Sr. Agnes Blaquière

Sr. M. Agnes

Born::  Boston, Massachusetts, 26/6/1909
Postulancy::Regina, Saskatchewan, 1/1/1928
Novitiate:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 26/7/1928
1st Profession:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 26/7/1930
Final Vows::Thanh Hoa, Vietnam, 8/9/1936
Died:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 12/7/2013

The only child of her parents, Agnes (Blanchard) and Domitien Blaquière, Sister Mary Agnes was born when they were on holiday in the United States.  Their home was in Canada on a small farm near Rustico, Prince Edward Island. Temporarily leaving his family, in search of work in Western Canada in 1919, Mr. Blaquiere became ill and died in Biggar, Sask.  An uncle for whom Sister had very fond memories came to live with them and run the farm. Alma went to school in Rustico and then in Charlottetown, completing matriculation at the Prince of Wales College and her Higher Local in Music from Trinity College, England.

From an early age Alma felt called to be a Carmelite and yet she wanted to be a missionary.  When the time came to make the decision she thought she could not live a completely cloistered life and then, she wrote later, she heard “from her parish priest Msgr. Chiasson, about the Congregation of Notre Dame des Missions which was then semi-cloistered and had convents in Indo-China” and her decision was made. About that time Sister’s mother married a Mr. Gallant and Alma, who had been concerned about leaving her mother alone, felt free to follow her vocation.  Accordingly, she came West and began her postulancy.

Immediately after First Profession, accompanied by Mother Marie Imelda, Sister Agnes set out for Vietnam – then known as French Indo-China.  For the next forty-five years Sister taught music and looked after the little ones who came to the Sisters for education and sometimes for protection.  Her first mission was to Than Hoa where she worked for eleven years.  Then she was a founding member of the community in Langson, very close to China.  Sister was fond of telling us that she had “seen into China” but it seems she never actually entered “the gate”.

Hanoi Samson and Cape St. Jacques in Hanoi province were her  missions for the next twelve years, but North Vietnam was under siege by the Japanese and several big convents had to be closed as the Sisters moved south for greater safety.  Hue, Saigon, Dalat, and, finally Natrang Saigon were all scenes of Sister’s apostolate in South Vietnam, often in situations of danger and stress.  Finally, in 1975, when American troops were being withdrawn and the whole South coming under Communist rule, Sister was told that she must leave the country.  We in Canada have a vivid recollection of going to answer the doorbell of our Provincial House in Winnipeg and finding a petite nun in a grey habit announcing that she was back home!

Once settled in, Sister Agnes gave piano lessons, first in Regina, Saskatchewan  and then in Fort Frances, Ontario.  Parents of Sister’s students as well as her fellow music teachers have commented on Sister as a piano teacher.  She was always very well-prepared and meticulous in monitoring her students’ playing but never with a sharp word or an unkind comment.  Her calm, gentle manner enabled her to draw out the best, even from children who might have been difficult to handle.  She would seek help from other teachers in selecting repertoire appropriate to her students’ age and ability, especially with 19th and 20th century music with which she was not familiar.  Her love for music extended to many different styles, including Chinese music.  Sister was eager to learn more herself as well – wanting to hear from other teachers who attended workshops or classes.

Finally, when the convent in Fort Frances was closed, Sister retired to the Sisters’ Residence at Santa Maria Home in Regina.  Here she continued to accompany chapel services on the organ and to visit the patients.  After a serious fall she herself was obliged to go into nursing care where she was beloved by both caregivers and fellow-patients.  Sister retained her prayer life, was eager to attend services in chapel, and loved visits from the Sisters.  Even with memory loss she retained her sense of humour and gratitude to all visitors, especially former music students or their parents.

Sister Agnes’s one complaint was that she didn’t “know how to die”.  Finally, at the age of 104, she has been taken to her true Home and must be enjoying the company of her dear “Mama” and “Papa” as well as her favourite Uncle.

The Sisters of the Canadian province have been very moved by the responses of the Vietnamese community throughout the world as word of Sister Agnes's death spread.  As one Sister wrote from Vietnam: "Physically, she is no longer with us, but her spirit, her footsteps, and memories live forever with us, with the history of RNDMs in Vietnam."  

Funeral services were held in the Santa Maria Chapel on July 16 with Msgr. Kenneth Miller (brother of our Sister Joan) presiding and many Sisters and friends in attendance. Among those friends were many members of the Vietnamese community of Regina, including the president of the Regina Vietnamese Association.  

May Sister Agnes rest in peace.

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