Sister Béatrice Héon
“Your Word is like a consuming fire.”
March 8, 2012, Sister Béatrice Héon,
in religion Marie-Thérèse-de-la-Providence
went home to God
She was 97 years old and had been professed for 73 years.
Born March 9th in St-Louis-de-France, Quebec,she was the last of 9 children
of Octave Héon and Anny St-Arnault.
Béatrice was three years old when her mother died. Later, she liked to recall that, from that moment on, it was she who had her father “wrapped around her little finger”. At the age of 20, after completing her ‘Brevet Supérieur’ at the Saint Joseph Normal School in Hull, she taught for two years.
Six of her older sisters had entered the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. Would the“little one”, as she was known to the family, follow her older sisters? Why no! She was resolute in paving her own way and thus entered the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, while still remaining very close to her family.
Sister Thérèse-de-la-Providence taught with vitality and success for 40 years. She was called to be an assistant of the ‘Jeunesse Étudiante Catholique’ (Young Catholic Students). She was involved in parish pastoral work. Her ease in expressing herself both verbally and written was clear, insightful, and striking. To her nephew who was a boarder at the seminary, she wrote: “Profit from your vacation by taking a trip to Haiti: that will distract the girls and open horizons to the needs of humanity.”
At 61 years of age, Sister Béatrice, an SNJM local superior, worked in collaboration with the Office for Religious for the Archdiocese of Montreal. This was the beginning of multiple commitments which would span over more than 30 years. With the charism of a pioneer and a leader and with a forward-thinking personality, Béatrice perceived the needs of the milieu and responded quickly to the call of Vatican II.
She was now working in areas with social implications: comforting prisoners, helping people suffering from AIDS, active in the movement for the abolition of torture (ACAT), cofounded the ‘Centre de formation d’ateliers communautaires pour familles monoparentales’ (formation center for community workshops for single parents), headed the comité ‘Justice et Foi du Plateau’ (Justice and Faith Committee for the Plateau), supported the ‘Maison de l’Aurore’ for the elderly, organized plays and drama, helped Father Jacques Nourrissat, assumed co-responsibility of the ‘Service Miséricorde Aujourd’hui’, wrote articles in the weekly parish bulletin, animated Masses and religious services at St-Sacrement Parish, and participated in the ‘Comité Logement Centre-ville’…(housing committee for downtown Montreal)
When Béatrice was 80 years old, she took a computer course, and said she discovered in it “a stimulant for life, and for losing sleep! I marvel in the face of human genius eager for surpassing, this uphill life born out of a thirst for the infinite, this Man in the image of the Creator, the incarnation of Goodness, Beauty, the God beyond all names.”
During her last 12 years, she founded, ran and coordinated “l’Association des Amis de Maurice Zundel” (the Association of the Friends of Maurice Zundel) in Quebec, whose groups continue to increase. “Even though my steps are heavy…my eyesight is diminishing…my hearing is deteriorating, my bones are crumbling…I can sincerely repeat that I have never been as happy and as free.”
Subsequent to a fall, the inevitable outcome would be difficult for Sister Béatrice. Two and a half years would stretch before her until she could finally meet the Word whom she loved and proclaimed with so much passion.