News and Pieces of History
This Web page contains some news, short articles and longer ones about people and events related to the history of Saint-Basile Convent or Hôtel-Dieu St. Joseph, an institution known for its dedication to health care and education. It also deals with other topics having to do with the Archives of the Religious Hospitallers at Saint-Basile.
Mrs. Virginia Bowdoin (or Beaudoin), born Marie Marquis, celebrated her 102nd birthday on April 6, 2003. Oldest known former student of Hôtel-Dieu Academy, Virginia is still alive and well. With the help of Internet and her daughter Doris, she established communication with her old convent in Saint-Basile, where she had been a pupil from July 3, 1910 to June 28, 1912. Virginia likes to write and is quite good in French as well as in English. She sends interesting letters to her pen-pal Sister Lorraine Soucy, a religious hospitaller in Saint-Basile.
In March 2002, Mrs. Bowdoin wrote to Sister Lorraine in French to introduce herself as an orphan who had lived in Saint-Basile Convent. Virginia wrote: «Those three years were happy ones. I have never forgotten you and I still recall clearly. Now, I am almost 101 years old, and will be on April 6th. I still think of St. Basile and the Sisters who took care of us. I am in good health for my age. Thank you, Sister, I am glad that you know that I am still here and thinking of my convent. My name is Marie Marquis from Edmundston. Sincerely, now Virginia Beaudoin.»
Mrs. Virginia Bowdoin was born in Edmundston, New Brunswick, and her maiden name Marie Marquis appears in the Orphanage Register. Marie Virginia was the daughter of Adélard Marquis and Amélia St-Onge, (excerpt of the Orphanage Register) who died from typhoid fevers in 1908. Little Marie's grand-mother then placed her at the orphanage. After so many years, Virginia has kept fond memories of her old convent.
When she was nineteen years old, Virginia met Hugh Beaudoin (Bowdoin). They married and had four children. She now has nine grand-children and eleven great-grand-children. Mrs. Bowdoin lived in Milford, Michigan, and in 1987, they went to live in Valrico, Florida. In 1994, Hugh died at age 94. Virginia lived alone, but her son Don lived a block away from her. Four years ago, Virginia left her house and came to live with her daughter Doris, in Tampa, Florida.
Virginia has sent Sister Lorraine some photos of herself with her daughter, one with her great-grand-children Charles et Katherine, and one of her statue of the Sacred Heart. Her hobbies are going to physical activities and craft groups, as well as writing letters, and reading. Lately, she has thought of a new project: she wants to write her life with the help of her daughter. Virginia's energy and love of life are praiseworthy and quite interesting since she is the oldest former student of Saint-Basile Convent, still alive.
© Bertille Beaulieu, June 14, 2003
The theme song « Salut à toi » was composed around 1948 by Sister Rhéa Larose, then a teacher and principal of Académie de l'Hôtel-Dieu. The melody was borrowed from « O, ma Laura », theme song of a movie. Young pupils and students knew the song well and used to sing it on official circumstances as well as at informal gatherings. The motto of the school and college was: « Sois fidèle! » (Be faithful.)
Sister Larose was a founder and a very determined person, but she was also an artist. Her contribution to higher education was officially recognized on September 24, 1999, when the Saint-Louis-Maillet Campus in Edmundston, constituent of Université de Moncton, named its library Bibliothèque Rhéa-Larose. On the occasion, Sister Jeannine Michaud, former head of the library, and Sister Bertille Beaulieu, professor of French studies, represented the congregation of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph. Ms. Marie Elisa Ferran, who had been hired by Sister Larose to teach at Maillet College, made the following presentation.
« Born on November 11, 1899, in Ottawa, Rhéa first studied at the Grey Nuns' convent in Ottawa and was seventeen years old when she started to work at the federal department of Defence and Statistics in Ottawa. Being attracted to religious life and Madawaska region, she entered the noviciate of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph in Saint-Basile, in 1926. Her association with Sister Maillet and further studies in arts and social sciences soon transformed the young Sister Larose into a true pioneer.
Woman of her time, ardent francophone, the young teacher had a dream of creating a vital, intellectual and spiritual space for young women from Madawaska, by offering them the opportunity to carry on their studies towards the B.A. degree, as did the young men attending St. Louis College in Edmundston. With the courage and tenacity that characterized her, Sister Larose founded Maillet College in 1949, with the help of her religious community and the collaboration of the Eudists Fathers. She was a firm believer that young women, as well as young men, deserved equal opportunities in higher education.
With great energy, she worked at the implementation of programs for the B.A. degree, a B. A. in Nursing, and a Teachers' College for the sisters. She also organised cultural and artistic activities and was head of Maillet College from the beginning until 1965.
Her great determination was the nerve of many educational projects in Madawaska. The honour bestowed upon her by giving to the library the name Bibliothèque Rhéa-Larose was well deserved and rests upon her contribution to the development of fine arts and lettres, her vision of a world where women would participate in social progress, not to forget the love of books and beauty that she shared with all, whether it be in music, dance, literature, visual and dramatic arts.
Sister Rhéa Larose had a deep love for God, her community and Madawaska. She died on January 9, 1979 at Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph in Saint-Basile. The new name Bibliothèque Rhéa-Larose given to the library will be a constant reminder of her accomplishments and those of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. »
© Bertille Beaulieu, June 14, 2003
The voice singing « Salut à toi », theme-song of Hôtel-Dieu Academy and Maillet College, is that of Sister Colette Lemieux. She learned this song as a student in Saint-Basile and has sung it very often. It is always a pleasure for her former fellow students to hear this old song that brings back happy memories.
Who is Colette?
Since 1998, Sister Colette Lemieux has been working in Huitzilzingo (Chalco), Mexico. In the beginning of her stay there, Sister Colette was in charge of the construction and organisation of La Casa Hogar San José, where there is room for twenty aging persons. Since the opening of this house on March 6, 2000, Sister Colette is the administrator but she also gives health care to the beneficiaries. As of June 2003, the eldest resident is ninety-seven years old, and the youngest is sixty-seven. Most of them have no family, but quite often, generous people from the area come in with food and clothing.
La Casa Hogar San José is the only nursing home in the area, even though the needs are great. It is a private institution, entirely supported by the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. Sister Léona Landry, also a religious hospitaller and a nurse, seconds Sister Colette. Both are volunteer, but the Mexican workers have salaries.
While taking care of the residents of the Casa, Sister Colette continues to share her talents in music, either by singing or accompanying the choir in her Mexican parish church. She also gives piano and singing lessons to two young adults from Mexico, who are students at the university level.
Where does Sister Colette come from?
Sister Colette was born in New Bedford, Massachussett, and has two brothers, Jean and Richard, a sister Simone, an adopted sister Ginette and a few nieces and nephews. Her father Gérard Lemieux was originally from Lévis, Québec, and her mother Hattie Ouellet came from Saint-Joseph of Madawaska. Colette was seven years old when her family moved to Edmundston in 1945. She was a boarder at Saint-Basile Convent from grade ten to twelve. In 1956, she entered the noviciate of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, in Vallée-Lourdes, Bathurst.
When she returned to Saint-Basile, Colette finished her B.A. degree at Maillet College and continued her studies in music. She also taught music and was director of two choirs, one with the students and the other with the sisters. Having an exceptional voice, Sister Colette took lessons with the Sisters of Notre Dame Congregation in Montreal, and later at the Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where she had the opportunity to take Master Classes with Maureen Forrester. In 1966, Sister Colette studied singing at the Vincent d'Indy School of Music in Montreal.
In 1967, Sister Colette chose to become a nurse and studied at Hôtel-Dieu School of Nursing in Bathurst. After graduating in 1970, she left for Peru where she worked for two and a half years at the clinic in Indiana on the Amazone River. Upon returning to Canada, she became head of a department at Foyer Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, a nursing home in Bathurst where she stayed for many years. Then, in 1990, Sister Colette went to Lille in France and received a formation to teach the Bible using the Mess'AJE method. She gave Bible classes for seven years.
Being fluent in Spanish, Sister Colette was ready to take responsibilities at the Casa San José of Huitzilzingo. She likes her work and the people entrusted to her care.
© Bertille Beaulieu, June 14, 2003