Portugal (Viseu) : M. and Mme ANTAO

parents of Pedro, a patient of Prof. Lejeune 

Domitilia and Manuel Antao are Portugese. Their son Pedro is afflicted with trisomie 21. They met Professor Jérôme Lejeune in 1980, when Pedro was a baby. On 11th April they will be in Notre-Dame de Paris for the celebration of the diocesan enquiry for the Cause of beatification and canonisation of Jérôme Lejeune.

« With the problem about Pedro, our world collapsed about us...

For almost two years we had been in despair, with anguish eating us away, up to the moment when the Lord sent us Professor Lejeune, His messenger and our Good Samaritan.

Pedro was born in 1978. In 1980 the doctors in Lisbon told one of my friends who had a handicapped child to go to London or to Paris. I wondered, what have I done? Why hadn’t I thought of that before? At the time one of my cousins lived at Paris : and I asked her to find a doctor for Pedro in Paris. In Portugal the doctors weren’t interested in this illness : not concerned at all. She said « don’t worry – I’ll see what I can do… »

One of her friends told her about Prof. Lejeune. My cousin then told me « I’ve found you the best person for dealing with Pedro’s condition ».

We started making arrangements to go to Paris with Pedro, but some time later my cousin said « Prof. Lejeune is going to Lisbon for a conference and he has got in touch to tell us that he would like to see Pedro in Portugal and spare you the journey to Paris ». Professor Lejeune asked our telephone number, so as to contact us directly himself; that touched me very much. He then called me from Lisbon to say that he would be able to see Pedro at his hotel, and that he would expect us. I told him that we couldn’t come immediately because we lived 300 km away (and the traffic at the time was a problem); so he said to ring the receptionist at the hotel when we arrived. The next day we went to Lisbon and when we arrived at the hotel the receptionist rang him and he came down straight away.

It all touched us deeply: the way he looked, everything he did for Pedro and for us, the way he treated us ; we weren’t used to it. He took us into his hotel room, and it was there that he saw Pedro, behaving with tenderness and humility, on his knees, close to his bed.

My husband asked him « what do I owe you ? » and he said « nothing: the French government which pays me - for treating sick children ».

At this first encounter, at Lisbon, he had relieved our anguish straight away and given us a ptoper ground of hope by promising that, as he said, « I will do the best for him that I can and that I know, with God’s help ». His great humility concealed his immense knowledge and ability.

He treated us, a foreign couple as we were, as real equals, knowing how to behave amongst the poor, people who suffer. It was a lesson which marked us for life.

Afterwards we went to see him very regularly in Paris, arriving by car for it, from Portugal.

Professor Lejeune had all his time taken up but he was always available to receive us, to write a friendly letter, to advise us, to counsel us with the tenderness of his smile and the gentleness in his expression.

I sometimes think that Pedro imitated his smile.

Professor Lejeune made (and he still makes, day by day) of Pedro an independent young person, someone responsible and properly integrated, both at work and in the community, which he loves and where he is loved, and indeed, as he often says, with great conviction: "I am fortunate, I am happy".

For all of us, Professor Lejeune is still there, a living presence. »


Domitília and Manuel Antão