· Vatican City ·

In conversation with Sister Aurélie Allouchéry, a healthcare assistant close to those who suffer

Total presence and profound listening

 Total presence and profound listening  ING-010
08 March 2024

Sister Aurélie Allouchéry is a nun of the Congregation of Our Lady of Good Help in Troyes, France. She has been active in her community for almost 20 years, dedicating herself to the sick and working as a healthcare assistant.

Sister Aurélie Allouchéry, of the Congregation of Our Lady of Good Help in Troyes, tells us the story of her vocation. She thought she would be called to family life, with children, and to a professional career in teaching. She illustrates the path that led her first to religious life, then to accompanying the sick.

Sister Aurélie Allouchéry, you are a nun of Our Lady of Good Help, a Congregation that describes its mission in three words: compassion, healing, and liberation. You made your commitment 20 years ago; how did you approach religious life?

As a matter of fact, I attended church since childhood. My parents always encouraged me to attend Mass on Sundays. My mother was a Sunday school teacher, and I was a member of a charitable association. At the age of 25, after a youth well-spent, I asked myself the question. What was my calling? What would make me happy? So, I participated in a year of discernment, offered by the Diocese of Reims. It ended with a retreat for discernment, at the end of which, the answer became clear to me. I truly felt the desire to give my life to Christ, my entire life, everything I am, all my being.

Pope Francis often says that the Church must work by attraction. Did you feel attracted by God?

Yes, I did feel attracted by God. At the same time, I had many prejudices about religious life and the nuns I met. I found them to be rather old-fashioned, not very trendy — in short, not very attractive. It is also true that, while participating in that retreat, I had absolutely no idea of the life decision I would make. I was more inclined towards marriage, with conjugal life and with children, many children. But in the end, I didn’t choose that. I chose religious life. It was this calling from God, this very strong love I felt during that retreat, that attracted me to Him and made me renounce the life I had imagined would be mine.

You say you “renounced” the life you had imagined for yourself. Does your faithfulness to Christ entail sacrifices?

I cannot say that it entails sacrifices because I feel fulfilled by this given, offered life and by the graces I receive in return. Of course, I don’t want to sugarcoat things, but in reality, a life of faithfulness to God, to Christ, truly is a full life. I cannot say anything else. It doesn’t seem to me that I am making any sacrifices. That being said, as with any state of life, there are things to be given up. You cannot experience everything, do everything, and choose everything. Making a choice necessarily means giving up something else.

Religious life is beautiful because it is varied. There are many communities with different charisms. How did you choose Our Lady of Good Help?

It was truly an unexpected encounter. I came from the field of teaching, and this congregation, whose mission is to provide healthcare, was not exactly ideal for me. And indeed, it was only by meeting the sisters and by listening to them as they told me of their mission, that I was attracted by their closeness to the sick at home and in families, and the relief they gave to the suffering members of Christ.

What would you say today to young men or women who are asking themselves questions about life decisions to be made, and who may be in search of spirituality, and of a particular kind of life? What guidance would you give them?

It is very difficult to give advice or guidance because everyone has their own path. I like that phrase from the Gospel that says, “Come and see.” Meet people, listen, observe, perceive things. I think it is truly a life rooted in Christ, a deep desire to follow Him, and a life of commitment.

Do you feel completely fulfilled today in your choice of life, in your spiritual and religious life?

Yes, and I truly mean it. Through the three founding pillars of religious life which are life within the community, prayer life, and apostolic life, one always tries to unify what one is, one’s personality, and also to reach fulfillment, while remaining open to others. It is a life in which you make a gift of yourself, and from the moment you give yourself, I think you become fulfilled yourself.

Sister Aurélie Allouchéry, was your vocation to be at the bedside of the sick from the very beginning?

No, this did not attract me at all at first. I came from a teaching background and I rather thought of remaining in the field of education, specializing in the accompaniment of children. But meeting the Sisters of Our Lady of Good Help in Troyes has really made me change my mind. I was sure that precisely this way I could give the best of myself.

The Pope’s prayer intention for February was for terminal patients. What does accompanying these people entail? What do you give? And what do you receive?

Personally, I believe that the compassionate image of Christ truly dwells within me. Every time I go to the bedside of the sick, what I do, really, is invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he may pass through me in order to be that Presence. As a healthcare assistant, it is a presence that materializes in simple acts of care. Being filled by, and invoking the Holy Spirit, allows me to be completely present and let the Lord pass through my gestures. As for accompanying end-of-life patients, I would say that it is identical to accompanying a sick person who has just received a serious diagnosis. Accompanying someone truly requires total presence and profound listening.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Good Help are in some way the expression of Mary’s tenderness towards her Son, the tenderness of a mother. How does this tenderness express itself in your mission?

If I have come to the apostolate of healthcare assistant, it is precisely in order to speak through my gestures and to be that tenderness that comes to console, that comes to provide relief, and that sometimes heals. Not necessarily in the sense in which “healing” is commonly understood, but in the sense that it does good. The mission of the Sisters of Our Lady of Good Help is to receive the body in their arms and to offer it all the care it needs to regain its dignity and in order to honour the temple of our bodies.


By Jean-Charles Putzolu