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The Sisters of Charity of Notre Dame d'Evron
 

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Sisters walking the St. Mary's Convent grounds and garden.Congregations of religious sisters are examples of how early settlement communities in the region were connected to large historic events and far away places. The Sisters d'Evron were founded in 1682 by a French woman named Perrine Thulard. Thulard was encouraged by a parish priest to educate the young and care for the sick and destitute. The vocation, or charism, of this congregation Society was to attend to the spiritual and material well-being of the poor through teaching and nursing. When Madame Thulard's died in 1735, she had founded forty convents in France.

Sisters walking the St. Mary's Convent grounds and garden.The French Revolution was a difficult period for religious congregations such as the Sisters. The property of the order was confiscated the Sisters were forbidden to carry on their charitable work. Many of the Sisters returned to their families and some were imprisoned and executed because they tended to the sick and wounded without bias for a particular political cause. After the revolutionary period, the Sisters were reunited in a former Benedictine Monastery at Evron, which remains the 'Mother House' of the congregation.

The Grotto located near the St. Mary's HospitalIn the early 1900s, new regulations in France reinforced a secular, non-religious approach to education and the Sisters discontinued their schools. At this time, Mother Superior Marie Cousin looked to other countries for the order to continue its work. At the request of Bishop Legal and Father Lacombe, the possibility of a mission in western Canada was explored.

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Mother Marie-Louise Recton

As a religious sister, Marie-Louise Recton first came to Trochu in February 1909 with Fr. Lemanceau and Mother Marie Cousin to explore the possibility of a Canadian mission for the Sisters de Charité de Notre Dame d'Evron. Able to speak some English, she served as a translator for her travelling companions. With this experience, she was chosen to lead the mission that would arrive in the Trochu Valley in August 1909.

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The blessing of the bell took place on July 21, 1912Mother Superior Cousin and Sister Marie-Louise Recton arrived in Alberta, accompanied by Fr. Alphonse Lemanceau arrived in Alberta in February 1909 and decided that Trochu would be the site of their new mission to Canada. In July 1909 eight sisters left France for Canada, arriving in Quebec by ship and by railway to Calgary on August 15th. Met by Armand Trochu and Fr. Leduc, they travelled to Olds by train and by horse and democrat to Trochu, arriving the evening of the following day. They were warmly welcomed by the Butruille, Trochu, Eckenfelder and de Beaudrap families.

12 more sisters arrive in 1912 - 1st Row: Sister Victorine Perlemoine, Sister Leontine Reboux, Sister Angele Bouhours, Sister Marie-Gabrielle Guerrier - 2nd Row: Sister M. Therese Laigre, Sister Marie-Joseph Rondo, Marie-Louise recton, Sister Josephine Cottereau, Sister Cecile Fevrier - 3rd Row: Sister M. Augustine Buttier, Sister Marie-Francoise Jouin, Sister Eugenie AucherieUnder the direction of Sister Marie-Louise Recton, a granary was cleaned up and transformed into a hospital room with one bed. A week later, the first patient was admitted, the victim of a harvesting accident. By the end of the year, sixteen patients had been cared for, the Sisters working with Dr. Milne. By the middle of September, a small chapel had been created for prayer and devotion. In the following year, Sister Marie-Louise had prepared a construction plan for a three-storey hospital, to be built above the St. Anne's Ranch coulee. In September 1911, the new hospital was opened and in 1912 the Government of Alberta recognized the hospital and provided some financial support.

On August 26, 1912, the Pontmain Roman Catholic School was opened on the hill near the St. Mary's HospitalOver the next thirty-five years, the Sisters attended to the work of the hospital as well as teaching the children of the community. Renovation and reconstruction of the hospital occurred in the 1950s and further expansion in the 1970s. By the 1979, the Sisters had turned over administrative control for the facility to a lay person. This event, among others, marked changes in the order. Vast changes within the Roman Catholic Church and the general societal view of religious life resulted in fewer young women joining the orders. Increasingly the Sisters were aging and coming to an age of retirement. Increasingly, the administration of the Sisters d'Evron was centred in Edmonton. In 1982, the Sisters celebrated 300 years of service as religious congregation, dating back to 1682. In 1999, the Sisters bid farewell to Trochu, having served the community for 90 years.

First catholic school in the region, built in 1910.Besides Trochu, the Sisters served hospitals and schools in Edmonton, Vegreville, Bonnyville, St. Paul and in locations in the Province of Saskatchewan. The correspondence between missions such as those at Trochu and the Mother House at Evron on France provides excellent insight on the early community and missions. Through the work of Lorene Frere, this record of the early community has been collected and provides an important documentation of life and experience in the region after the turn of the 20th century.

 

 

  
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