The woman to whom the Virgin of the Poor visited eight times in 1933, passed away on 2nd December 2011, to see the “Beautiful Lady” who made her wonder.
She was 90 years old. She did not like talking about her, but this will not prevent us from making her better known. She always wanted to stay in the shadows, also avoided herself appearing in public, making no statements and asking her friends absolute discretion.
She had always strongly defended her discretion. When she made her last story to the chaplain, she closed her own book and came out of the mystery of Banneux. She spoke only about the interrogations required by the investigations. She explained, “What we did not understand is that I was only a messenger to whom the Virgin gave a message and I had to deliver my message and then it was over.” She always discouraged those who wanted to hear her secrets as she declared, “I’ve said what I had to say. I haven’t had a word to add, nor subtract.”
During the papal visit of 1985, she agreed to meet John Paul II in a sacristy, far from prying eyes of the public. Then she joined the handicapped people where she hid among the blind people. She followed all the great celebrations of Banneux until 2000 by hiding behind the Source. She was also discreet in her daily life: she went to the shrine or went shopping in Pepinster at noon. In so doing, she avoided herself from the public gaze as well.
She was, however, confronted with the trial of adulation.
At the beginning, she was bothered by frequent visits and was unable to do her homework and to study her lessons. Her house was invaded by visitors every day: they came to see Mariette, talked to her and questioned her. Some visitors worshipped her and others mocked her; some of them filled her with jewels and rich clothes. She suffered from these kinds of thoughtfulness that she had not sought for.
She was placed at the school of sisters in Aywaille from March 8, 1933 so as to escape from the curiosity of pilgrims and the mockery of her classmates. She went there by bus every day.
The sisters of the school remembered the beautiful gesture she made on 19th June to a poor little child of six year-old: she gave him her sandwiches. That same day, in the evening, she was seen searching for clothes for the little one everywhere in the attic of the house. But visitors also grew in number in Aywaille. Mariette was often hiding or running away. At first, she agreed to sign pictures, later, she refused. From the summer holidays in 1933, she stopped going to Aywaille.
At that time, De Smet who was a couple from Tildonk, near Louvain, came to intervene. Fervent pilgrims of Banneux knew the difficulties of the Beco family. They suggested Father Beco to take care of little Andrew, whom they would look after and raised at home. His parents agreed. It was on 5th May 1933. Mariette often went to see her little brother. The De Smets also suggested to welcome him to Tildonk and to put him at the half-board Ursulines of Tildonk. Mariette went to the school year 1933-1934 in this city. She was no longer seen at Banneux except during the holidays. The Flemish and Dutch pilgrims were delighted to hear her prayed with them in their language.
During the school year 1934-1935, she attended the Marie-Thérèse Institute in Verviers.
In 1935, she worked as Nurse Assistant at the Sainte-Rosalie Clinic in Liège. Sister Lutgarde, who was a superior of the clinic, became her great confidante and benefited from a spectacular cure by way of the Virgin of the Poor. The story of this healing can be found on page 143 of the book Pièces à Conviction.
She loved her Mother Lutgarde very much. She worked with her at the Peltzer Clinic in Verviers and Sainte-Rosalie in Liège.
War and Marriage
On 6th December 1939, the Beco family fled to France, fearing that they would have to be bombed because of the proximity of Fort de Tancrémont. They lived in Tulle. Mariette was hired as a worker at Lamarche’s house; she painted illuminating rockets. When the family returned in 1940, her mother was pregnant with Marie-Thérèse and she wanted to give birth in Belgium.
During the war, Mariette risked her life in the resistance. She was part of the “Constance” network: behind Tancrémont’s chapel, she recovered German airmen and soldiers who had escaped from Germany and drove them to her parents’ house; she hid them in an attic with an entrance hidden by a wardrobe. After the war, Mariette received the ‘diploma of honour’, but she refused the award that was proposed to her.
Mariette got married to Mathieu Hoeberigs on 26th December 1942. She was 21 years old. Beco’s parents did not approve Mariette’s choice. The young couple settled on rue de l’Esplanade in Banneux and they opened a restaurant there. They had two children: Jean-Marie and Myriam. Little Lutgarde who was born later, could only live for a few hours. During this third birth, Mariette suffered of haemorrhage that put her life at risk. Conflicts arose between the spouses. A revealing fact is known from a document written by Father Jamin on 3rd September 1957: unknown visitors offered Mariette a large sum of money to leave Banneux and to deny in writing about the Virgin of the Poor’s apparitions. She vigorously scolded them and chased them away. They then tried to do the same to Mathieu who was about to agree with the proposal. Mariette then intervened and fiercely opposed it.
When the separation between the Hoeberigs took place, Mariette opened a chips- shop on Rue Neuve in Pepinster. In 1972, she settled in a hamlet of Theux, not far from the chapel of Tancrémont. She lived with her partner, Raymond who supported her for eight years. He died there in 1989.
Prayer and suffering
In Father Jamin’s document, we read this testimony of Father Echtbertus, “On 13th October 1958, I came at 5 a.m. to the little chapel, with my flashlight. I was surprised to see her deeply wounded in her prayer; her head was in her hands. Mariette was wearing her little white beret and leaning against the third column. She did not look up at my approach. I stayed there for a moment and she left without showing me any curiosity about me who came to disturb her.”
The same stories were made by Brother Yves who saw her very late at night. He lived at the Beco house.
She has suffered greatly from the spread slanders about her. During her last years of life, various disabilities severely reduced his sight, hearing, and mobility. She was very overwhelmed by the death of her brother René in 2007, her daughter Myriam in July 2008 and her sister Simone in 2009. She said, “I do not understand, the Virgin said to me, ‘I come to relieve suffering’, and I have not stopped suffering since the age of six. Why?”
At night she slept only two or three hours. The rest of the time she was praying, sitting on her bed. When she suffered, she clung to the word of the Virgin: “I will pray for you.”