We were sitting on a bench at a short par three at our local golf course, waiting for the green to be free. Louise and I struck up a conversation that turned out to be serendipitous. We had known each other for more than seven years. The name of Soeur St. Emile had never been mentioned. She began talking about her great aunt, Tante Soeur St. Emile, a Grey Nun of the Cross in Ottawa., also known as the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. Hearing this, my curiosity was piqued. My mother often talked about her aunt, Soeur St. Emile, a grey nun who was the Superior of the boarding school in Alymer where she had been a student. Could it possibly be the same person? What were the chances of that?
Louise and I chatted and came to the conclusion that her grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister! Soeur St. Emile was their sister. Indeed it was the same person and we were related.
Marie Louise Jodoin (Soeur St. Emile) was born November 16th, 1862 in Montebello, Quebec, a community on the Ottawa River not far from Hull. As a youngster she attended the local convent school where the Grey nuns taught. Her family moved to Hull and she remained in Montebello as a boarder until the new school in Hull was completed in 1870.
Louise was eight and a half years old when her mother died and a year later her father remarried. No doubt this must have had a strong impact on the little girl. Music became her passion at this very young age. She took piano and singing lessons and had a talent for both. At the age of sixteen she entered religious life through the doors of the Mother House of the Grey Sisters of Ottawa on Bruyère Street and for the next 75 years she lead a life of prayer and dedication along with an active life devoted to teaching piano and singing lessons. She was also called upon to serve as a Superior during 37 of those years in various schools and hospitals under the jurisdiction of the community.
August 15th, 1940 after 62 years of active service to the community she walked through the same door as day the she had entered the convent. She had come full circle. She was coming home. On April 14th 1942 the community rejoiced as they celebrated her Diamond Jubilee.
Through out her latter years, Soeur St. Emile devoted much of her time to prayer, however, she continued to maintain contact through correspondence with many of the people whose lives she had touched. “La petite Estelle”, my Mom, was one of those people and even after all those years she would always ask her about the children.
She was truly an intelligent and remarkable women who excelled at everything she did. She died in her 91st year and in her 75th year of religious life.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you the following: When I saw my parents shortly after my conversation with Cousin Louise on the golf course that summer afternoon of 1984, I asked them a few questions. My mother was a little perplexed and my father piped up and told me the story about meeting Soeur St. Emile in September of 1930 while he and my Mom were on their honeymoon. They had stopped in Hull to see her on their way to Quebec City. Dad pointed out that she was a rather buxom lady who took him in her open arms and welcomed him in to the family. Needless to say, it was a very meaningful gesture he never forgot. He made a gesture of open arms and said, “ Elle ma embracé.”He then proceeded to tell me the names of all the relatives he had met during that visit and this was almost 50+ year later!
Soeur St. Emile left a lasting impression with him and most likely with many of the people she had met over the years.
With gratitude to my cousin, Louise Pinault for giving me a copy of a short biography that was written a year after the death of our Great Aunt. It was penned by a member of the Grey Nuns of Ottawa on the 8th of August 1953.