When Pope Leo XII put out the call for missionaries to serve in the Middle East in 1886, Sister Marie was nearly 50. With the Le Pecq orphanage to become history, she answered the call for what would be her last assignment: The Navy Hospital at Smyrna, Turkey. It would be her most exciting assignment of all.
As the ship entered the harbor at Smyrna, Turkey, which lay on the coast of the Aegean Sea, Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey gazed out at the big city and wondered what lay ahead of her. Smyrna, mentioned in the bible, is the third largest city in this Muslim country.
When Pope Leo XII put out his call in 1886 for French missionaries to serve in the Middle East, the Daughters of Charity felt the orphanage at Le Pecq had served its purpose. So Sister Marie, approaching 50 years of age, answered the Pope’s call. She sailed for Smyrna where she was assigned to the order’s hospital and upon her arrival, discovered the facility was under supervision of the French Navy. Her job would be to nurse both civilian and military personnel. In answering God’s call to serve the sick and suffering, she was totally committed to His Divine guidance.
In the early 14th century, King Francis I signed a trade treaty with the Muslim Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and France began to develop as a world power. That treaty shocked other world powers. In the ensuing centuries, France developed a Navy of galley ships for trade and warfare over the entire Mediterranean Sea.
Aboard one of those ships was Vincent de Paul, a young priest and passenger en route back to France after he had collected a bad debt for a woman who had bequeathed money to him. The ship was captured by pirates and Vincent was taken off and sold as a slave to a wealthy Muslim man in northern Africa. When his owner died, he became the property of another man, but when Vincent managed to convert his new young owner to Christianity, he was set free in 1607.
When Pope Leo XIII asked for volunteers as missionaries and assistants, it was natural for him to seek aid from France. Vincentian priests and brothers along with other French clergy were already stationed there. Thus Sister Marie, with a family background of members who joined in military forays and with her nurse’s training, was quick to volunteer.
Ah! Smyrna! Sister Marie was familiar with Smyrna because of John the Evangelist’s writings in Chapter 2 of the book of Revelation.
John was a prisoner at that time on the island of Patmos, located about fifty miles south of Ephesus, because he had proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus. Patmos was located in the Aegean Sea and one of the Sporades islands used as a penal colony by the Romans.
As Sister Marie left the ship after it docked at Smyrna, she was well-aware that she was not arriving alone. Sister Rosalie, who had been in charge of the sewing room at Le Pecq, was with her. And there waiting to give her a great welcome was the robust, grateful Sister Jeanne, whom Marie had nursed back to health several years before also at Le Pecq.
The hospital facility had been active since the Crimean War, but afterward, the French had neglected it, lost interest, the military failed to support it and it had become severely dilapidated physically and lacked equipment. On her first walk-through, she was certain that her new mission needed much care. In fact, it was in dire need of total repair by dedicated workers. It could not continue to properly function as a hospital without new equipment. That was its greatest need. The Naval Station had closed when the war ended, but the hospital remained in operation even though ships had no reason to anchor at Smyrna.
Not only was it in dire need of new medical equipment, but living quarters of the medical staff needed improvement. This impoverished facility would be her home for the rest of her life.
Sister Marie at age 50, is filled with enthusiasm for this new mission. There was plenty of work to be done and she already knew the strengths of the two sisters with whom she previously had worked and lived.
Sister Marie also knew she was in a Muslim land and would need to cultivate a proper relationship to this non-Christian population. She didn’t know how it would work out, but she knew she had to make it better for all of them. She would depend on her beloved patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary, for guidance.
Segment 7: The task of making a change in the atmosphere of an entire area is launched by Sister Marie.
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" I am not a priest and cannot bless them, but all that the heart of a mother can ask of God for her children, I ask of Him and will never cease to ask Him." ~ Sister Marie