Sister Mary Carmel Rose Desjardins

Sister Mary Carmel Rose

Helena Desjardins
1907 - 1994
Sister Mary Carmel Rose Desjardins

Helena Josephine the daughter of Henry Desjardins and Josephine Miron of Trenton was born on August 26, 1907. Mr. and Mrs. Desjardins were very devoted Catholics and were frequently called upon to be godparents to converts to Catholicism. Mr. Desjardins made a good living for his family by operating Trenton Manufacturing Company which made wooden egg crates.

The youngest of eight children, Helena was surrounded with much love and attention. Her older sisters and brothers were always around to help her. She attended St. Peter’s School and graduated from the Trenton High School. Helena came from a very musical family; their musical skills were utilized evenings at family sing-songs, a time of fun and laughter. Helena manifested kindness, gentleness, compassion, cheerfulness, hospitality, fun, laughter and a genuine love of people that prevailed all her life.

Three members of the Desjardins family became religious. Minnie (Mary) entered the St. Joseph Sisters of Peterborough in 1919, but later transferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph of North Bay at the time of the foundation. Kathleen (Sister M. Carmel Theresa) entered the Sisters of Providence in 1921 and Helena entered the Sisters of Providence in 1924. Helena made her profession of vows on August 27, 1926, taking the name of Sister M. Carmel Rose.

Sister M. Carmel Rose obtained her licentiate in music from Dominion College, Ottawa. In addition to teaching piano and music in the schools, she was organist and choir director in Arnprior, Glen Nevis, Apple Hill, Kingston, Tweed, Trenton, Batawa, Perth, Gananoque, Chesterville and Belleville. It was an onerous life as the organist played and sang two daily requiem Masses and often rushed her breakfast to commence teaching piano. Sister was a most energetic, efficient worker, ready to tackle any task presented to her. In the early days of teaching music, it was necessary to write out the music for her students as music books were not provided and there was no particular curriculum to follow. She also did sacristy work and looked after altar boys on some of the missions where she taught music. As she had taken violin lessons, she also taught violin when she was in Tweed.

She loved her religious community and found great delight in sharing stories and jokes with her Sisters. She also enjoyed playing cards, particularly euchre, with the sisters. Her greatest friend was Sister Carmel Theresa, who took her younger sister under her wing and helped her as much as possible. They had a few memorable trips together and enjoyed visiting their parents at their beautiful Trenton home. When Sister Carmel Theresa was dying with cancer, Sister Carmel Rose stayed with her for many hours caring for her every need.

In 1988, Sister M. Carmel Rose was appointed sacristan at the Motherhouse. Although over 80 years of age, she accepted this appointment with great enthusiasm.

A fall on the sanctuary steps followed by a severe case of shingles proved most painful and disabling for her. Sister struggled to overcome these illnesses and was anxious to get back to the community and her work. She suffered a stroke in 1990. A period of rehabilitation at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital failed to restore mobility to her left side. As a wheelchair patient, she was enrolled in a special day care program at Providence Manor. During this time, she formed friendships with the nurses and patients who enjoyed having Sister with them. She was grateful for the variety that this program provided in her life. She was always ready to participate in any project taking place at the day care and showed her appreciation by giving gifts to the staff, when appropriate.

Following the removal of a tumor from her cheek, Sister had to have two skin grafts to loosen the skin around the right eye. Always a very independent person, she found the yoke of dependence on others a heavy one to bear.

Sister M. Carmel died on April 9, 1994, in the 70th year of her religious life. The funeral liturgy was celebrated by Monsignor T.J. Raby, accompanied by several priests, in the Chapel of Mary, Mother of Compassion on April 11. Her only surviving sister, Flavia, was not able to be present but many of her nieces and nephews from the Trenton area joined in the celebration of their beloved aunt’s life.

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