Sister Germaine Lavallée
“I have called you by name, you are precious in my eyes and I love you.” (Is. 43:1, 4)
On May 16, 2021, Sister Germaine Lavallée,
in religion M.-Fernande-Antoinette,
went home to God.
She was 96 years of age, with 76 years of religious profession.
Born in Ste-Élisabeth de Joliette, Québec, she was the 9th of the 10 children
born to Arthur Lavallée and Antoinette Bellerose.
Germaine was not even two years old when her mother died in childbirth. She and one of her brothers were adopted by an uncle, who then sent her back to her family because he found her difficult and too agitated. Young as she was, Germaine experienced this as a rejection. The oldest girl in the family assumed the role of mother for the younger children. Her father, a courageous and active man, was a farmer whose three sons would later follow him in the same profession. Daily, the whole family knelt for evening prayer and the rosary. On Sundays, the horse-drawn carriage was filled for the 4.5-mile trip to Mass. Meanwhile, those who stayed at home prayed the rosary.
Germaine attended the village school for her first seven years of schooling. For grades 8 and 9, while living with her sister Fernande, she attended the school of the Sisters of Providence in Sainte-Élisabeth. Following that, she spent four months with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Saint-Barthélemy. She confided, “I was attracted by the spirit that could be felt in that community.” So, at the age of 17 and a half, she entered the SNJM novitiate in Outremont. When she received the holy habit, she was given the name Sister Fernande-Antoinette.
From her very first days as a teacher, Germaine strove to be the best teacher possible, following all the necessary courses. She left her mark on her students of grades 1 through 7, especially in Épiphanie and Ville LaSalle, and in Saint-Bruno where she taught for 20 years. Though her students found her demanding, they noted that she prepared them well for the difficulties they would eventually encounter. To the little ones in primary school, she offered kindness, sensitivity, a certain perfectionism, and a desire to develop within them an interest in learning and in living the Christian ideals.
In 2017, a former student testified: “Sister Germaine — ‘Fernande’—introduced me to meditation. It was because of her that I became very prayerful, even at a very young age. She taught me in grades 6 and 7 at Immaculée School in LaSalle, in 1956–1958. She formed us in prayer and the Christian virtues of modesty, humility, and obedience, using the famous saying of Mother Marie-Rose: ‘We are always safe when we obey.’ It was at that time that I dreamed of becoming a Holy Names Sister.”
Germaine’s 40-year teaching career ended with a sabbatical year at Cap-Rouge near Québec City, where she appreciated the opportunity for renewal. Highpoints in her life were two 30-day retreats which she described as magnificent, deep experiences of the love of the Lord.
Returning from her sabbatical year, Sister Germaine participated in the community life of Saint-Josaphat Convent and then of Saint-André Residence. During this time, she worked in the Collège Durocher library for 16 years, and gradually added secretarial services and chauffeur to the list of her duties, for a total of 22 years.
In her spare time, Sister Germaine devoted herself to oil painting, thus fashioning and selling cards to help the missions. She loved choral and other music as well as spiritual reading. While living at Marie-Rose-Durocher for 10 years, she continued to offer her previously-mentioned services. She gave of herself wholeheartedly and energetically, participating fully in community life, inspired by her motto: “What you have done for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done for me.”
When her health declined, Sister Germaine was welcomed into the Maison Jésus-Marie infirmary. The loss of her physical strength, accompanied by a troublesome moral trial, made daily life very difficult. After eight years of such suffering, her final days leading up to her meeting her Lord were lived with renewed serenity. May she be filled with joy as she contemplates the Love of her life!