Élise Bisschop was born in 1925, 200 km south of Paris, in the Yonne department; she will spend her whole life there.
“Joy entered my life: I was little at than time! Had I been looking for or following it? It took me, and there you go!”
Élise has been ill since her childhood. A bronchial disease continued her throughout her life, with many hospitalizations.
“I consecrated myself to the Lord at the age of eleven, accepting both to be sick all my life and therefore not to marry.”
From the age of 13 Élise wrote poems and songs. They show her faith, her joy and her spiritual observation of creation.
“In the past, I believed that I would be desperate if I could no longer draw, sing, compose poems…”
When Élise was 16, Father André Générat became the parish priest of Mailly-le-Château. Élise gives him absolute confidence.
“You haven't forgotten the day you arrived in Mailly either, I'm sure… Father, from that day on I placed my soul in yours.”
Elise's best friend is called Victoria. Coming from a family of Spanish immigrants, Élise leads her to live in the faith.
“And yet, even separated, I find myself so happy to be able to count on your affection, and to think of you as my only “real” little sister.”
From the age of twenty, after the war, Élise began to teach catechism. She was already taking care of the group of girls with some friends.
“Do you know what was my first concern, when I realized that I was immobilized for a long time? My little ones.”
When Father Générat was appointed to Saint-Florentin in 1957, Father Pierre Van Ede from Châtel-Censoir came to help the parish in difficulty.
“For a month, things had been better, because the priest of Châtel had come… When the priest says something, now everything is said.”
Élise begins an important correspondence with Father André Générat. She gives him news and asks him for advice on her spiritual life.
“Will you think about this, Father, and pray for me?”
Dominican Sisters support the catechists of Mailly-le-Château. Élise gets to know Father Jourdain Bochin, Dominican from Dijon.
”He will help me, him Dominican, to become Dominican, but I remain Élise; let's say he adds some colors to the canvas.”
In 1959, Father Marcel Girard was finally appointed the new parish priest. Élise likes him a lot.
“Here, the parish comes back to life because we have the great grace of having a priest - truly 'priest': that says it all, and you know what I mean by that…”
The suggestion of one of the Sisters to become a tertiary Dominican gained ground. Élise made her vows during the pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1962.
“When I got involved, I wanted the Blessed Virgin to force my hand, in a way, so that I could be sure I wasn't wrong.”
After a last health crisis, Élise died in the old Auxerre hospital on April 9, 1964. She was 38 years old.
“I believe I am in a state of surrender and abandonment.”
Father Girard asked Father Générat to come and celebrate Elise's funeral on April 13. Father Générat quotes the letters received. Father Van Ede puts the homily in his parish newspaper with the title “A sainte from among us”.
“We suspect the greatness of this soul.”
Father Bochin had the manuscript collection of the poetic and musical compositions of Élise; he prepared copies and had them distributed under the title of “Poems and Songs”. He adds a preface rich in information.
“In the school of her Lord, she learned to love and to spread joy.”
Father Girard writes a letter to a friend of Elise announcing her death. It is undoubtedly him who is at the origin of the title of the article of Châtel.
“In some time (a few years maybe) I think that we will publish a brochure «A sainte from among us»!”
After these glowing testimonies, Elise’s story will lie dormant for 42 years. In 2006 a parishioner recalls the memory of her friend Élise to Father Dominique-Marie Morstad, vicar of the parish.
“You must read the poems; it is important ! Élise was a sainte; I knew her.”
In the preface, Father Bochin reports something little known: Elise’s motto. When she entered the Dominican family, she had to introduce herself.
“My motto since the age of 13 (I think): smile to everything and to everyone, out of love for Jesus.”
Legitimate questions arise: Elise, did she live according to her poems? Why is they not better known and valued?
An invisible hand will never stop guiding research and providing answers.
August 2007, nine letters from Elise and another, written by Father Marcel Girard, are shown to the vicar of the parish.
“I am sure that my very suffering will be of use to my dear little sisters; deep down, as long as I hadn’t suffered through them, could I boast that I really loved them?”
Élise had a strong friendship with Victoria and Gilberte. We find Gilberte in Auxerre in June 2008. She has photographs.
“Even though Élise was often absent, she remained at the top of the class. She never got angry.”
June 2010, a younger friend, Marcelle, having learned of the interest in Élise, brought the article from Châtel-Censoir to the presbytery; she had treasured it.
The old reputation for holiness on the part of the clergy resurfaces, 46 years later.
A part of the correspondence between Élise and Father Générat is discovered; however, the remainder is considered to be irretrievably lost.
“On the occasion of the funeral mass for Miss Élise Bisschop, 38, a priest who had known her for a long time quoted letters written by her.”
2012. The clergy of Mailly-le-Château decided to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Elise’s death with a parish day in 2014.
A film with the reading of Elise's texts is made.
In 2014, parish life was brought to life by Elise’s birthday and the restoration of a crucifix in Trucy-sur-Yonne. A reporter from the Republican Yonne covers the event.
We suggest that he write an article on Élise; it appears at the end of July.
Two days later, a member of Élise's family came forward by telephone. Unlike the other members of the Élise family, he lives in Yonne.
He arrives a few days later. He brings the best photo of Elise. The cover of the new edition of the collection is changed.
Three weeks later, a goddaughter of Elise who lives in Saint-Florentin contacted the parish by letter. She had been surprised to read the article about her godmother.
“I went with my godmother to the church to prepare the church for the Sunday morning mass, made by Father André Générat, priest of Mailly.”
A month later, a daughter of Victoria also discovered the Yonne Republican article.
“I discovered by chance on the internet the research you are doing on Elise Bisschop. She was a great friend of mother's; they corresponded a lot when she left Mailly after her marriage.”
June 2015, the new bishop of the diocese comes to visit the fathers of Mailly. At the end of lunch, the edifying account of Elise Bisschop's life is brought to him.
Mgr. Hervé Giraud asks for a report “on what you have done.”
September, Monsignor Hervé Giraud decides to open the cause of beatification for Élise. The joy in the parish is enormous.
The bishop requests a second report, this time on “Elise’s reputation for holiness.”
June 2016, while the parish was on a pilgrimage in Norway, the bishop's own secretary found in a cardboard box at the bishopric the letters from Elise to Father Générat.
Amazement, mixed with gratitude, is general.
In August, after initial unsuccessful research with the Dominicans, the medallion of the 1962 pilgrimage was discovered in a box in Besançon.
Father Bochin had kept the medallion of the pilgrim of Elise as the only copy in the archives.
June 2017, during the hearing of four witnesses of Elise, one of those arrives with 23 other letters from Elise, written to her sister, Monique.
“You should now take Communion at each Mass, especially if you cannot have Mass every Sunday: there is so much strength there!”
September, after Victoria’s death, her daughter finds numerous letters also from Marie Bisschop, Elise’s mother. Unbelievable.
“While telling me that she is happy now, that she is no longer in pain… It is nonetheless true that it is terribly hard! I'm so far from worthy of her !”
December 2018, an April 1964 document from Father Bochin comes to light. He mentions Elise's death.
“I entrust to your prayer (as I entrust you to her prayer!) Elise Bisschop, one of our patients of the 1962 Pilgrimage.”
October 2020, we now have 123 letters from Elise as well as many other testimonies.
“I would be so happy if my absence gave someone the idea to replace me. Maybe this is what was needed; basically, as long as I'm here, no one will show up.”