On the morning of 15th December 1877 the 47 year old Marien Chabry set out from this house in La Roche Bouton to walk the four and a half kilometres to the Mairie in Saint George de Mons to register the birth of his new daughter. His wife, Marie née Pouzol, had given birth to her at ten o’clock on the previous evening.

The Birth Certificate names two witnesses, François Mayael (27) and Jean Chabry (55) and the Mayor, Mr. Hom, a member of a family that was to provide four mayors to the commune.

Since more than 130 years have passed since this happy event some facts are a little hazy. What we do know is that she was christened Marie, after her mother. There is some uncertainty about how many brothers and sisters this little girl had. The general consensus is that there were two brothers and one or two sisters probably all older than Marie. We also know that her mother died when Marie was quite a young girl. The War Memorial opposite the house in La Roche Bouton records the death, in the first world war, of Jean Chabry, one of Marie’s brothers.

Her father, Marien Chabry is recorded on the Birth Certificate as a cultivateur. ‘Cultivateur’ is a word used in France to describe a farmer whose main concern is the tilling of the soil rather than keeping livestock. A cultivateur usually has a small parcel of land. He would certainly not have been a wealthy man and it must have been difficult to raise a family on his own after his wife died.


It is possibly for this reason that we find Marie entering to the Noviciate of Sisters of Our Lady in 1895 in Lamontgie , taking the religious habit on 14th September 1896 at the age of 19, pronouncing her vows of religion on 19th September 1899.

Marie Chabry, by then Soeur Gerard aged 33, came to a convent in Grandrif in 1910 where she was to become a legend as a consequence of her healing abilities. A plaque in the church records her stay from 1910-1950, although there is evidence to suggest that her stay actually ended in 1951. The convent ran the first school in Grandrif., closing in 1958, .

As a women of 38, she used her skills in a hospital dealing with wounded from the first world war. The doctor with whom she was working was so impressed with her remarkable skills that he encouraged her to practise them. Since she received no direct training in this regard it seems very likely that she learnt these skills from her mother, although this is not to under-estimate her own formidable gifts as a healer.


SOEUR GERARD.
One of Grandrif's most remarkable inhabitants
During her time in Grandrif Soeur Gérard became famous and her ‘exploits’ were the subject of accounts in Henri Pourrat’s Book ‘Les Sorciers du Canton’.
She also maintained a garden including growing special herbs, and livestock which included rabbits a black pig, occasionally used as a threat of punishment on wayward children. Any money that her work made was used to benefit the school which included the provision of piped water.

There are innumerable stories of the consequences of her powers. She was particularly active in putting to rights various sports injuries. A special bus was put on to carry patients from Ambert to Grandrif and return them in the afternoon. Her methods made considerable physical demands upon her. Many speak of the fact that, at the end of a day’s healing, Soeur Gerard was often very tired.

There is no doubt that her skills were greatly valued by many. Her great niece, who lived in Grandrif with Soeur Gerard from 1947-1951 tells that the waiting room of the little outbuilding in which her great aunt worked was littered with crutches; for many had arrived needing them, only to be able to discard them after treatment.

The number of visitors to the sister became so great that it was felt that it was disturbing the activities of the school? As a result a small building was constructed in a corner of the school grounds and a door built into the wall equipped with its own bell by which means patients could gain access via a rear entrance.
During her stay in Grandrif, a pharmacist from Ambert observed Soeur Gerard in action and was greatly impressed by her healing technique. A website states ……

“Jean Moneyron was born in 1923 in ; in Auvergne. Quite early, a nun who lived in the area initiated him into this method. He then practised it in the family chemist's shop. Very soon, the results …….. made him quite famous; so when he was 40 and the father of six children, he decided to close his shop and leave to study physiotherapy. …….Throughout his life, he applied his method exclusively never departing from it, developing it and reaching a high degree of mastery. He ended his professional career in the suburbs of Vichy where he practised until he retired. He trained few people to his practise apart from a few assistants and his daughter Françoise.”

Sadly very little credit is given to the part that Soeur Gerard played in his rise to fame.
From her departure from Grandrif in 1951 Soeur Gerard returned to Lamontgie .

From the mayor of Lamontgie ……………

“ During her stay in Lamontgie she had as her principal activity that of “rabilleuse” which was known far and wide. On a Monday morning there was a veritable procession of footballers who came to have their knees and ankles treated. I knew her when I went to school. I was living in the village of Mailhat, so at midday I lunched at the convent, I remember especially her impressive hands with her short and squat figure.”

There continued to be stories of her success in healing folk, often where other treatments had failed and often with methods that continued to be scorned by orthodox medics.

Soeur Gerard died on 7
th July 1960 and was buried in a corner of the cemetery in Lamontgie reserved especially for the Sisters of the convent.