Franciscan Missionary of Mary
Born in St-Elzéar de Laval, QC
April 29 1914
Entered the Institute in Quebec City, QC
June 14 1934
Died in Montreal, QC
April 14 2019
in her 105th year,
the 84th of her religious life
May she rest in the peace of Christ!
Sister Géraldine Bastien was born April 29, 1914 at Saint Elzéar de Laval, Ile Jésus, QC. Her father, Émilien Bastien, was a farmer and her mother, Rosanna Hotte, remained at home to look after her 12 children: 6 boys and 6 girls. Geraldine was the seventh. A Christian atmosphere reigned in the family and the children grew up with a deep faith. Aurélien, the eldest, was an Oblate of Mary Immaculate and Geraldine had two other sisters who were religious.
She did her primary and high school studies at the school in the municipality of Laval, then obtained her teacher training at the school of the Presentation of Mary Sisters. One day, as she was reading the newspaper, she saw in a small column the following ad: A Missionary Institute, Adorers, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Discretely, she took the address and phoned to have some information. The voice at the end of the line said: In a few days we will be having a retreat. You are welcome. She registered, followed the retreat fervently and touched by the grace of the Lord she requested to enter the Institute. Géraldine was twenty years old.
She left her family and entered the novitiate in Quebec on June 14, 1934.
After her first vows in 1937, she was sent to St-Laurent, Manitoba where she studied to be a nurse receiving her first lessons from the attending physician. In 1940, she made her final profession there and in 1943, she went to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. In 1946, she left for Jirapa, Ghana where for 6 years she tended the poorest people. She returned to Canada for surgery, but as soon as her convalescence was over, she was visiting homes to obtain funds for the missions.
In 1959, she had the joy of leaving again, but this time for the Middle East, to Achkout, Lebanon, then to Rézégat in Egypt. A born nurse, she had learned her profession through experience and observation. She had also followed sessions in France at the faculty of medicine of the Red Cross. She had an innate diagnostic capacity and successfully cared for all the sick that came to her.
In Achkout, the Minister General of Health honoured her for all her achievements. The quality of her nursing had raised the standard of public health in that region. In Rézégat, Géraldine travelled on a donkey, going to the remotest areas in order to reach the poorest people. An eyewitness passing through Rézégat relates that twenty years after her departure the site of her dispensary was still venerated. The locals never forgot her and all she had done for the population.
In 1975 as she visited her family, she was very surprised to learn that she would be staying in Canada after 32 years of mission overseas. What a detachment, she says, but in faith I accepted, and I went back to caring for the sick in their homes and in the hospitals. In fact, after having followed a course in gerontology, she worked as a nurse in Seniors’ residences in Montreal, then in Elizabeth Bruyère Health Center and in palliative care at Saint Vincent Hospital in Ottawa. The administrative personnel, impressed by her age – she was 80 - acknowledged the quality of her volunteer work, her attendance, her outstanding dedication, and her good humor.
In 2002, at the age of 88, she joined her sisters in the large community of Montreal. She remained active striving to do all sorts of small handicrafts. However, in 2007, she endured a great trial: a fractured hip obliged her to go to the provincial infirmary onsite. She was far from thinking that she would live there for 12 years.
She lived then a time of trial that made her relive the great detachments of her life through many tears. These rainfalls, she says, rooted me in what is real, in the truth; in my God to whom I vowed all my life by serving my neighbour. In these moments of solitude, she enjoyed the presence of her family, especially of her nephew, Robert, who faithfully visited her every Wednesday.
In April 2014, on her 100th birthday, she composed this prayer: Father, for the past 100 years you gave me the priceless gift of life, and since my birth and my baptism you do not cease to shower your infinite love upon me. I thank you for all the blessings received: my family, the sisters with whom I have lived, the personnel of the infirmary who faithfully accompany me in these last days of my life. May each of my days be a sequel of thanksgiving and love until eternal life.
From then on, suffering from deafness, she enveloped herself in silence and contemplated the mystery of life. On the eve of her 105th birthday, in peace, she left us.
On her 60th anniversary of religious life, Maurice, her brother, now deceased, left us the most beautiful testimony of the life of Géraldine. I quote, Géraldine will tell us that she owes her formation first of all to her mother, our mother, a real saint. She would tell us also that she discovered in her community a spirituality that realized her desire for mission and adoration. We have always felt her loving and unconditional attachment to this community of which she often boasted the wisdom, the flexibility, the simplicity, and the fraternity. A Community setting forth bold projects, at ease in sharing the anguish of the poorest as well as advocating on their behalf before the United Nations.
Geraldine is the last of the family of Émilien Bastien. May she enter into the peace of God to praise him with her family and her sisters alongside Mary of the Passion.