Africa-Press – Seychelles. Sister Gertrude Tirant passes away
Six months shy of her 90th birthday, Sister Gertrude, born Marie-Stella Tirant, drew her last breath on Monday January 17, 2022.
Born of Julien Tirant and Zélia Tirant née Etienne on July 1, 1932 at Anse à la Mouche, on Mahé, she was the third child in a family of 13 children. After completing primary 6 at the Anse Boileau school, she spent some time at home, taking private tuitions in English, French and music. Then she became organist at the Anse Boileau and Grand Anse Mahé churches.
In 1955, she began her teaching career as a supply teacher at the Anse Boileau primary school.
It was on January 5, 1957 at the young age of 24 that Marie-Stella Tirant entered the novitiate at the convent of St Joseph and made her profession on September 10, 1959.
She was accepted at the secondary school of Regina Mundi from 1958 to 1961 where she furthered her studies.
After taking courses at the Teacher Training College in Mont Fleuri from 1962 to 1963, Sister Gertrude graduated as a teacher and received her obedience for Glacis which was followed by other calls ‒ Cascade, Anse Boileau, Anse Aux Pins ‒ teaching in each of these schools which were run by the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny. At the same time, she was furthering her religious and spiritual formation as a sister.
Sister Gertrude made her perpetual vows in September 1965. In April 1972, she had the happiness of visiting the Mother House of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny in Paris and from there, followed a Mathematics workshop for primary school in Jordan Hill College of Education in Glasgow, Scotland. On her return to Seychelles she continued to teach in Anse Aux Pins as well as being the superior of the community. She was heartbroken when they had to close the community in 1978, although she continued to teach at the school. She was placed in the community of Anse Royale so every day she had to travel to Anse Aux Pins. There she was not only an academic teacher but fully involved in sports as well. Many a time, young men from Anse Aux Pins have said they learned their football skills with Sister Gertrude on the field. She was a sportswoman for sure and was always active. Although she was very strict in class as a lot of her past students would remember, she was fair and loving.
In 1980 she was named as school co-coordinator of the same school and in 1982 she was transferred to the new primary school in Pointe Larue where she worked as school administrator.
In 1985 Sister Gertrude had the chance to follow a course on Religious Education and Pastoral Work Studies at the Gaba Institute in Eldoret, Kenya. While there she also had the opportunity of attending the Eucharistic Congress which was held in Nairobi and got the chance to meet Pope John Paul II.
On her return to Seychelles, she was placed at the Bel Eau School where she taught English and Maths. Then she taught at Anse Boileau for some time and was there for the closure of the community in January 1989. It has been said the Mother Foundress of the Congregation that a Sister of St Joseph of Cluny should be “like a bird on a branch, ready to fly at the first call of Obedience”. This was true of Sister Gertrude. After the closure of the Anse Boileau convent, she had her obedience to La Misère – as superior of two communities ‒ La Misère and Cascade. She was then placed at Plaisance school until her retirement from active teaching at 60 years old.
In 1992 she was appointed superior of Anse Royale until 1997 when she became the “pioneer” Sister for the Regina Mundi Students’ Hostel, a “home away from home” for the young girls coming to Mahé from Praslin and La Digue for post-secondary education. This was a responsibility she took very much to heart, showing herself a caring “mother” to the girls, ensuring their comfort and safety. There she was really a “jack of all trades”. At one stage she suffered terribly from her knees which almost prevented her from walking and had to fly to Reunion for medical treatment in April 2004 and spent three months there. After her convalescence, she continued her apostolate with the young girls of the “hostel”, a mission for which she devoted herself faithfully until the hostel was closed in 2014.
However, it was not “all work and no play” for Sister Gertrude. In 1989, she had the chance, once again to visit the Mother House in Paris together with Sister Marguerite Hickey to learn more about the congregation and to visit different places where Anne Marie Javouhey, the Foundress lived and worked. She was blessed with the chance to go and visit her sisters in England and her brother in Canada.
In April 2000, she spent a few weeks in Rome and then was placed in the community of St Joseph for a short while, and she missed her hostel girls, to whom she came back in September 2002. That same year she assumed the responsibility of vice provincial bursar, a post she was faithful to until 2012.
She celebrated the golden jubilee of her religious profession in 2009 and her diamond in 2019.
At the end of the account of her story, Sister Gertrude had this to say: “I am grateful to God for being faithful to me for all these years and for all the help that I received through the congregation. My greatest pleasure is that in all the schools where I had been placed, I got the opportunity to prepare the children for their first Holy Communion and Confirmation. I am ready to do the little good that I can wherever I am for the Glory of God.”
At that time, she was still fully active in her responsibilities at the Regina Mundi convent and the students’ hostel.
In 2017, with diminishing health, she went to the St Joseph Convent which had been her home for almost five years. Even though slowly, slowly dementia was setting in, she never lost her joie de vivre, her interest in others and her sense of humour. She was always full of gratitude for any little service rendered to her and had a great sense of belonging, both to her blood family as well as her Cluny family.
The last two years have been rather painful for her but she never complained. When one inquires about her health, she would say: “I am doing well by the grace of God.” Sometimes she would say: “I am as you see me.”
Surely when the Lord knocked at her door in the early hours of the morning of January 17, 2022, she was more than ready to say like St Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.
Rest in peace Sister Gertrude. And may you always shine like the star which your name Stella, signifies.