the soul mate of Abbé Pierre on LCP


Lucie Coutaz (1899-1982) managed the Emmaüs community for forty years with unfailing dedication, alongside Father Pierre.
© Emmaüs international, universal legatee of Abbé Pierre
Preserved at the National Archives of the World of Work (Roubaix)

A documentary pays a beautiful tribute to the woman who met Henri Grouès in the Resistance and then founded the Emmaüs community with him. Lucie Coutaz, the young lady of Emmaüsa film not to be missed, this Monday February 12 at 8:30 p.m. on LCP.

When my companions and my friends tell me: “Father, without her, Emmaus would not exist”, I tell them that they are right. For forty years, Lucie Coutaz was much more than a secretary. She was my confidante, my most faithful ally. She was a woman who combined the temperament of a leader and the heroism of agreeing to remain in the shadow of another. » These words from Abbé Pierre, read in voice-over at the opening of the abundant documentary by Anne Véron, entitled Lucie Coutazthe maid of Emmauswell summarize the decisive role of the extraordinary woman who accompanied the abbot in all his battles.
These two met in 1942 in Grenoble. It is a young resistance fighter who introduces Father Henri Grouès, who has just joined the Resistance, to the woman who quickly becomes his soul mate, until his death in 1982. Their fight against the Nazis unites them forever. “My office quickly became a hub of the Grenoble Resistance. “, she explains in her memoirs. The film is also based on the correspondence between this fervent Catholic and the man who secretly took the name Abbé Pierre. During the war, she worries about the risks he takes: “Dear Father, we are having a hard time contacting you at the moment (…). Are you a little reasonable in your activity? I know well that Christ went as far as the madness of Calvary and that we must follow him there. Don’t forget me completely with the Lord and have all my respect . »

The tragedy of the lack of housing

At the Liberation, the abbot was a navy chaplain and asked Lucie Coutaz to become his secretary. She accepts. Then the priest took part in the political refoundation of France and was elected deputy for Meurthe-et-Moselle under the Popular Republican Movement (MRP) label. Thanks to his parliamentary allowance, he bought a house in Neuilly-Plaisance and renovated it himself. There, with his faithful collaborator, he sets up a sort of youth hostel. But, very quickly, in a France still in ruins, faced with the tragedy of the lack of housing, the powerful duo decides to welcome homeless people.

Money was lacking, especially when the abbot left politics in 1951. Faced with the emergency, one of his companions suggested that he recover scrap metal and various objects to then resell them. The Ragpickers of Emmaus were born. Their activity then boomed, particularly after the famous winter appeal of 1954 (read our January 28 editions). Thanks to her practical spirit and her ability to be respected and appreciated by everyone, Lucie Coutaz runs Emmaüs with great efficiency. But in the whirlwind of success, Abbé Pierre becomes exhausted. He must rest for a year in Switzerland. Alone, she holds on, and the abbot finally recovers.

“Mission accomplished”

She herself, at the age of 19, had miraculously recovered from bone tuberculosis in Lourdes. In 1980, aged 81, Lucie Coutaz suffered hemiplegia. She then declares: “The Blessed Virgin had healed me in Lourdes to work, now she tells me: “mission accomplished”. » This exceptional woman died a year later, her hand in that of Abbé Pierre. The latter remembers: “This is how I slowly felt his pulsations diminish, then stop. She had come out of the shadows.»

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