Mass to honor sister’s 80th year of as Daughter of Wisdom

4 years ago

MADAWASKA, Maine –“Sister Aurelie has lived an extraordinary life in an ordinary way.”

The words of fellow Daughter of Wisdom, Sister Jacqueline Ayotte, succinctly describe a life that could fill volumes with stories of humility, generosity and kindness — a life that will be celebrated with a special Mass and gathering on Sunday, Feb. 2.

Sister Aurelie Michaud, D.W., will be honored on the occasion of her 80th anniversary of profession at a Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, located on 337 St. Thomas Street in Madawaska, at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2. 

At 99, Sister Aurelie is recognized as the Doyenne (senior member who is highly respected) of the American Province of the Daughters of Wisdom. She is also the oldest living person in St. Agatha, where she began discerning God’s call for her in 1940. At a friend’s urging, she entered the Daughters of Wisdom upon finishing high school.

 “A friend begged me, and so I started thinking about it, and with much prayer and her urging, I followed her,” said Sister Aurelie. “I didn’t think I would be worthy of that, which is why I never talked about it until she broached the subject. I’m a little bit shy. I was shy then, too, but I just got on the train with her. I never regretted the call. I was always happy wherever I went. Each place that I went, there were other sisters, and we lived community life, which was nice.”

Through her 80 years as a Daughter of Wisdom, Sister Aurelie has taught children with developmental disabilities, cared for victims of polio, those with AIDS, and has served the homeless, economically disadvantaged women and children, and aging sisters.

“I was glad to be useful,” she said.

After graduating high school, Sister Aurelie went to Ottawa, Canada, to begin her formation.  Although familiar with the Daughters because they had been her school teachers, she gained a greater understanding of the sisters’ charism.

Founded by Saint Louis de Montfort and Marie Louise Trichet in early 18th century France, the Daughters of Wisdom are called to bring the message of Jesus, Incarnate Wisdom, to people experiencing injustice, violence, poverty and oppression, especially women and children.

“They taught a lot about wisdom, not the wisdom we think of but the Wisdom of Jesus Incarnate,” she said.

In the 1940s, Sister Aurelie began her ministry, teaching children with developmental disabilities at Wharten Memorial Institute, now the Maryhaven Center of Hope in Port Jefferson, New York.

She said, however, that she always had a desire to be a nurse and was granted permission to pursue that. She attended nursing school, graduating in the early 1950s, and would work for 20 years at a residential orthopedic hospital in Port Jefferson, serving during the polio epidemic.

After retiring from the hospital in 1973, Sister Aurelie provided medical care to sisters in Sound Beach, New York, before returning to her hometown where she did parish work and served as a visiting nurse. It wouldn’t be long, however, before she was on the move again, traveling to Appalachia in West Virginia where she served in a children’s clinic.

“We did everything,” she said. “They were very poor people, but the people loved us there.”

Sister Aurelie then returned to New York, where she worked in a homeless shelter and with people suffering from HIV and AIDS.  Even though she was the only Daughter of Wisdom there, she said she never felt more spiritually connected to her religious call.

“I was the closest to the Daughters of Wisdom that I had ever been,” she said. “I just loved it there. There was something about it that was making me closer to God.”

In the 1990s, Sister Aurelie again assisted elderly sisters before returning to Maine to work at the Wisdom Center in Lewiston, which served economically disadvantaged women and children.

“They would just come in and say, oh, they want a cup of tea. And they would have problems and would tell us about it,” said Sister Aurelie.  “I was teaching them crocheting and knitting, and they loved to do that because they would make themselves a hat or mittens or something.”

Sister returned home to Saint Agatha in 2008 and said her ministry now is one of “praying and presence.” She currently resides at a local assisted-living facility where she leads the daily rosary and serves as lector at Masses.

“I just live my life by trying to be closer to God,” she said. “That’s about it.”

For more information about the celebration on Feb. 2, contact Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Parish at 207-728-7531.

Submitted by the Communications Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.