Castonguay, Sister Jeanne #255 *

Honoured by her friends.

Sister Jeanne Castonguay (1924-2011)
Leaf Number 255

Sister Jeanne was the second eldest of eight children born to Aldege and Alberta Castonguay. When she was 15 years of age, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie and began an amazing life which spanned the next 73 years. Originally she was an elementary school teacher here in Ontario and in Guatemala. She spent 10-12 years there as a missionary.

Returning to Ontario she became an outstanding advocate of marginalized people. Because she was fluent in three languages- English, French and Spanish- she was often called upon to help immigrants, especially those from Latin America, to get settled, find work, and learn the customs and laws in a strange, new country. She also worked with the working poor and those on welfare, as well as the sick and shut-ins. She was a member of the Elizabeth Fry Society and worked with women prisoners.

She received many plaques and certificates of appreciation from:
-The Development and Peace Organization
-The Inner City Home of Sudbury
-The Multicultural Society of Sudbury
-Induction into the Human Rights Hall of Fame in North Bay in 2003

After major heart surgery, Sister Jeanne remained in North Bay. Because she needed regular exercise she joined the “Living Fit” program. This group not only promotes physical exercise, it encourages mental and spiritual growth as well. This suited Sister Jeanne! It was here she met some members of the Christian Education Committee of Emmanuel United Church. She was invited to join and was an active, enthusiastic participant for many years, organizing many workshops. Jeanne also participated in an Outreach program, the West Ferris Community Brunch. It is run by five different churches for those who are lonely or in need. She was a wonderful “mingler” and extended hospitality to both the volunteers and the brunch folk. She always took time to listen and to offer words of affirmation and encouragement. A real ecumenical spirit developed, bringing unity and understanding to the different faith groups.

At the same time, Jeanne started the Ascending Life programs in two parishes in the city. This program is primarily a prayer and Scripture study, designed especially for Seniors. So, although deteriorating health limited her activities somewhat, she nevertheless continued to be involved with her beloved people.

There are some things Jeanne will always be remembered for. Every car trip started with her special prayer requesting a safe journey. Her storytelling was remarkable—stories of a lifetime of teaching, travel, meeting memorable people, adventures and humour. She often mentioned her favourite song was Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Love Changes Everything” which she played before going to bed. She loved to travel on the city buses and was greeted by everyone. She walked whenever possible and knew the city streets and its people well. In her pocket she always carried a few coins for the needy, but most importantly she gave a listening ear to people from all walks of life. She loved young people and often turned up with a small gift to offer encouragement and support.

Sister Jeanne lived her life with passion, dignity and caring. We miss her so much. A truly great woman!

Written by:
-Sister Mary Sheridan, archivist, Sisters of St. Joseph
-Emmanuel Christian Education Committee: Elizabeth Rice, Mary McLaren-Soutar, Brenda Cooper, Bonnie Inch, Gloria Cabaluna

Other Contributors were:
Elspeth Atkinson; Judith & Bill Ingwerson; Ralph Johnston; Tricia Mills; Nancy Cutsey; Donald Bain; Cheryl Atkinson; Joyce Boettger; Richard Thorne; Theresa Kelly; and Shirley Tayler