A Time for Growth

The trunk stretches out and splits into branches,
generous sap flows through it and invigorates it.
The numerous branches burst into buds,
announcing the coming foliage.
The time of the great adventure has come:
faraway lands welcome the first cuttings.

Passing through Montreal at the beginning of 1908, His Excellency Jean-Marie Mérel, Bishop of Canton, China, visited our young community and spoke about the Chinese people and their various needs. On September 8, 1909, six newly professed sisters set out for Canton. In those days, missionaries left never to return... Among the first responsibilities awaiting our missionaries were a nursery for abandoned babies, an orphanage, and a Catholic girls school besides the tasks of learning the language and acclimatizing to their adopted country where everything was so very different.

In October 1913, the Shek Lung Leprosarium, on Saint Marie Island, was entrusted to our missionaries. Our Nurses got down to work with a great deal of dedication in order to dress the horrible sores of the lepers and to win their trust by dint of attentiveness and good care. They received, from the Government, five cents a day per person ! Missionaries bore witness to the Good News of Christ by trying to respond to the urgent needs of the population. Besides nurseries, orphanages and the leprosarium, the Sisters got involved in a lot of services : dispensaries, workshops, homes for senior citizens and handicapped persons, a hospital for the mentally ill, educational centres, apostolic schools, the formation of virgin catechists and native Religious women, etc.

While China was welcoming more and more of our missionaries, Delia Tétreault and her Congregation increased apostolic initiatives in Canada.

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Association of "Ladies Auxiliary of the M.I.C."

Collective Closed Retreats for women

and young girls

Services to Chinese immigrants

New lease of life for the "Holy Childhood"

Reorganization of the "Propagation of the Faith"

Launching a missionary magazine

Contribution to the Foundation of the Foreign Missions Seminary

Foundations in Canada

 Foundations Outside Canada


A Time for Storms

Storms struck mercilessly;
the vigorous trunk resisted valiantly
but the branches, bent by the wind,
shed leaves very quickly carried away.

Poverty, wars, persecutions, imprisonment, floods, slow communications, difficulty in learning another language, problems in acclimatization, divergent views, illness, death… The list of painful events would be long in the history of our first centenary; events that required additional courage, hope and faith so that life could triumph and the future remain open.

As already mentioned in A Time for Growth, the Institute's first foreign mission was founded in Canton, China, in 1909. But only a few years later, civil troubles started brewing, troubles which had repercussions on the missionaries' work.

During the years 1911-1914, China was in the midst of a revolution. The Manchurian dynasty which had been governing China since 1644 was living its last moments. Rebellion spread everywhere. In Canton, the Sisters lived in great insecurity for a long time. The continual alarm signals obliged the students to leave the city and take refuge either in Hong Kong or Macao. Those who were unable to flee remained curled up in their homes. Often, gunfire could be heard near the Sisters' house. The Bishop wrote the following to Canada : "The least fright did not affect their soul even in the most perilous moment." (RAGUIN, Yves, S.J., Au-delà de son rêve… Délia Tétreault, p.239)

The continual social upheaval in continental China finally culminates in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries. Delia Tétreault's daughters, with the exception of the Chinese Sister Lucia Ho, leave, in 1953. (Cf. Positio, p.185-186)

In almost all the countries where they were present, our missionaries have had to live difficult years. Together with the people, they lived through the war, more than one coup d'état, dictatorial regimes, rationing and restriction of rights and freedoms. They also accompanied the people in their struggle for liberation.

In June 1918, the Shek Lung leprosarium experienced anguishing moments : We are actually going through a real calamity : the flood is more appalling than ever. The water is still rising. Our poor patients had to leave their quarters where they could be swept away by the current along with their beds. (…) Some are presently lodged in the new infirmary and we are sharing our house with 130 others. (…) The water is also rising there but, at least, they can sleep dry in their beds. After several requests made to the Government, we were given a barge that can accommodate 100 persons. Some thirty people are still left in the house. All these trials do not dishearten us. We even rejoice at the opportunity of sharing our shelter with the most destitute in the world. (The First Thirty Years of the Institute, p. 219)

Floods, typhoons, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and fires were part and parcel of the history of our different mission countries. They were moments of suffering and especially of great solidarity with the victims of these natural disasters.

Illness, under different forms, often came to visit our missionaries, obliging some of them to come back home sooner than foreseen or preventing others from leaving for other countries. A few died of tuberculosis, a disease that was frequent at the time of the foundation. The first death was that of Sr. Saint-Jean-l'Évangéliste (Rachel Lalumière). She was in Canton (China) and was only twenty-three years old.

For our Institute, then celebrating the first decade of existence, this was an unprecedented farewell of one of its members, and how painful for the entire family! However, it was accompanied by a great consolation : that of seeing our young Society implanted in the heavenly abode. (The First Thirty Years of the Institute, p.144)

Because of her frail health, Mother Delia's great dream of visiting her missionaries working in different countries never came true. The last years of her life were particularly marked by suffering. In fact, after having suffered a stroke, Mother Delia became paralyzed, was in great pain and unable to speak.

During the eight years of Delia's secluded life, the Institute was worried and concerned. The doctor often said : "Your Mother will die suddenly…Her days are counted." (…) Her illness progressively isolated her from her Sisters. But for quite a while she was able to communicate with them and write to them through a Sister who acted as secretary. (Raguin Yves, s.j., Au-delà de son rêve... Délia Tétreault, p.440)

On January 25, 1939, during the first General Chapter of the Institute, Mother Marie-de-la-Providence (Anna Paquette) was elected Superior General to replace Mother Delia.

In the evening of the day when Mother Mary of the Holy Spirit (Delia Tétreault) learned that she was discharged from her function, she showed great joy. Resting her hand on that of the newly elected Superior, she was able to utter these words distinctly : "I am very happy." Yes, Mother Delia had reason to be happy because the new Superior General had been her right hand woman, her assistant and her confidante.

At the end of her life, Delia could proclaim, as Mary had done, her great Magnificat. She wanted that her attitude towards God be that of Mary. She wished to be like Mary was towards the Father, energized by the Spirit. Thus, she was for her time, a messenger of the Spirit, a likeness of Mary totally devoted to the work the Father accomplishes in this world by His Son Jesus Christ.

On October 1st, 1941, Mother Delia Tétreault died peacefully at the new Motherhouse of the Institute, situated at 2900 Côte St. Catherine Road, in Montreal. In its October 4th edition, the newspaper La Patrie paid homage to her in a long article entitled : A saint has just died leaving behind an immense work.

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