In Memory

Sister Mary Ellen Collins

The favours of the Lord are not all past, his kindnesses are not exhausted.”
(Lamentations 3:22)

May 2, 2018, Sister Mary Ellen Collins
in religion Sister Norah Mary
went home to God.

She was 83 years old and had been professed for 60 years.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, she was the eldest of the 3 children of
Irish immigrants, Michael Collins and Norah Fleming

Having no relatives in Montreal, the closely-knit family was deeply committed to helping other newcomers and to fostering relationships with those of Irish descent.

Mary Ellen attended Holy Family elementary School. After graduating from Saint Dominic’s High School, she worked as a secretary for four years. Then, along with a good friend and fellow classmate, entered the SNJM Novitiate, in July of 1956.

Sister Norah Mary was a born educator.  At Mount Holy Names, St. John Fisher and St. Francis of Assisi she taught mainly Grades One and Two.  A huge change took place in her life, part way through a year, when she was transferred to Holy Names High School, to replace a Sister who had been teaching business classes.  What a transition: from Grade One to Grade Eleven overnight!

She later taught at several other high schools in the field of business education. She became one of the founding teachers of the post-secondary “Business Centre” where she passed continued to pass on her values of hard work, honesty and professionalism. As a teacher, Mary Ellen was recognized as being very efficient, organized, and dedicated. She would accept no nonsense from her students, but they knew that she loved them, wanted them to be the best they could be, and was very compassionate when that was what they needed.

She “retired” at the age of 65 and became a teacher of Grade One students in the “Faith First” Catechetical Program at St. Monica’s Parish.  She had a great love for her students and delighted in their stories which she shared with the sisters she lived with. Mary Ellen was always very hospitable and welcoming to visitors, to those who came to meetings, to our Associates...  She loved to read and had a passion for shopping.

As an accredited spiritual director at the Ignatian Spirituality Centre she accompanied several people and supervised students attending formation classes at the Centre.  She also did volunteer work at the Centre’s library.
A recent visitor remarked: “Mary Ellen is the kind of person I hope I can be as I continue to grow into my last decades - full of life, still ministering to others, joyful, her humour still intact despite ailments, a really good listener.”

Mary Ellen died at the MUHC (McGill University Health Centre) shortly before the community celebration of her 60th anniversary of religious profession, an event that she had been greatly looking forward to.

Throughout her life, Mary Ellen was fascinated with butterflies – such a beautiful symbol of resurrection, of moving from death to new life. No doubt she is now benefitting from her own complete transformation.


Sister Denise Rivet

“Like a deer that longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you, my God” Ps. 42:1

August 18, 2018, Sister Denise Rivet
in religion M.-Thérèse-du-Sacré-Coeur
went home to God.

She was 90 years old and had been professed for 64 years.
Born in Montreal, she was the youngest of five children
of Rosario Rivet and Antoinette Desbiens

Younger than her three brothers, Denise looked up to her older sister Thérèse, the eldest of the children. She admired her older brothers and especially her mother for her talents as church organist and as cook. From her mother, she learned to cook as well as take care of the house. The family prayed together and her parents gave her a hunger for God.

Denise attended the Baril and Stadacona schools and appreciated her teachers. Annual school retreats helped confirm her choice to give herself to God. When she left school, she worked for two years as a monitor at some of the playgrounds in the city of Montreal. In her free time, she liked to take the neighbor’s baby for a walk.

Denise entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary at age 24. She joined an aunt and her sister Thérèse (Antoinette-du-Rosaire) who preceded her. When she received her habit, she was given the name Thérèse-du-Sacré-Coeur.

From early on, Sister Thérèse taught at the primary level and quite often taught only boys which she really enjoyed.  Following 21 years of teaching, she was called home to take care of her aging parents. During those seven years, she rediscovered her talent for housekeeping and became an excellent cook.  She was kind, thoughtful, affectionate and attentive to their needs.  After she left, returned to the convent in St. Hilaire. 

After the death of her parents, Denise moved to Marie-Rose Durocher Residence where for the next 31 years, she lived with community, worked in the finance office and as an assistant pharmacist at the Motherhouse.

"A good companion, Sister Denise was known forbeing discreet, friendly, and having a good sense of humor.  She loved reading the lives of saints and watching religious programs on T.V."

At the age of 88, Sister Denise was admitted to the infirmary at Maison Jésus-Marie and continued her ministry of prayer according to her abilities. Her condition deteriorated quite quickly. She was ready to join the Sacred Heart whom she loved so much.


Sister Madeleine Philie

“His power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” Eph. 3:20

August 7, 2018, Sister Madeleine Philie
In religion M. Claire-de-l’Enfant-Jésus
went home to God

She was 93 years old and had been professed for 74 years.
Born in Valleyfield, she was the eldest of six children
of Antonio Philie and Germaine Montpetit

Madeleine was born on Holy Thursday and was baptized the following day.  She was a happy child who grew up in an open, welcoming and faith-filled home. Upon completing her studies at the Valleyfield Boarding School at the age of 17, Madeleine entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, whom she knew well because three of her aunts had already preceded her.

Speaking about her novitiate, Madeleine confided, “The most difficult years of my life! Except for the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours, I experienced only boredom, disgust and painful coldness of mind and heart."

At the taking of the habit, she received the name Claire-de-l'Enfant-Jésus, Claire being the name of her youngest sister. Five years after her temporary profession, a week before making her final profession, her father suddenly died at the age of 46, leaving behind his wife, four school-aged children and a nine-month old baby,  “I was not upset when urged to return home.  With profound happiness and in deep faith, I pronounced my “Yes” to God.”

During the first 16 years of her religious life, Sister Madeleine taught children at the primary level or was the directress of discipline in our Ste-Émélie, Marie-Rose and Outremont boarding schools. Then she was appointed to the general secretariat as head of the "Little Chronicle" at the Motherhouse.  For 10 years, she enjoyed writing the obituaries of our French-speaking sisters. Following some time working at the Longueuil secretariat, she served as local superior at the Longueuil convent.

Sister Madeleine had a secret desire to live in a house of prayer. She was 57 years old when her dream gradually took shape, first she went to Marie-Rose then to Beloeil, Pie IX, and finally to St-François-d'Assise. The latter was a house of prayer where the breviary was prayed several times a day and where longer times were devoted to silent prayer. Sister Madeleine was the local leader among several Sisters who shared in the project. They welcomed people who wanted to make a retreat or have days of silent solitude with the Lord. Sister Madeleine did spiritual accompaniment and was also involved at the parish level. "My eighteen-years at St-François-d'Assise was like an apex of happiness in the happy course of my long religious life."

Welcomed at Marie-Rose Center in Longueuil and being responsible for the mail, Sister Madeleine marveled at the faith of people, in the power of intercessory prayer to God, and the great devotion to Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher.  As she was aging, she was experiencing detachment and eventually moved to the infirmary at Maison Jesus-Marie where she continued smiling and praying.

Sister Madeleine, who had the gift of attentive listening, calmness, resourcefulness and a warm personality, was surely received with love by the God whom she served with joy.

Other articles in the section In Memory
Sister Mary Ellen Collins
Sister Denise Rivet
Sister Madeleine Philie
Sister Claire Montcalm
Sister Gilberte Brien
Sister Rollande Latour
Sister Louise Rolland
Sister Rita St-Onge
Sister Gisèle Daoust
Sister Pauline Labbé