In Memory

Sister Noëlla Gagnon

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path" (Ps 119, 105)

On February 17th, 2019, Sister Noëlla Gagnon,
in religion M.-Ange-Thérèse,
went home to the Father.

She was 91 years of age, 68 years of religious profession.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, she was the 4th of the 7 children
of Adélard Gagnon et d'Irma Chartrand.

Noëlla grew up in Montreal and went to Chamilly-de-Lorimier school, directed by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. After her initial education, she went as a boarder to Valleyfield Teacher’s College.  She entered the SNJM Community with her teaching diploma at the age of 21.

As Sister Ange-Thérèse, she pursued her teaching career for 22 years, mostly in the public schools of the Montreal Catholic School Commission. She also taught High School in Outremont and Marie-Rose boarding schools. Throughout the years, she zealously gave her time for youth movements such as the Eucharistic Crusade, Young Catholic Students and the World Youth Club.

 In 1972, Sister Noëlla left teaching to work at the diocesan secretariat of the World Youth Clubs, and also enrolled in pastoral studies.  With this training she was hired by the Diocese of St.-Jerome where she ministered in Adult faith education for 8 years. 

"With confidence, Sister Noëlla set to work: she recruited, organized, planned meetings, prepared materials for the participants and experimented with various work schedules. Her zeal inspired Father Jacques Lewis, S.J. to work with her. Together, as the years went by, they taught hundreds of Bible courses, published a regular leaflet ‘Word of God’ explaining, preparing and deepening the Sunday readings. During those same years, Sister Noëlla, along with Father Alfred Ducharme, S.J., accompanied people doing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in daily life."

Beginning in 1985 in the St. Jerome diocese, Sister Noëlla concentrated on the ministry of the Word with the project "Verbum Dei". "The promotion of this project nourished the faith communities. Her residence became a welcoming place where the ministry of the Word was lived out with lay people who were engaged and interested. She also responded to other requests share the Word and deepen it: in parishes, detention centers, and retreat centers.  "In this way, she answered the interior call which she had heard for a long time: “Your Word O Lord, nourishes my faith!”

Five years ago, Sister Noëlla was welcomed to the infirmary where she consecrated herself entirely to the ministry of prayer, preparing for her meeting with the God who became Word.

Sister Jeannine Cornellier

"I came to serve and to give my life for the ransom of many" (Matt. 20, 28)

On the 1st of January 2019 Sister Jeannine Cornellier,
in religion, M.-Yolande-Marguerite,
went home to God.

She was 88 years of age, 68 years as a vowed religious.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, she belongs to a family of 11 children,
6 of whom died at an early age, making her the 2nd of 5 living children of
Charles-Auguste Cornellier and Aline Gravel.

Jeannine started her primary school studies at St-Clement’s in Viauville in Monreal, then continued in Repentigny. She attended the Epiphanie Boarding School for her secondary school studies as well as home economics. An ardent member of the Young Catholic Students’ movement, she participated in large gatherings about "leisure and health" in Joliette and Montreal. Her schedule, even during the summer, included daily Mass. At home, she helped her mother.  From the age of 15, Jeannine was attracted to the life of her teachers, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Her desire was confirmed during a retreat with Cardinal Paul-Emile Léger confirmed her desire.

She entered the novitiate at the age of 17. At her taking of the habit, she received the name M.-Yolande-Marguerite, a tribute to her two younger sisters.  She speaks of her six first years of teaching in Cherrier and Saint-Anselme as: "A beautiful experience with children of grades 2, 3 and 6 ".

Following her studies to become a dietitian, she enthusiastically shared her knowledge for 5 years at the Institut de Pédagogie Familiale, then for 5 more years at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montréal. Sister Jeannine was professor at the Quebec Institute of Tourism and Hospitality for 25 years.  She was delegated to direct the organization of the pedagogical services of the Lycée professionnel hôtelier d'Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast, in Africa, a task she did for 4 years. A dream of her youth came to reality!

Upon returning to Québec, she continued her work as a pedagogical counsellor. At the SNJM Motherhouse, she was responsible for the kitchens as a professional dietitian for the Congregation.  With her energy and dynamism, she assumed services of leadership: member of general and provincial chapters, and group animator. She also served as a driver when needed.

"During her 30 years of retirement, Sister Jeannine was committed to the Religious Association for the rights of women (ARDF). Her openness to the universe made her sensitive to the needs of the world of today."  ARDF testifies: "We give thanks for her enthusiasm, her tireless determination to give concrete reality to the calls that touched her heart, notably the cause of women, so that they might attain justice and dignity."

Sister Jeannine was getting around with the help of an electric scooter a few days before her health rapidly declined and she died soon after. All her life, she was faithful to her profound conviction:  "I entered the community to give and never to expect anything in return. We belong to God, for the sake of others. What a joy to be able to live our ideal profoundly to the very end, giving one’s all for the Sisters.


Sister Claire Giroux

"The Lord has done great things for me." (Luke 1:48)

December 19, 2018, Sister Claire Giroux,
in religion M.-Claire-de-la Croix,
went home to God.

She was 89 years of age and 62 years professed.
Born in Saint-Michel de Napierville, Québec,
she was the 2nd of the 5 children
of Émilien Giroux and of Gertrude Perras.

Claire grew up in a happy family. She appreciated what their farm produced and on Sundays she admired nature during the familly outings in the car. "My parents were fervent. At home, we recited the rosary on our knees as a family in the evening. We lived near the church so we were together at Mass every Sunday and sometimes during the week. There was always a part of our life reserved for the Lord."  A solid worker, she was the right arm of her father. She studied with the Sisters of St. Anne at St-Michel, then at St. Rémie where she received her Grade 11 diploma at 17 years of age. 

Regarding her vocation, Sister Claire tells us: "I was so happy every time my aunt on my mother’s side, Sister David-Marie, accompanied by my cousin, Sister Agathe-de-la-Croix, came to visit us. I was six when my aunt whispered in my ear, ‘Do you want to be a Sister like your aunt?'  The idea stuck with me. I knew the ways of the world; I had a good boyfriend whom I had to leave behind because God voice was stronger."  After 50 years of religious life, Sister Claire said: "I never regretted the choice I made.”

At 24, Claire entered the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Sister`s teaching career spanned 40 years, 25 were at Jeanne-Mance Comprehensive School, without missing a day. There she met the "league of nations", "receptive students who loved me a lot. It was reciprocal."  Like her father, she seasoned her conversations with a sense of humour; she also expressed herself plainly and with clarity, without beating around the bush.

When she left teaching at the age of 65, Sister Claire who was already a 20-year volunteer as secretary and accountant for the periodical “Appoint”; she continued this work for another 25 years. For the SNJM community, Sister Claire helped at the secretariat office of the Province of Ville-Marie and was a driver for her Sisters, especially for those at the Motherhouse.

Discreet about her spiritual life, Sister Claire confided: "The Lord blessed me. I walk with the Lord." "In my life as a religious, I loved the life of prayer and the Eucharistic Celebrations. I was happy in the peace of the Lord. But I do not like to share about my intimacy with the Lord: I do not want to pass for a "saint" in this life. I’m saving the surprise for above!"

Following a few years at the infirmary, Sister Claire at last saw the Lord in whom she believed profoundly.

Other articles in the section In Memory
Sister Noëlla Gagnon
Sister Jeannine Cornellier
Sister Claire Giroux
Sister Gisèle Marcil
Sister Gisèle Lalande
Sister Mary Ellen Collins
Sister Denise Rivet
Sister Madeleine Philie
Sister Monique Robitaille
Sister Claire Montcalm