Today we’re celebrating the 125th birthday of Lucie Coutaz, the co-founder of Emmaus.

Born in Grenoble in 1899, Lucie battled five years of paralysis before recovering in Lourdes in 1921. During the Second World War she was a union leader for the French Confederation of Christian Workers and the office where she worked was used as a cover by the French Resistance. In 1943, Lucie agreed to shelter Henry Grouès (also known as Abbé Pierre) from the Gestapo, and this began a relationship that would last for almost forty years. Lucie was awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze star in 1945.

After the war, the abbé took refuge in North Africa, but returned to Grenoble to find Lucie. He was now almoner of the “Maison du Marin” in Paris and asked her to accompany him there to work as his secretary.

Lucie became known as “Mother Coutaz” by the people in need who visited Abbé Pierre offices. During France’s exceptionally cold winter of 1954, the abbé appealed publicly for assistance, while Lucie looked after the day-to-day management. As a result, the first Emmaus communities were created.

Lucie dedicated her life to Emmaus, using her organisational prowess, discretion and leadership to grow the movement internationally. We are now part of an organisation that operates in 41 countries on four continents.

Abbé Pierre once described her as: ‘…the one, without whom, nothing would have been possible.”

She was, and still is, an inspiration.