Sister Irène Martel
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” (Mt. 25, 40)
December 11, 2014, Sister Irène Martel,
in religion Sister Marie-Rachel-Bernadette
went home to God.
She was 94 years old and had been professed for 74 years.
Born in Warwick (Arthabaska) in Quebec,
on November twenty-sixth, 1920,
she was the eighth of eleven children of Nérée Martel and Bernadette Vidal.
Irène grew up in a large family in which the family rosary and night prayer were very important. She first studied at the local village school. In 1933, when she was thirteen years old, she left there to go to the SNJM Convent in Hochelaga where she stayed for three years, as a “Oiseau Bleu”, and where she came to deeply appreciate the spirit of the Sisters.
For a long time, Irene had been thinking about religious life. From the time she was five years old, and very impressed with the “Missionary Sisters of Africa” whom she met and she said to herself: “One day, I too, will be a Sister, and from then on, I always thought about it.” Her mother, who was very prayerful and deeply religious, often spoke about religious life as a most beautiful thing.
On July twenty-fourth, 1937, she entered the novitiate at the SNJM Motherhouse in Outremont. Sister Irène who was already well prepared through “her years at Hochelaga Convent”, had no difficulty adapting to the demands of the postulancy and the novitiate.
During her first years of religious life, she was named as a cook and she continued in this role for fifty-two years. She had the opportunity to put her talents to good use in many of our houses: among others, ten years at Épiphanie, six years at Résidence Côte-des-Neiges, and seven years at the “Maison Rose-Eulalie” a project for students. She loved her duties, recalling these words of Jesus: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, etc.”
Sister Irène loved to study. She attended several professional development courses: Advanced courses on the Methods of Food Service at Laval University (1967), Congress on Community Services of French Canada, at the Sisters of Notre-Dame-du Sacré-Cœur in Sherbrooke (1968), Student at R-50 (1974), and a Resource Year at Cap Rouge (1991). She wrote: “This year has been most satisfying to me and continues to nourish my spiritual and community life”.
Due to her fragile health, Sister Irène had to take periods of rest but, always smiling, she resumed her duties with energy. In 1992 she embarked on her second career: sewing “for the elderly sisters”, she noted. She returned to the “Ma Maison Group” at the Motherhouse. In 2005, during the time of the move from the Motherhouse, she lived with the Sisters of Providence in Boucherville. In 2008, she was assigned to Maison Jésus-Marie, for a ministry of prayer, while continuing to provide sewing services.
On this eleventh day of December, 2014, we can say:
“Lord, set an extra place at your table; today you have another guest!”