Sister Gisèle Desrosiers
(Marie N.D. du Roncier)
Franciscan Missionary of Mary
Born in St-Louis de Bonsecours, QC
August 13, 1920
Entered the Institute in Quebec
September 15, 1947
Died in Montreal
August 30, 2018
in her 99th year,
the 71st of her religious life
May she rest in the peace of Christ!
On the sunny afternoon of Friday, August 13, 1920, the church bells of St-Louis de Bonsecours peeled for all to hear. A car entered the village. It was a rather rare mode of transportation at the time. This intrigued the villagers. Two babies in their parents’ arms were making their entry into the church for their baptism. Antoine Desrosiers and his wife, Rose Alma Auger, welcomed two more children in their family with the arrival of Orpha and his twin sister, Gisèle, making them number 7 and 8 of a family of 12 children.
Gisèle grew up in a house of deep faith. Family prayer was a cherished moment. All always recited the rosary as they kneeled even after a long day in the fields. The children knelt in a circle around their parents. Mr. Desrosiers was a farmer. Order reigned on his farm. As he plowed his field, he outlined a cross before sowing his crop. Her mother was a courageous woman. No matter what life threw her way, her smile seemed to go on forever. Home became a school as the children learned their catechism by heart, completed neatly their homework, and learnt well their lessons.
Education was very important for her parents. Gisèle was thus fortunate to be able to continue her studies with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in their boarding school. She earned her teaching certificate. She taught for 10 years at Ste-Marie-Médiatrice School in Brigham in the Eastern Townships. One day two Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Mother Crescent and Sister Electa, came to visit her class. They gave a slideshow presentation on their ministries and shared heartwarming tales of their Institute. This event rekindled in Gisèle the desire to become a religious. Touched by the witness of these missionaries, she decided to become a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. After informing her parents, her father told her, “Why are you going so far when there are many religious communities in Sainte-Hyacinthe?” "The calling is stronger than family ties that wish to hold us back,” she answered. “Jesus came to strengthen my resolve to follow him.”
On September 15, 1947, she entered in our convent of Grande-Allée in Quebec City to start her religious formation. She enjoyed the spiritual exercises in the chapel and peacefully lived the demands of this new life. She heard about the missions and was quite eager to leave. Her dreams came true one month after her temporary profession. On April 10, 1950, she set sail for Rome where she stayed a year. Then, she set sail for Sri Lanka. It was the first stop on an itinerary that took her to Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Throughout her missions as a teacher, Sister Gisèle shared her knowledge in different educational establishments. Besides her regular teaching curriculum, she taught young girls sewing, catechism, and prepared them for the sacraments. She assisted in the dispensary, visited the sick, became house assistant, and took on the role of superior for 10 years in Tonzang, Burma. One day in our leprosarium in Mandalay, she baptized a dying child. With delight, she named the child after her twin brother, Orpha.
Sister Gisèle returned permanently to Canada in 1972. After a period of rest and spiritual renewal, missionary to the end, she remained true to her sense of justice and duty. She continued her mission as a teacher, superior, and spiritual animator for our elderly sisters in several of our convents throughout Canada. In 2006, a massive stroke left her completely paralyzed.
Can one imagine the suffering of such an independent, active person who suddenly becomes completely dependent for the rest of her life? This is the mystery lived by Gisèle during these last 12 years of suffering. Shortly before her stroke, she wrote, “I am a committed volunteer serving the elderly. This mission makes me aware of the force of our missionary charism extended to those who with age face so many challenges. I now understand that peace and suffering can coexist in their hearts and I long to know about this mystery.”
She was far from guessing that she would live this unfathomable mystery of suffering for the rest of her life. Paralyzed and unable to speak, she expressed her needs with cries, her joys with the repeated phrase, “C’est ça! C’est ça!” (“That’s it! That’s it!”), and her spirituality by singing Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”, the only words she could articulate. Throughout this trial, she no doubt meditated in the silence of her soul these words that she had written during an intimate moment with God, “I committed myself because he captured my heart. I am passionately in love and the One, to whom I gave my life, has not deceived me. I follow him without fear. He knows where he leads me.” She gave all up, right up to the evening where he came to fill her with his presence and give her eternal happiness.
Sister Gisèle, thank you for the witness of your life. Remembering how you lived, we were also able to understand that peace and suffering can indeed exist side by side.
of the day’s joys.