magdeleine also felt a strong call to go where Christians were being persecuted behind closed borders. She said, “I couldn’t stand that an iron curtain could close off any country to the message of Brother Charles.” From 1956 right up until her death, she traveled every year to the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. There, the first little sisters in these countries lived clandestinely until the fall of the communist regime.


       At the heart of all these foundations, she wanted to establish adoration communities where the little sisters could go for times of retreat or longer times of prayer.
 On Christmas 1949, L.Sr.Magdeleine gave up her charge as Superior General in order to dedicate her time to the extension of the community.
September 8th 1989, the Little Sisters of Jesus celebrated 50 years of existence.
Two months later, on November 6th, at Tre Fontane, L.Sr.Magdeleine made her final trip, this time to her Beloved Lord Jesus.



    Her funeral gathered persons of different religions, rites, countries, and cultures, illustrating what she had lived.

“If I am asked to summarize our mission in one word, I would not hesitate a minute to cry out UNITY.”