Andree Marie Payant was born April 6, 1922 in St. Paul, Minnesota, the sixth and last child in her family. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Island Park, Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, where they lived a hard working, hard playing, swimming, canoeing, ice-boating life. It was a wonderful place for youngsters to grow up in and it was, as well, a home filled with music, since the children inherited from their father, who had a beautiful baritone voice and directed the music in three parishes, their love and ability for singing. It was also a family filled with the love of Christ and his Church. Three of the boys were ordained priests in religious orders, one of them Father Romain of our own Order, and the fourth boy tried it but instead died young in joy. Andree, much to her surprise, also found herself called, and at the age of 28, she entered St. Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, Ireland on August 17, 1948 with the intention of returning to the United States with the foundation group for the opening of a new monastery. She became a novice at Glencairn with a new name, Sister Mary Celsus, but years later resumed her baptismal name of Andree.
There was much to do in the new foundation of Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey, Wrentham, and Andree took her share in founding it with her typical good humor. She made her Temporary Vows together with Sister Grace Forster on January 13, 1951, her Final Profession January 13, 1954, and then her Solemn Vows with the large group of Finally Professed Sisters on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 28, 1957. She had various jobs in the busy community including the dairy barn, haying and sewing, and she became thoroughly competent in operating the printing press, supplying the community with cards and brochures for our business. Her artistic ability was expressed in some beautiful paintings and particularly in the Stations of the Cross that she carved, one set of which is in our infirmary and another in our third foundation of Our Lady of the Angels, Crozet, Virginia. With her beautiful singing voice she served as chantress for many years, and with her gift for people she served as Novice Director for several years, sharing her love and her fun as well as her good teaching.
Answering a need in our sister monastery, St. Justina’s of Abakaliki, Nigeria, Sister Andree obediently went and gave herself wholeheartedly to the community there, especially to the formation of the young sisters. She had to return to Wrentham sooner than planned because of a break in her health, but she never forgot her Nigerian sisters whom she had come to love, as they loved her. As for us, her unique smile was an abiding gift and we will always remember it.
On Christmas Day, 2012, she could no longer speak or open her eyes, but as we sang Silent Night around her bed, she gave us that warm, dear, genuine smile for the last time and it will be forever engraved on our hearts. Sister Andree was a Sister radiant with the love of Christ.