A well-known figure on the Montreal scene from her work at Accueil Bonneau, Sister Nicole Fournier of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, captivated her audience during her conference on January 13, at Maison Jésus -Marie.
Named as a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 2006, she who had headed Accueil Bonneau for 22 years was not lacking for stories to tell, but quite the contrary. Curious by nature and always wanting to deepen her knowledge, Sr. Nicole has never stopped learning throughout her career.
After having been a teacher in Quebec for seven years, Sister Nicole was sent in 1971 to teach at the Mazenod College in Cameroon. She was a missionary for 13 years and then took advantage of her stay to learn more about the culture and way of life of the African people.
Back home in Quebec, in 1984, Sister Nicole agreed to lend a hand as a volunteer in the dining room at Accueil Bonneau. She quickly became responsible for volunteers, and the following year, she was appointed Executive Director.
During her mandate, she has succeeded in developing this organization dedicated to the reintegration of people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. At the time of her departure in 2006, Accueil Bonneau consisted of four shelters, a drop-in-centre, and a place of respite in the countryside. In addition to this, meals were served, there was a clothing room and pastoral care and psychosocial support was available. She also managed the rebuilding of the main building, which is located in Old Montreal, and was partly destroyed by an explosion in 1998.
Her role with the poor and especially the homeless raised many questions from the audience who were captivated by her experiences.
Making her presentation practical as well as enjoyable, Sister Nicole Fournier, was not content with speaking only about her own life journey, even though it is exemplary. She took the opportunity to talk about the charism and the works of her Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also known as the "Grey Nuns of Montreal".
With the aid of a slideshow showing photos and paintings, Sister Nicole traced the history of her Congregation leading to the discovery of some overlooked facts. In short, this first conference of 2017, has fulfilled a double mission, namely that of presenting a portrait of a committed, determined and active woman, while sharing the knowledge of a religious community involved in its milieu.
We were reminded that Sister Nicole was the recipient of several awards including the "Grande Montréalaise" (Great Montrealer) and the “Prix d'humanisme, de l'Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec.” She was recognized for the quality of her commitment, her goodness and her generosity.