DAME1 TERESA RODRIGUES
P. Marie-Bernard de Soos, President Emeritus of AIM
Sister Teresa Rodrigues was a Benedictine nun of the Abbey of Stanbrook in England when, in response to my request for an Englishspeaking or bilingual secretary for the General Secretariat of the AIM at Vanves (France), the Abbess of Stanbrook suggested Sister Teresa. That was in 1983, and I remember it well. Her family was of Portuguese origin (Madeira), but had moved to Trinidad in the Antilles. As a girl, after a good formation in studies, she approached the bishop of Trinidad, who directed her to Stanbrook in England because there was no Benedictine convent for women in the area.
Since 1960 the Benedictine sisters of Sainte-Bethilde had harboured at Vanves the new Secretariat of the AIM, directed by the Abbot of Floris, assisted by Sister Pia Valeri. Arrived at Vanves to take over from Sister Pia at the AIM, Sister Teresa remained there for ten years, highly competent and earning my full confidence. She lived with the sisters and worked with me in the office of the AIM. The day began with opening the post together, then negotiations began principally about requests for help received from new monastic foundations in missionary lands, Africa, Asia, Latin America. About every case we shared information on help already given, financial possibilities, etc.
Sister Teresa kept the accounts and bought in everything necessary for the Secretariat. The important work was to prepare a complete dossier on each case, to share out the subsidies granted according to current financial possibilities, etc. She kept the various registers up to date, subsidies asked and granted, visitors to the Secretariat, requests for new foundations. She also needed to prepare the two annual meetings of the Council of the AIM where requests received were discussed and decided upon; the Council could last two or three days. There were also three or four times annually meetings of the Council of the AMTM which, after a dinner, distributed in response to our modest requests the gifts received ,by them.
Since 1989 a lay woman worked full-time to help Sister Teresa on the various tasks which had become too demanding, such as requests for visas, many arrivals and departures from stations or airports of the monks and nuns of the foundations on their way to the AIM, meals to prepare, etc. A small team of volunteers did whatever was required, under the direction of Sister Teresa. The atmosphere was excellent and the work efficient.
During her final year at the AIM, while I was impeded as the result of a surgical intervention, she looked after the AIM at a very difficult moment, the crisis of the genocide in Rwanda. Sister Teresa and her assistant were able to make a contribution to saving part of the Benedictine community there. Not long afterwards, I think early in 1995, she retired and returned to her own convent I retain a warm memory of those years of work, a shared work to help new monasteries as they were formed at the rate of two or three each year and needed help for formation or for building, or needed money to buy a vehicle or generator of electricity. Her health was not perfect, but she put up with the difficulties well. I was most surprised to hear of her death after an operation on 1st February, but she remains very present to me in prayer and gratitude.
(1) Choir nuns in England are given the title ‘Dame’.