Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
A young woman named Elise Rivet felt a calling to religious life and at 22 years of age she joined the Notre-Dame de la Compassion sisters in Lyon, France. The year was 1913 and she became Sister Elizabeth.
The order worked primarily with poor girls in need of education and training. She rose in the order and became Mother Superior. And then the Nazis invaded France and Sister Elizabeth felt called to aid the resistance. She allowed the resistance to hide weapons and equipment inside the convent. She also allowed Jewish women to pretend to be nuns to avoid them being sent to their deaths in a concentration camp. Some of those women had children who needed protection as well and Sister Elisabeth allowed their children to hide in the convent as well.
For her activities she reportedly had the blessing of the Cardinal of Lyon, Pierre-Marie Gerlier who had publicly opposed and condemned the deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps. On top of that, Cardinal Gerlier specifically instructed Catholic institutions to hide Jewish children. After his death, he was named Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1981.
Many times, Mother Elisabeth not only hid these mothers and their children but helped them escape the Nazis by supplying them with false papers and arranging places to hide during their escape.
Unfortunately, the Gestapo learned of some of her efforts and had her arrested on March 25, 1944 and eventually sent to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany. Within the walls of that horrible place, Mother Elisabeth did all she could to support other prisoners spiritually and emotionally.
In the frenzy that came with their imminent defeat, the Nazis sped up their efforts to kill as many as they could. On Good Friday March 30, 1945, a mother was ordered to be sent to the gas chamber but Mother Elisabeth volunteered to take her place. She was killed in the gas chamber in order to protect another. Just a few weeks later, the war in Europe was over.
HT Dr. Ross Porter