Sister Marcelle Reid
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for those one loves.” (John 15: 13)
On December 25, 2022, Sister Marcelle Reid,
in religion M.-Irène-de-Jésus,
went home to God.
She was 96 years old, with 71 years of religious profession.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, she was the daughter
of Raoul Reid and Irène Hamelin.
Marcelle was born in Saint-Clément de Viauville Parish and grew up in Saint-Pierre-Claver Parish. Studious, determined and very intelligent, she finished her high school education at the age of 17, graduating from Mont-Royal Boarding School, directed by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. During the following five years, she worked as a secretary for a fire insurance company in Montréal.
At the age of 22, Marcelle entered the SNJM novitiate. As a postulant she was sent on mission to Sainte-Émélie Convent where she taught English. At the ceremony during which she became a novice, Marcelle received her mother’s name, M-Irène-de-Jésus. After her first vows, Sister Irène was appointed to teach at the elementary school level, and then at the classical high school level and the collegiate level in Montreal public schools and boarding schools, while also pursuing her own classical and university education. Her specialties were English, Chemistry, and Mathematics. For more than twenty years, young girls benefited from an ardent, clear, concise, competent, and attentive teacher. She was open to new developments and interested in world history and events, as well as in contemporary needs.
The recognition of Sister Marcelle’s exceptional talents encouraged SNJM authorities to put her in charge of the finances of the Congregation. And so it was that she assumed the responsibility of General Treasurer of the Congregation during the terms of four Superiors General, from 1971 to 1980 and from 1989 to 1994. She wrote of her work in the following terms:
“In all my activities, I learnt that you have to know what your objectives are, the means at your disposal, and on whom to rely. You also have to do everything possible to succeed despite the difficulties. Do not be afraid to row against the current, but rely on the Lord who will gift you with boldness, courage, and tenacity. If everything succeeds according to plan, no one will remember having been against the project.”
In 1974, Sister Marcelle suggested a method of accounting involving funds and programs, a novel method at the time. She had been an agent of change by computerizing all the services at Collège Durocher and then by negotiating the first collective agreement for the SNJM schools in Quebec. This agreement was based solely on the good faith of both parties, since school employees were not unionized at that time. During her tenure at the Generalate, she contributed to building unity among the provinces of the Congregation, especially through her regular contacts with each province and through the establishment of special funds for the Congregation.
In 1991, Sister Marcelle witnessed to her sense of mission and to her vision of the “global village”, a concept which has become increasingly accepted over the years:
“People on the move, searching, hoping to rebuild their lives and to ensure a future for their children, come in large numbers as immigrants or refugees to settle and find a home with us. The great challenge is to learn how to communicate with these people of cultures that are so varied and different from our own. We have the opportunity to listen; to guide the faith and the hope of these sons and daughters of God; to develop collaborations in the fields we know best, education, literacy, evangelization; to give birth to real solidarity based on a deep sharing of the values that permeate the lives of these people who are often given no voice in our countries of relative abundance.”
When the time came for Sister Marcelle to retire, she continued to be a woman of commitment. Her interests were so varied that she found it difficult to limit herself. In addition to taking charge of local finances and other community services, she was very active in the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and also involved with abused women by helping to set up the first Inter-Val Centre. She also continued the study of languages begun in her youth, particularly Spanish. Despite the loss of vision in one eye in her childhood and the later marked diminishment of vision in the other eye, Sister Marcelle remained serene and lucid. Her unfailing uprightness, her truly remarkable memory, her absolute discretion, and her total commitment will be remembered by many as they recall this woman who handed over her life to the Lord on Christmas Day.