Sister Rachel Bédard
“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Ps. 81: 10)
On January 24, 2022,
Sister Rachel Bédard, in religion, Calixte-Marie,
went home to God.
She was 100 years of age, with 78 years of religious profession.
Born in Saint-Fortunat, Quebec, she was the 5th
of the 14 children of Calixte Bédard and Marie-Anna Carrier.
Rachel lived on the family farm and attended the local school until the age of 13. At that time, as the second eldest of the three girls in the family, Rachel regrettably left school in order to help her mother who had just given birth to her 13th child. She wrote about her family as follows:
“My parents not only cultivated the earth; they cultivated, in our home, a love of work, a life of prayer, and all the Christian values. My father was the parish organist, a faithful servant present at all the liturgies, including Vespers, and he strongly encouraged us to follow him.”
When she was 15, Rachel returned to school in Sherbrooke with the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, where, at the age of 17, she obtained her elementary teaching certificate from Marguerite Bourgeois School. She started teaching in her country school the following September. Rachel had felt a call to religious life from the time she was a child. After two years of experience as a teacher, the pastor announced from the pulpit that there would be a live-in retreat for young women at Disraeli Convent with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Rachel registered, hoping to discern her call. She wrote:
“During the retreat, I was inspired to talk with Sister Marie-Augustine, the superior of the convent. Right there and then, during the interview, Sister Superior composed my request for admission and I transcribed it on the spot. Thus I entered the novitiate the following July 24th.” Rachel was 19 years of age at the time.
As Sister Calixte-Marie, her name in religion, Rachel demonstrated a gentle yet firm discipline, as well as a sustained attentiveness towards each of her pupils in grade school, as well as in high school. The young people of Chartierville and Sherbrooke benefitted from her joyful influence.
After 43 years of teaching and a sabbatical year of renewal, Sister Rachel was missioned to pastoral work in East Angus: visiting the sick and bringing them the comfort of God’s Word and Communion; and participating in the parish choir and various committees. Within her community group, Rachel was available for odd jobs and excelled as a cook. Her gentle, humble, joyful, and generous presence reflected her interior freedom and witnessed to her trustful relationship with God.
In 2009, with Sister Lorraine Bouffard, Rachel celebrated the 100th anniversary of the SNJM presence in East Angus. Three years later, she and Lorraine left East Angus, after having established a solidly-anchored group of SNJM associates. Following short stays at Albani Residence, and in the Mélodie-Dufresne Group at Ste-Émélie Residence, Rachel was welcomed into Saint-André Pavilion at Maison Jésus-Marie. A few years later, she moved into Saint-Charles Pavilion, where, peaceful and radiant, she prepared to meet the Lord of her life. A few days after her 100th birthday, God came to welcome Rachel into her true home.