(Sister Marie Edmée)
Franciscan Missionary of Mary
Born in Providence, RI, USA
on September 16, 1919.
Entered the Institute
in Quebec, Quebec
on December 10, 1940.
Died in Montreal, Quebec
July 16, 2018.
In her 98th year
the 78th of her religious life.
May she rest in the peace of Christ!
Annette Belhumeur was born in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, on September 16, 1919. Her father, Henri Belhumeur, was a painter and her mother, Valéda Bilodeau, was a homemaker, watching over her children throughout her life. They had ten children, five boys and five girls. Annette was the fifth child. It was a happy home where the parents transmitted a religious education and encouraged their children’s studies.
The family home was near the fmm novitiate of Fruit Hill in Providence, RI, USA. Annette often visited the chapel and saw the sisters in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. This impressed her greatly, as did their missionary life. During one of her visits, she strongly felt the desire to become a missionary to catechize children who had not heard of God.
She thus set up an appointment with Mother Liliane, Mistress of Novices, and requested her admission to the Institute. She had set forth the condition of entering in Quebec, Canada. “Why?” asked Mother Liliane. “To be separated from my family whom I so love and to give up everything so as to fully consecrate myself to God,” she replied. Her mother did not agree, but after discernment with her parents, Annette was permitted to enter the novitiate in Quebec on December 10, 1940. She was 21 years old. Her older sister, Gilberte, joined her a year later in Quebec to begin her religious formation, to Annette’s great surprise.
Her novitiate was a time filled with wonder. Day by day, she was able to confirm her religious calling. She was happy to celebrate her temporary profession on June 13, 1943. Ten days later, she received her missionary posting for Winnipeg, Manitoba. There was a large immigrant population who had settled in the fertile lands of western Canada. The fmm had a women’s residence and a daycare with 40 children of various nationalities. It is in this poor English milieu that she spent 12 years.
Totally available and attentive, she dove completely into answering any needs as they arose. With kindness, she worked in the women’s residence, taught English to newly arrived French speaking sisters, completed bursary tasks, was sacristan, and oversaw altar boys’ training.
In 1955, she went to Quebec for some rest. During her stay, she was assistant provincial bursar. In 1966, she left for Ottawa. There, her particular mission was to help in our women’s retreat center. Devoted, discrete, silent, she graciously welcomed priests and women during their stay. She helped create an atmosphere of peace as she saw to their needs. Afterwards when the provincialate moved to Ottawa, she continued to assist in the welcoming of sisters attending provincial meetings. She was thoughtful as she prepared the rooms with chocolate and lovely welcome cards for each sister. Yes, Annette liked things well done. She gave it her all so people would be happy around her. She also ministered to the elderly and the sick in the neighbourhood. Discretely, she went to visit them, bringing comfort and assisting in their well-being. If she saw them being shoved on the street or in a bus, she came to their rescue. Her goodhearted nature brought much joy.
Over the years, growing health issues made it clear that it was time for her to look at other living arrangements. On March 25, 2009 with resignation, she left Ottawa for our provincial infirmary in Montreal. This huge step in anyone’s life is rather painful. However, Sister Annette felt supported by her sisters and her family. They often came to see her. She was very close to her brother, Paul, his wife, Irene, her nieces and nephews. Paul called her weekly from California. They spoke at length together.
These acts of love, such as the daily visits of her sisters, the medical care and kindness of the staff in the infirmary consoled her greatly right to the end. Annette stated, “My life was beautiful and is still beautiful today on this bed of pain, because I love Jesus.”
At the beginning of her religious life, she wanted to leave everything… everything… to consecrate herself totally to God! At the end of her life, she looked back on the past with gratitude for all the Lord had been in her life. She offered once again all to her Beloved in the final moments of suffering. In the depth of her heart, she could truly state, “Mission accomplished!” She would have been 100 years old on September 16, 2019.
Sister Annette’s mission was under the protection of Saint Joseph, patron of Canada. It is in this big country that she offered her life.