Mère Marie Pagé - founding superior in Tracadie in 1868
Sister Marie Pagé was born in St-Philippe de Laprairie, not far from the village of Acadia, in Upper Richelieu, on December 25, 1811. She joined the Hospitalières de St-Joseph of Montreal on March13, 1834, at the age of 22. Very early on, she was entrusted with responsibilities: bursar, teacher of the novices or superior of the community in Montreal.
In 1868, she was elected founding superior of the mission in Tracadie. At that time, in northeastern New Brunswick, a terrible disease raged: leprosy. She first came in May 1868, accompanied by Sister Davignon to visit the future mission. Their presence in the midst of these unfortunate wretched people was the source of touching scenes of faith and confidence.
On September 29, Mother Page and five other nuns arrived in Tracadie to undertake a great work of charity. However, after nine month, they were called back to the Mother House.
She returned to Chatham in 1872 and she came to visit those dear lepers in Tracadie. The House in Chatham required her services as teacher of the novices from 1878 to 1881.
In her seventies, she had the courage and the strength to accept the responsibility of founding superior of Hôtel-Dieu of Arthabaska in 1884. She returned to her original monastery in July 1890. Her leadership skills in the work she undertook and her great respect of people made her an enlightened guide everywhere she worked.
She passed away in Montreal on January 3, 1893, at the age of 81.
Sister Eulalie Quesnel - founder in 1868
Sister Eulalie Quesnel, was born in Arthabaska, in the Bois-Franc region in the province of Québec, Canada.
She joined the Religieuses Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph at Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal in 1846 and took her vows in 1848. She accompanied Mother Pagé during their first visit with Mgr Rogers, at the lazaret in Tracadie. It was then that the sick and the population clamored for the nuns, calling them «the holy sisters». Co-founder of the Lazaret in Tracadie, NB, in 1868, she stayed until 1870. From 1874 to 1880, she accepted the position of superior in St-Basile in Madawaska, that is, one year after its foundation which was still unstable, poor and in a very precarious situation. From 1884 to 1888, she returned to Arthabaska for a third foundation and she became the Mother Pagé’s assistant. As with the other foundations, there were numerous difficulties and ordeals. She left us with a lasting memory of a life marked by loyalty and great love.
She returned to Montreal on November 10, 1888. God called her to a higher place on March 4, 1903 at the age of 75, after having spent 57 years of her life as a nun.
Sister Amanda Viger - founder in 1868
Sister Amanda Viger, known as Saint-Jean-de-Goto, was the daughter of Bonaventure Viger and Eudoxie Trudel, born in Boucherville, Québec on July 26, 1845. On September 8, 1860, at the age of 15, she joined the novitiate of the Religieuses Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph in Montreal where she took her religious vows on February 2, 1863. The young nun showed talents in pharmacy. On September 29, 1868, she arrived in Tracadie, New Brunswick, with five other founding sisters. On December 9, 1873, she opened a school and after only fifteen days, there were fifty students in her class.
Sister Saint-Jean-de Goto acted as secretary of the community during eighteen years. In 1875, she was elected superior of the community. In 1881, during her second mandate as superior and supervisor of the mission, a first federal grant allowed her to have a wing added to the lazaret. The new construction, 45 feet by 25, housed a new pharmacy, a procuracy, a store and a kitchen for the lazaret. She had a two-story building constructed for the nuns, which housed the kitchen, a refectory, a work room and four small cells. Finally, in1893, the federal government decided to construct a stone lazaret that was completed on March 8, 1896. Sister St-Jean also had her sight on the plight of orphans. Thanks to donations and charity sales, enough money was raised to construct an orphanage that opened on September 2, 1898 and a small hospital that opened on November1 that same year.
In August 1902, she was asked to return to Arthabaska, in the province of Québec, in order to act a Mother Superior for that community. Sister St-Jean left Tracadie in the midst of a general regret. On May 8, 1906, she died at the age of 61.
Sister Delphine Breault - founder in 1868
Sister Delphine Brault was born in Acadie, Québec, on March 20, 1839.
On June 5, 1856, she joined the Religieuses Hospitalières de St-Joseph of Montreal where she took her vows on September 18, 1858. At Hôtel-Dieu in Montreal, she worked as an assistant bursar and as person in charge of orphans, an experience that prepared her for the work that awaited her in Tracadie, New Brunswick. With five other nuns, she arrived in Tracadie on September 29, 1868. The lazaret became the center of her devotion for a quarter of a century. She fulfilled the following functions: head nurse, hospital director, secretary of the community, teacher of the novices and superior from 1878 to 1881, then from 1902 to 1909.
A high point in her career was her almost heroic devotion to victims of small pock in Pokemouche and Caraquet in 1874. In1886, Sister Brault returned to Montreal but she came back to Tracadie as superior in 1902 where she stayed until 1909. She died on October 22, 1918 at the age of 79.
Sister Clémence Bonin – founder in 1868
Sister Clémence Bonin was born in 1836 not far from Montreal. She came to the Hôtel-Dieu and she was admitted to the congregation as lay nuns at the age of 26. In 1868, she was chosen to go help the founding sisters in Tracadie set up this community where she lived for more than seven years. With fervor and courage, she shared the crosses, the fatigues and the hard labor that were part of a budding foundation. How many times did she wish that she could soften the sad lot of the poor lepers with her tender charity?
Then, in February 1876, she was designated to accompany a sick sister being called back to Montreal by the community. She felt deeply sacrificed, thinking she could not bear it. It seemed to her, as it was reported, that she was separated from her treasure, referring to her community that she called «her dear Nazareth».
In Tracadie, her tasks were: help the sick, laundry duty and domestic chores for the poor lepers. She was also responsible to make the altar candles and bread.
Her health was quite fragile; she worked hard a few more years and passed away on July 10, 1884.
Sister Philomène Fournier - founder in 1868
She was born in St-Anselme, Québec, on April 6, 1840. At the age of 19, she asked to be admitted to the monastery, wishing to serve as sister responsible for the convent’s external relations. She took her vows on June 22, 1862. She was chosen as one of the six founding nuns of the mission in Tracadie in 1868.
She had as a motto, these words from Jesus: « Among these sacrifices, there is one that we must especially mark, the one of leaving the community with the founders of our house in Tracadie where she shared poverty and fatigue. She displayed in her service and with heroic charity, the manual skills that God had given her. Everywhere, she was seen joining prayer with her work».
In Tracadie, she was assigned kitchen and laundry duties. The community chronicle reports: « the floors of the kitchen and the refectory were almost always covered with frost… Sister Lumina often had to put hot coals in her clogs to do her work, so cruel was the cold…»
After spending nine years in Tracadie, she returned to Montreal with S.M. Reid on May 28, 1877. She died at the mother house in Montreal on May 22, 1895.