We present here the homage Sister Julienne Turmel, O.P., Prioress General, delivered in memory of our beloved Sister Françoise Lemieux. May we be inspired by the example of her life, she who had "many apostolic activities that expanded the spiritual motherhood she exercised upon each person she met, starting with a simple way of looking at them in the name of Jesus and going on to the many moments of sharing with them. The love of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, the call to holiness, or any other subject on spiritual life, were the main focuses of her life. "
Dear family members of Sister Françoise Lemieux,
Dear parents and friends,
Up to the end of her self-giving and in a love lived up to the end: such is the way we can sums up the life of our dear Sister Francoise, who was part of the group that we named familiarly: "our First sisters". Why? Because she entered the community nearly a year after its foundation, and made her temporary vows with five other sisters on the same day as our foundress made her final profession. October 7th will mark the 70th anniversary of this historic event for our community.
Very young, Francoise discovered the call to religious life by listening to her mother talk with her father about her religious sisters. So asked herself: what is a nun? And thus arose in her the feeling that it a sister is a person who lives for God alone ... Delighted, she let arise in herself the desire to live also for God alone.
In her family, her early years were marked with the deaths of seven of her brothers and sisters, the oldest of whom was 17 years old. She mentioned that at that time, the mourning had to be made visible by the wearing of black clothes and so her mother had to do so for a long time. One day, no doubt finding that it was long enough, her father hid all the black dresses of his wife and the children found their mother dressed in color.
At 14, she started to think once more about what direction she would give to her life. She liked going out, dancing, dating, boys... However as she notes, reading the life of the saints made her discover brothers and sisters that were very close... She thus came back to her desire to go into religious life, understanding that she too was called to holiness. She cultivated a filial love for Mary, love that came to her from her mother, whose Marian piety, expressed especially by the prayer of the rosary, was remarkable. This partly explains the name that Sister Françoise bore for twenty years: Mother Bernadette of the Immaculate Heart.
At 17, she decided to enter religious life and started to search for what would be her community. In late February 1946, she met mother Julienne, foundress of our newly founded community, finding there the ideal she was looking for. And on the 4th of April, she was welcomed into the community. Being only 18 years old, Francoise gave herself to Jesus with fervor, with the enthousiasm typical of her age. She notes: "I came in and gave myself thoroughly, unconditionally; and it is this same gift of myself that I have renewed every day, every moment. "
Our postulant had several talents. Artist, she was assigned to art work where she painted religious motifs on banners, veils for tabernacle, liturgical clothing. She also helped Mother Colette make remarkable wedding cakes. These were the ways that at that time the young community was able to make a living. But during this time, the Lord continued to accomplish in her the "unique" work of art that she was for him.
After her profession, Sister Françoise took on many responsibilities in the community: general councillor as early as 1948. And from 1955 to 1985, she was responsible for the formation at times of the temporary vowed sisters, or of the novices, the postulants, in brief, of almost all of us here present and also in Peru. What a task! She accompanied us with respect, gentleness, patience, welcoming with humor the "malicious" tricks that young sisters knew so well how to invent in order to have fun. She taught us how to follow Jesus presenting us, for example, with two of her favorite saints: Therese of the Child Jesus and Elizabeth of the Trinity.
Jesus continually offering himself in the Eucharist and the presence of the Holy Trinity in her soul drew her, so to speak, within herself, in an attitude of silence and of meditation that encouraged us to do the same.
Moreover, especially after the 1970s, many apostolic activities broadened her spiritual motherhood, which she exercises in a way upon nearly every person she met, ranging from a simple look cast on someone, a look that wanted to be Jesus’, up to the many moments of sharing with others. The love of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, the call to holiness or any other topic related to spiritual life were always the subjects upon which she was always ready to share.
Her unconditional welcome to people, her attention and prayers for all the members of her family whom she carried in her life up to the end, her apostolic openness brought her friends in large numbers. What commitments were hers! I highlight some of them: catechist for children at Neufchâtel, The Eucharistic Fraternity, the DMA Fraternity, “Eucharistic Wednesdays”, a missionary in Alberta, spiritual accompaniment. Overflowing with the love of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, endowed with a high quality of listening and compassion, she made herself present; she would let the word of God reverberate through her and direct the hearts towards the Father in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
Everything seemed to be going well for her, her activities continuing when one morning in April, she was transported to the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital. In addition to the pain she suffered, a case of cancer was diagnosed. At this news, she knew that her end was near and she welcomed this reality in peace and with abandonment. Transported to the Inter-community Infirmary of the Augustinians Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus, she was aware that the illness was progressing. We accompanied her, astonished by the great lucidity she kept almost up to the end. "I will not die," she said to me; “it is Jesus who will come to get me ". When Jesus came, she was ready. She gave herself up "like a pure offering, a song of love and adoration to the glory of the Trinity, for the life of the world".
Dear Sister Francoise, you will continue to live in our hearts; from up above, remember that you promised to accompany us and help us. We thank you with affection.
Sister Julienne Turmel, o.p.
September 20, 2018