Home CommentaryStudent Life Devotion: The (Modern) Daily Life of a Grey Nun

Devotion: The (Modern) Daily Life of a Grey Nun

by Archives January 27, 2009

Every weekday Nicole Fournier drives her Toyota Corolla from Varennes to downtown Montreal for work. Dressed in a fuzzy wool sweater and a long grey skirt, the first thing she does when she reaches her desk is check her e-mail. Trained as a teacher, Fournier now works as an administrator. She is in charge of recording the minutes to meetings, taking care of the archives and responding to phone calls and e-mails. When that is over, she volunteers at Accueil Bonneau, an organization that feeds hundreds of men and women daily. At first glance Fournier is not all that different from other working women in their 60s. In fact, if it weren’t for the massive cross dangling from her neck, you would probably never even guess she’s a nun.
“I haven’t worn a habit in 40 years,” says Sister Fournier with a grin.
Sister Fournier is part of the Roman Catholic order of Grey Nuns founded in 1737, by Canada’s first native-born saint, Marguerite d’Youville. Her office is located on Guy St. and René Lévesque Blvd., in a colossal stone convent known as the Grey Nuns’ Mother House, which has been bought by Concordia University.
Protected by a wrought iron fence, and surrounded by majestic grounds, the five-story Mother House was built in 1871 and has been a provincial historic site since 1976.
Once inside, Sister Fournier points to a massive wooden wall panel showcasing the names of the 3,510 women who have taken vows with the Sisters of Charity, as the order is formally known.
“I’m all the way over there,” says Sister Fournier pointing near the bottom of the list.
The reality is that while many joined the order around the same time as Sister Fournier in 1958, very few made vows with the Grey Nuns following Quebec’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.
During those years, Quebec broke away from the Church, and transformed into a secular society. As if overnight, jobs in hospitals and schools were taken from the nuns and placed in the hands of the state.
Shortly thereafter, the province’s birth rate experienced a dramatic drop, and an unprecedented number of women entered the workforce. Whereas in 1957 there were 2,000 Grey Nuns in the Montreal area alone, presently there are 400 in Canada, the United States and South America combined.
Eighty-nine year old Sister Georgette C

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