Sister Marie Françoise de Serres
Franciscan Missionary of Mary
Born in Three Rivers, QC
April 20 1929
Entered the Institute in Quebec City, QC
September 15 1949
Died in Montreal, QC
August 17 2019
in her 91st year,
the 70th of her religious life
May she rest in the peace of Christ!
Sister Marie Françoise was born on April 20 1929 in Three Rivers, QC. Her father, Joseph de Serres, owned a large farm and her mother, Marie Croisetière, was a homemaker with 14 children. Marie Françoise was the 13th child and grew up in the country on the shores of St-Pierre Lake and the Maskinongé River. Her parents were devout Christians and taught her the love of God, the earth, and the joy of giving in the family business. These entailed long hours of patience while preparing the farm produce for wholesale.
As a contemplative teenager, Marie Françoise enjoyed taking long walks on the crusty snow in winter, hiking through the forest paths in summer or gliding in a rowboat. Alone, she would talk to her God. This gave a glimpse of her call to an intimate life with the Lord. One day, she heard of a congregation in Ghana with the same aspirations as her. They were missionaries, adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, Franciscans, and with a Marian spirituality. She was even ready to go to Ghana to fulfil her dream. As luck would have it, at the end of her studies, two FMM came to her school to the delight of Marie Françoise who realized that they were the same sisters as those in Ghana. After completing her teaching studies with the Daughters of Jesus in Cap de la Madeleine, she entered the Institute in Quebec City on September 15 1949. She was 20 years old. With enthusiasm and zeal, she started her religious formation, but was hit with a great ordeal, the loss of her sight! Through a miracle due to the intercessions to Notre-Dame du Cap et and Blessed Maria Assunta, she regained her sight.
After her temporary profession on March 19 1953, she taught in our primary scholl of St-Malo in Quebec City and later she was a kindergarten teacher in our daycare of Saint-Enfant-Jésus in Montreal. Delicate and reserved, she worked in our Retreat Centre in Ottawa and then became assistant superior in Winnipeg. In 1968, she received her obedience for Chili to her utmost delight of finally being able to realize her lifelong dream.
In Curimon, Chili, she studied Spanish and became a teacher in the colleges of Joaquin and in San Vicente de Tagua Tagua. Her missionary experience lasted 6 years with a year in Mexico as a French/Spanish interpreter for a medical clinic. In God’s plan, this stay in Chili prepared her for a greater mission in Canada. She was called to participate in the creation of a Christian Latino community in Toronto among the Hispanic refugees and immigrants. At the announcement of this posting, she wrote, I tried to be as welcoming as possible in a land where they earned for a safe haven. I helped them to settle in this country.
Academically prepared for this work and in collaboration with Church members, she helped to build the foundations of a new community gathered around the Lord. Her role was to build a fraternal community through Christian solidarity capable of overcoming the opposing opinions steaming from the various countries of origin. She helped them grow in their faith in Jesus, Word and Bread, to witness it in their lives.
One of the ministries especially dear to her heart was the formation of parents. As she taught their children, she tackled problems they carried as new Canadians in their insertion into a society so different from their own. Sister Marie Françoise wrote these were the most fulfilling activities of my missionary life. With them, I grew and got closer to God to the point of being overwhelmed by such divine attention. She continued her work in a Welcome and Transition Centre for refugees and immigrants in Montreal. She was superior in Fort Coulonge. She also accompanied groups to Latin America as a translator.
In 1987, she was delighted to partake in the spiritual renewal of the Emmaus session in Grottaferrata, a pilgrimage to Rome in the steps of Blessed Marie of the Passion, and a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. All this was beyond all her wildest dreams. Upon returning to Canada, her health started declining and she still rendered small services in our various houses. In 2011, Marie Françoise suffered a stroke and was admitted to Montfort Hospital in Ottawa. She was then transferred to our Provincial infirmary in Montreal.
Despite all the therapeutic help, Marie Françoise would require assistance for the rest of her life. Throughout this ordeal, she kept her gentleness, her capacity to listen, her smile, her simplicity, her empathy, and her devotion to prayer. Her heart was always ready to party. She was the first to sing all the refrains she had learnt by heart. One never heard a complaint from her. A sister who helped to feed her stated, I had the impression of standing beside an angel. Thus, it was until the moment when the Lord called her back to Him.
Sister Marie Françoise’s memory is forever in our hearts. Daughter of Mary of the Passion, She admired and was so proud to belong to the Institute. Throughout her mission, she had a great heart that never counted the efforts in order to welcome her brothers and sisters, immigrants and refugees.
In her final days, she simply stopped eating. The Lord was coming. She quietly faded surrounded by her sisters and her niece, Jacqueline d’Argy, fmm. Thank you Marie Françoise for witnessing to God by your life among us. Rest in Peace.