Sister Odette Bertrand
“I have been with you all this time.” (John 14, 9)
March 10, 2017, Sister Odette Bertrand,
in religion Marie-Jean-Denis
went home to God.
She was 100 years old and had been professed for 77 years.
Born in Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, Quebec,
she was the eldest of the 12 children
of Delma Bertrand and Annette Marcil.
Since Odette’s health was fragile, she began her first years of school while living with her grandparents whose home was across from the school in the neighboring village. “My grandmother cared about my education and my training. Before leaving for school, she would see that I went over my lessons and would check my appearance which she wanted to be flawless As soon as my younger brother was of school age, I returned home so as to travel to school with him.”
The following year, Odette was registered at the boarding school of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. “I studied with great difficulty. Each year my health declined leading to numerous absences.” When Odette was 14 years old and 6 boys had already been born after her, she had to sacrifice a year of school to help her mother.
Upon returning to the boarding school, she succeeded in obtaining her teaching diploma for elementary school from the Bureau Central. Being in contact with her teachers she felt an attraction to religious life. When she was 21 years old, and after three years of helping her mother, caring for the little ones and teaching for a year she obtained, with some difficulty, her parents’ permission to enter the SNJM novitiate: she had become indispensable!
During her two years of formation, she was often tempted to return home: the big sister was missing the little ones whom she had taken such great care of at home!
The first appointment for Sister Jean-Denis was to stay at the Motherhouse and help in the black sewing room (for black habits and other black material). She had been so eager to go out on “mission” and teach! She was assured that it would be for a short time. At the time of her profession, she was again assigned to making veils for the Sisters. She would be there for 19 years!
For the next 25 years, Sister Odette was the Directrice of Discipline for students in our boarding schools in St-Barthélémy, Verchères, Longueuil, Viauville, Mont-Jésus-Marie and Marie-Rose. She would also teach sewing and knitting while there.
“Sister Odette handled needles, sewing machine and patterns with great skill.” “Her spirit of service and her kindness made her attentive to the needs of the young people.” “Sister Odette was a perfectionist, her work was flawless and her appearance impeccable.” “Her lightheartedness impressed everyone by the elegance of her creations!”
When she was 67 years old, Sister Odette was again assigned to the Motherhouse, while living at Résidence Rose-Eulalie. She worked in the sewing room for another 17 years. Fidelity to everyday life!
When she retired, she moved to Résidence Ste-Émélie and remained there for 8 years, dedicating herself to a ministry of prayer. From there she was welcomed into Maison Jésus-Marie where she would live out her last 4 years. At over 100 years old, Sister Odette was ready to meet the God of her long life!