Sr. Yvette Demers, SP, Vice-postulator of the Emilie Tavernier Gamelin Cause write about the 170th Anniversary of the Death of Mother Emilie Tavernier Gamelin and the 20th anniversary of her beaitification 1851-2021.  

“History tells us that at the end of August 1851, there were reports of an outbreak of cholera in Montreal. Even though this made it risky to undertake a voyage, Mother Gamelin travelled to St. Elisabeth on September 10 and remained there for three days. She said to her Sisters: “My daughters, I have prayed to St. Elisabeth that you might always have peace. Adieu, I will not be seeing you again.”

On the following day, September 22, for the first time, Mother Gamelin presided alone—without the presence of the bishop—at a Council meeting where the admission of five novices to religious profession was decided.

The following night, Mother Gamelin was awakened by intestinal pains. Toward four o’clock on the morning of September 23, she woke Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart (Esther Pariseau), her roommate, saying; “I have the cholera! I am going to die!” She asked to be taken to the infirmary. Bishop Prince and Bishop Bourget, as well as his nephew, the community doctor, rushed to her bedside, her daughters surrounded her and wanted to hear her one last time.   In one last burst of energy, she found the strength to articulate the words “humility, simplicity …” but her voice failed, and she could not finish the word “charity” on which she had insisted so much the day before and which she herself had practiced so heroically throughout her life. At about ten o’clock she lost consciousness and remained so until about four o’clock in the afternoon at which time she breathed her last.

When the bell tolled the sad news, people from all walks of life came to pray near the remains of Mother Gamelin. The “elderly” ladies would not be consoled. Bishop Bourget was visibly touched by the sincerity of the tears and moanings which followed the disappearance of her who had been the heart and soul of the work of Providence.

Many testimonies of esteem and sympathy were sent to the Sisters from all sectors of society. The Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame deplored the passing of Mother Gamelin as an “irreparable loss” and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary wrote to Mother Caron: “We could not hold back our tears when we read the news of the passing of your first Mother from this life to eternity.” The Sisters of the Sacred Heart wrote: “We know too well the qualities of this lady, even personally, not to be deeply afflicted, and the many testimonies make us appreciate your loss all the more, along with the entire city of Montreal.”

At the end of the year, the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame assigned as an essay topic to their pupils, Mother Gamelin and Her Work, an initiative which revealed the reputation of the person and her achievements. One of the students wrote: “Ville-Marie (Montreal) has lost an admirable woman who (…) because of the important mission she had received, by the manner in which she accomplished it, and the visible part which Providence played through her, has brought glory to this city of good works, and I can say, has filled a large part of this country with the sound of her name (…)”.

Is it not without emotion that the day after her departure, one could read in the newspapers of the time: “Les Mélanges Religieux”, “La Minerve” and “Le Canadien”: “Eternal thanks be to God, the Author of all perfect gifts, who has given such a remarkable heroine to our city—such a wonderful example for our time!”

“Providence of God, may you be adored, loved and thanked!”

As we close this year of 2021 what better way than to recall a faithful woman of Providence who gave her life in humility, simplicity, and charity to all those whom she met.  Blessed Emilie pray for us!

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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