June 9, International Archives Day 2018 – 175 years of SNJM archivists

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On International Archives Day 2018, we are taking advantage of the 175th anniversary of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) to pay tribute to our SNJM archivists.

In any organization, documents are created and accumulated naturally. However, creating documents that relate the history of the Community requires much more care. At the time of Mother Marie-Rose’s death, Bishop Bourget emphasized the importance of preserving the collective memory of the Congregation. Bishop Bourget himself immediately began to write a biography of Mother Marie-Rose and, in all the convents, the sisters began to write Chronicles.

Around 1854, because of a previous request of Mother Marie-Rose, the rules and customs of the community were written down in the Book of Customs. When we read them, we see that not only the General Bursar and the General Secretary, but also the local and provincial bursars and secretaries, were obliged to follow rules governing the creation and conservation of SNJM documents. It is thanks to such rules that we can retrace the history of the Community today. Excerpts from the Book of Customs state that the vaulted room housing the Archives is to have large cupboards with pigeonhole or drawers in which the registers and papers are to be placed in an orderly fashion. The drawers for the Secretariat are to bear a letter and those of the Treasury are to bear a number. Each mission is to have its own drawer. The General Bursar is to have eight registers at her disposal in which to enter the receipts and expenditures, the conditions for postulants, the inventory of acts, and the inventory of assets and debts. The Bursar is to have a fireproof vaulted room in which to store the account books, monies and Archives of the Community. The Secretary General is mandated to keep, in perfect order, the registers appropriate to her duties. The Secretary of the Council is to have six registers in which to record the acts of deliberation, clothing ceremonies and profession, General Chapters, minutes, triennial reports, pastoral visits of bishops, death notices and regulations. (Translation)

In addition to documents dealing with finances, administration and missions, the documents concerning Mother Marie-Rose were meticulously organized by Mother Marie-Ludger, and then by Sister Louise-Émélie, general archivists, as part of the process of the Cause for beatification of Marie Rose Durocher.

Before the Archives Act of 1983 and the start of archival training programs in the early 1980s, there were no standards or scientific methods governing archival practice in Québec. However, because of SNJM rules and rigour, the collective memory of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary was preserved.

In addition to the bursars and secretaries, sisters who were archivists participated in managing the community’s documents. In fact, ever since training courses in archival science and document management began, there have been sisters who studied information science and handled the organization of documents produced and acquired in the course of the provinces’ activities. Many have performed these duties but we want to highlight the work of today’s archivists. 

* In Windsor, Sister Suzanne Malette, archivist, lovingly preserves the archives of the former religious province of Ontario.
Sister Mary Gorman and Sister Laura Gosselin ensure access to the Manitoba archives now preserved at the Centre du Patrimoine in St-Boniface.
Sister Françoise Lafortune, archivist, files Québec’s administrative documents.
* A team of women religious (Sister Sue Woodruff and Sister Carole Strawn) and laity (Sarah Cantor, Nick Jackson and Karen Kinzey) work at Holy Names Heritage Center, in Oregon, conserving, preserving and disseminating the archives of the former American provinces and the new U.S.-Ontario province.
* In the Central Archives Department in Longueuil, a team of sisters and laity manage the documents from the General Administration, the provincial administration, residences, educational institutions and works of the Quebec SNJM provinces, both past and present. They actively pursue the SNJM educational mission by making known the history, values and corporate stands of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Here is the list of sisters who have worked in archives department since 1975:

Sister Annette Brassard (1977-1981)
Sister Lucette Casavant (1996-2000)
Sister Myrielle Charest (1975-1981)
Sister Thérèse Cloutier (1988-2001)
Sister Simone Couillard, Archivist (1981-1990)
Sister Simone Damphousse (1999-2001)
Sister Claire Décary (1981-1982)
Sister Rolande Dionne (1982-1983)
Sister Marcienne Dugal (1981-1984)
Sister Rita Dutil (1981-1995)
Sister Rita Ethier (1981-1982)
Sister Marie-Paule Giasson (2002-2004)
Sister Alice Grenon (1978-1993)
Sister Yvette Hébert (1977)
Sister Yolande Henri (2005-2015)
Sister Rita Lachapelle (1977-1978)
Sister Yvonne Lamarche (1982-1984)
Sister Claire Laplante, Archivist (1977-2010)
Sister Gabrielle L’Heureux (1978-1984)
Sister Eileen McConomy (1991-1992)
Sister Marie Mongeau (1975-1976)
Sister Angéline Parenteau (1981-1982)
Sister Mariette Payment (2007-2013)
Sister Denise Pilon, Archivist (1982-2003)
Sister Andréa Poirier (1984-1986)
Sister Gabrielle Poirier (1992-2003)
Sister Candide Rodrigue (2003-2007)
Sister Aurore Tessier (1988-1991)


Sister Lucille Potvin, Archivist (1990- ) 
Yvonne Painchaud, Archivist (2001- )
Geneviève Noël, Archivist (2011- )
Yasmine Matar, Archivist (2017- )
Sister Irène Bonenfant (1992- )
Sister Gisèle Lizotte (2007- )
Sister Monique Thériault, Archivist (1973-1976, 2018- )