Sister Irène Bonenfant
Love is the perfect fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:10)
On December 23, 2020, Sister Irène Bonenfant,
in religion M.-Alice-Germaine,
went home to God.
She was 90 years old, with 72 years of religious profession.
Born in St-Narcisse de Champlain, Québec, she was the 5th of the 19 children
born to Alphonse Bonenfant and Alice St-Arnault.
The parish where Sister Irène was born gave 55 Holy Names Sisters to the Church, two of whom were her paternal aunts. Family values, especially the spirit of sharing, influenced her as she grew up. Her parents expressed their faith both in word and action.
“Grandfather Bonenfant, who lived with us, recited the Angelus before each meal and never missed a longer evening prayer. During the month of Mary, the prayers were recited with our neighbors at a nearby roadside cross. At the local school, I learned French, catechism, history and drawing. I discovered a love for reading that would last all my life. My leisure hours were mainly spent taking care of my younger brothers and sisters. In 1943-44, at the age of 13, I spent a year at Hochelaga Convent (run by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Montreal). Then my family called me back home because my mother was expecting her sixteenth child. The call to religious life is a great mystery. My stay at Hochelaga where I met truly happy religious Sisters, and in particular one named Lydia,” was a determining factor.
Irène entered the novitiate just after her 16th birthday. “It was amidst the astonishment of some and the congratulations of others that I took my first steps! I found the Motherhouse very large and very tall!” When she took the holy habit, Irene received the name of Sister Alice-Germaine. Her first nominations, which lasted 24 years, were as a refectorian at the Normal Schools (Teachers’ Colleges) in Valleyfield and Eulalie-Durocher in Saint-Lambert. According to the students, her face radiated the joy of her total gift of self. After a short time working in the bookbinding office, she served as a secretary at Collège Durocher for three years. The quality of her work made her greatly appreciated during the next 40 years of service – first as secretary at the general administration, then as part of the support staff at the Archives, working first in Pierrefonds and then at the Congregational House in Longueuil.
In the summer of 2019, Sister Irène summed up her life : “A happy life of giving. I hold in my heart a deep desire: to be a spritual mother for many priests; several are not even aware of this… We will meet in the next life.” “A prayer rises in me ceaselessly: ‘Oh Jesus, hide yourself deep within my being.’
For her family and companions, Sr. Irène was “a reflection of the light of the risen Christ whose presence is a source of joy.” “Her daily life shone with her sense of wonder, her humour, her lively spirit, along with a discreet presence.” “With her gift of creating a beautiful ambiance, she knew how to highlight many feast days and Sundays.” On the occasion of her jubilee, one of her brothers reminded her : “You witness to the fact that God is loving, admirable, worthy of being adored and served;” and another brother said: “Your love is true, creative and faithful, radiant…”
Sister Irène noted in a prayer: “On a beautiful evening, Father, extinguish my lamp discreetly. I know that you are sitting here by my bedside. Good night, Father, receive my soul.” And that is exactly how she left us – during the night, discreetly and without advance notice.