Daughter of Godefroid Dufaing and Marie-Louise de Nonancourt, Anne Elisabeth Dufaing d'Aigremont was born on 21 October 1804 in Izel, in the province of Luxembourg. Elisabeth Dufaing and later her two brothers were the offspring of two noble lines of descent that were impoverished by the Revolution. The little family first lived in Tintigny and then moved to the Grand Duchy from 1815.
The young girl accompanied her mother to the poorest parts of the city, especially to the Stadtgrund, to help out. This mission influenced her future. Around 1817, the girl's education was entrusted to the sisters of "St. Sophia", where she became a boarder. It was at this time that the girl met Louise Augustin, who was to become her first companion in religion some 25 years later. The four years at the "Ste Sophie" high school were dear to her and were the foundation of her vocation as a religious. She cut herself a nun's dress and wore it to bed, until she was caught in this amazing nightgown. Back home, her mother has other plans for her. She wants to marry off her only daughter. Discussions and pleas ensue. Tenacious, Elise Dufaing persuaded her father to take her to the lower town, where the hospices along the Alzette were crowded. She then began working as a voluntary nurse. The difficult years following the Revolution of 1830 put the family to the test and took away her father and brother Eugène. The young woman had to look after both her mother, who was recovering very badly from these losses, and her brother Henri. Three years later, her mother succumbs to her grief. Henri got married.
Living conditions in the fortress town of Luxembourg were very poor at the time. A lack of clean water, coupled with a lack of sewage, not to mention the lack of air in the narrow streets, contributed to a striking lack of hygiene. Elise Dufaing has a lot to do at the hospice of the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth, where she is a resident. The benefactress brings food and begs for bales of fresh straw which she loads on her shoulders to renew the beds of the poor. She spends hours at the washhouse.
Although Elise Dufaing was determined to help the poorest, she hesitated to choose between religious orders. In the end, others forced her to choose: the priest Léonard Suhs, Monsignor Laurent and the medical college, who saw the urgency and importance of home care, wanted to found a new congregation. Together with her friend, Elise Dufaing founds the Franciscans of Mercy in Luxembourg. The taking of the habit was celebrated on 30 March 1850. Elise Dufaing took the name of Sister Françoise.
Her work in the service of the sick did not go unnoticed and other sisters wanted to join the new congregation. The influx was so great that the Sisters had to move four times in five years. Mother Françoise had to fight all her life to keep the independence of her congregation. A victim of her dedication, the nun was offered to take charge of the women's prison. She wrote in a letter: "The improvement of the lot of the unfortunate women prisoners corresponds so well to the task we have imposed on ourselves that I cannot refuse to contribute to it. Years of hard work followed, marked by the cholera epidemic which broke out for the first time in 1854 and a second time in 1865.
Afflicted by the increasingly throbbing gout, Mother Françoise died on 16 June 1880.
● Anne-Marie Leyder: Elisabeth Dufaing, Imprimerie St Paul, Luxembourg, 1980.
● Sister Irène Bock of the Congregation of the Franciscans of Mercy.