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Elisabeth Bergeron, kindness with a smile

Elisabeth Bergeron's smile reveals the peace and joy she had in her heart. But it was a long road that led her to this unshakeable serenity.

A poor family
Elisabeth was born on May 25, 1851, in a humble dwelling situated on the Main Rural Road of La Presentation, a town not far from St. Hyacinthe. She was the fourth of eleven children born to Théophile Bergeron and Basiliste Petit. Her parents were poor and could not allow her to go to school very long.

A girl with a lot of initiative...
However, she was not lacking initiative. Thus, at the age of eight, she decided she would 'walk to catechism classes' and 'make her first communion' like her brother Octave who was eleven years old. She ran away from home, pleaded with the parish priest and, finally, succeeded in convincing her father. Elisabeth got what she wanted : she received communion for the first time on the same day as her brother.

seeking the will of God...
When she was fourteen, she wanted to enter the community of the Sisters of Charity of St. Hyacinthe but the Superior General found her too young!
Consequently, she stayed with her parents. When they became expatriates and settled in the United States because of the economic crisis, she moved with them.

already showing her true colours.
First in Brunswick and then in Salem, Elisabeth discovered her talents as a catechist. In the evenings, after a long day of work in the cotton mill, she found both the time and the enthusiasm to teach her immigrant compatriots the essential elements of the Catholic faith.

The exile ends
In March 1870, the Bergerons were able to return to their own country with some savings that gave them a bit of security. Clarisse, Elisabeth's younger sister, was by that time an excellent housekeeper. Elisabeth returned to her former dreams.

Becoming a religious!
Confidently, Elisabeth went first of all to the Sisters of Mercy, then to the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and finally to the Adorers of the Precious Blood; but she failed at every one of her attempts to enter the convent.
Was she discouraged? No, she decided instead to put all of this into God's hands. Lo and behold, he called her to undertake a project way beyond her imagination.

Bishop Louis-Zéphirin Moreau's choice
For some time, the bishop of St. Hyacinthe was saddened by the plight of the rural schools: the teachers were too few and inadequately educated.
He already knew Elisabeth Bergeron and invited her to come and see him. He told her about his wish to 'use' her to found a congregation of teaching sisters for the poor children living out in the country. Elisabeth immediately exclaimed: 'But, I'm not educated!'
This did not trouble the bishop. He thought of the ignorance of the apostles who, nevertheless, founded the Church.
Elisabeth accepted in faith and surrendered to the will of God.

The Foundress
On September 12, 1877, Elisabeth Bergeron founded, with three companions more educated than herself, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Saint Hyacinthe.
They moved into the abandoned schoolhouse in the town of La Providence (now a part of St. Hyacinthe).

Poverty and joy
Their poverty was extreme, but their joy was great. On September 17, the new school welcomed eighty pupils, boys and girls, who were divided into two groups since there were only two teaching sisters.
What was Elisabeth's role at the beginning of the congregation? Encouraging the children to learn and talking to them about God as she was so fond of doing. She also saw to the numerous material tasks in order to relieve the teachers.

A surprising nomination
At the outset named Superior of the new Congregation, she held this responsibility for only two years. On the second anniversary of the founding, Bishop Moreau designated a sister who was more educated to replace her. This, Elisabeth accepted wholeheartedly. From then on, she served either as the Assistant Superior or General Councillor until 1925.

Unofficial leader of the community
By her life totally given for the service of others, Elisabeth was an example for her sisters. She also helped them by the quality of her presence for they could always rely on her affection and her discretion. She was a leader by her wisdom and by the perceptiveness with which she interceded with the superiors on behalf of any one of her sisters.
Neither retirement, illness, nor death prevented her from radiating God's peace, joy, and tenderness.

A saint has just died
This was the rumour that spread through St. Hyacinthe, on Wednesday, April 29, 1936. Alas! the rumour was true.
At the age of eighty-four years and eleven months, our dear Foundress died on one of the feast days of Saint Joseph, our Patron.
Visitors came to her coffin: to see her, to touch her.
Already, people were asking her for healing.
Though no longer of this world, Elisabeth still invites her Daughters to be close to others. Wherever the Sisters live, they are happy to continue the educational project among the poorest and the most disadvantaged.

A great tree
Thanks to Elisabeth's generosity, the small seed that was planted has become a great tree. The poor are evangelized and thousands of children of both sexes have been helped by the apostolate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph who are currently in two Canadian provinces, in three African countries, in Brazil, and in Haiti.

The “venerable” Elisabeth Bergeron
Following the judgment of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes that recognized Elisabeth Bergeron's heroic virtues, especially her humility, her understanding and love of the Church and her submission to the will of God, His Holiness, John Paul II, declared her Venerable, on January 12, 1996.

The numerous favours obtained through her intercession prove that she continues to watch over us and lead us to believe she will soon work a miracle proving the power of her prayers.

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