Sister Marguerite Hallé
“Open my eyes, Lord, to the wonders of your love.”
October 8, 2014, Sister Marguerite Hallé,
in religion Marie-Émile-de-Jésus
went home to God.
She was one hundred years old and had been professed for seventy-five years.
Born in Valleyfield (Beauharnois) in Quebec, she was the tenth of the sixteen children
of Marcellin Hallé and Lydia Haineault.
Marguerite “grew up in a modest faith-filled family”. She attended the local school until fifth grade, and then continued her schooling as a non-boarder at the Valleyfield Boarding School, which was run by the SNJM’s. While there, she also studied music up to the sixth grade level. Marguerite wrote: “I was nine years old when I helped my older sister, Blanche, as she prepared to leave for the SNJM Novitiate in Outremont. That same year, my teacher was a Sister, and from then on my dream was to become a teaching Sister”.
Following boarding school, she attended the Valleyfield Normal School in 1933 where she obtained an advanced diploma in teaching and an additional diploma for teaching French and English. Because of her fragile health, she had to rest frequently. Beginning in 1934, she taught the “little ones” at her local school for two years, hoping that this would help her to be more easily accepted when she asked to be admitted to the Novitiate.
On July 27, 1936, she arrived at the SNJM Novitiate in Outremont. Her health problems were a concern. Sister Marguerite wrote: “I was sent to the doctor often and this delayed my religious profession”. Faced with the General Council’s hesitation to accept Sister Marguerite, her novice director said: “I am telling you, Sister Marguerite Hallé will live until she is eighty”. The future would prove her right because Sister Marguerite died when she was one hundred years old! When she finally made her temporary vows on February 5, 1939, her long-lasting wish had been fulfilled!
For thirty-six years, Sister Marguerite taught girls from grades one to twelve, in particular at the Boarding Schools of Hochelaga and Outremont, where she was also director for four years. In spite of her numerous responsibilities, Sister Marguerite continued her studies, and in spite of her constant fragile health, “her taste for studying and her love of teaching motivated her”.
In 1971, Sister Marguerite returned to the village where she was born, as a volunteer at the Diocese of Valleyfield. At the request of her bishop, Bishop Guy Bélanger, she became co-founder of the Diocesan Press Office with Bérangère Parent, S.N.J.M., who was already serving there. For eighteen years she worked there as a volunteer and according to someone’s written testimony when she was retiring: “Sister Marguerite did nothing haphazardly. In this second career, she moved from transmitting the Good News by word to expressing it in writing.” In 1989, upon her retirement, her bishop, Bishop Robert Lebel, appointed her as a member of the Diocesan Order of Merit “in witness to the deep appreciation for her contribution to the life of the diocese”.
In fragile health, but still active, Sister Marguerite continued to serve as librarian at the Valleyfield Convent. Assigned to the Motherhouse in 1995, she was admitted into the Quebec Infirmary in 1997: she retained responsibility for editing notes for the obituaries.
In 2003, she wrote: “My eyes are fading, my ears are closing and my steps are faltering…in thanksgiving, I repeat this prayer with serenity: To You, God my Father, I offer up the death of your Son and with it, mine, I offer it unconditionally, with no regret and with a joyful heart”. And the Father and Son were most certainly awaiting her with joy on October 8th, 2014.
Sister Marguerite had two sisters who were also SNJM’s, both of whom also died: Blanche (Sister Raymond-Marie) and Gabrielle (Sister Marcellin-Marie).