Sr. Anna Mary Alice Mathieu

Born::  Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, 07/01/1911
Postulancy::Regina, Saskatchewan, 10/1/1934
Novitiate:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 25/7/1934
1st Profession:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 26/7/1936
Final Vows::Regina, Saskatchewan, 27/7/1942
Died:: Winnipeg, Manitoba, 25/9/2014

Born in Moose Jaw on a cold January day in 1911, Alice grew up in a vivacious, religious, and musical French Canadian family in Willow Bunch, SK. She was the third child in a family of ten children – five biological sisters, one biological brother, plus one adopted sister and two adopted brothers. Alice loved her gregarious, faith-filled family in all its manifestations and generations, maintaining strong connections to the very end of her life. Her family in turn were very attentive to her.

It could be said that music framed Alice's life, shaped many of her commitments, and was a carrier of the grace that sustained and nourished her long life. For Alice, it was her love of music and her desire to do further studies in music that lead her to meet the RNDMs in Regina. As Alice told the story, it was while her Father was lighting the morning fire, using an old newspaper that he noticed that the RNDM Sisters were giving music lessons in Regina. By a circuitous route, Alice made her way to Regina, and in January of 1934 she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, at Sacred Heart College in Regina.

Alice served in many Canadian towns and cities over the course of her religious life. In the early years, she principally taught music and singing in schools and churches in Regina, Lebret SK, and Sioux Lookout ON. Alice had received her licentiate in pianoforte music (LTCL) from Trinity College, London in 1942, and her early years of apostolic involvement were thus enhanced by her professional background.

Alice was also interested in classroom teaching, so in 1968 (at age 57) she attended Teacher's College in Brandon MB, and received a permanent First Class teaching certificate. In 1969, she was transferred to Winnipeg, where she taught music and French at Morse Place school and then at St. Edward’s school, until she retired from classroom teaching in 1980.

Alice continued to give private music lessons at St. Edward’s convent, and to use her musical gifts in the service of choirs and liturgy committees at St. Edward’s church and convent, until the convent was closed in 2007. Alice then moved to an assisted living suite at Cathedral Manor in the spirit of taking on another missionary endeavour. She enjoyed living at the Manor, delighting in the companionship of other residents, and playing the piano for any occasion.

In 2009, after a series of falls, Alice moved to Actionmarguerite/Taché Personal Care Home, where she lived her last years in peace and joy.

Alice was proud to be a Sister of Our Lady of the Missions, and while she did not journey to ‘far-away-mission fields’, each place she lived became her place of mission. To be a missionary, for Alice, meant helping others to become all that they were called to be.

Throughout her life, Alice was a learner and a creator, particularly in the fields of music and the visual arts. In addition to piano and organ, she played the violin, guitar, recorder and mandolin. Her artistic endeavours saw her working in oil paints or watercolours. In her 80s, she took up woodcarving, and loved creating small wood sculptures. She also learned to swim after she retired from teaching, and enjoyed being in the water.

Alice took great pleasure in being able to share her artistic gifts with others and in helping others to discover and develop their talents. She was an encouraging teacher, capable of working diligently with anyone open to learning – and she had a talent for bringing to “full flourishing” all semblances of talent.

Alice had a good sense of humour, and laughed easily. She was also a great story-teller, delighting in telling tales of her home at Willow Bunch, her early missions as an RNDM, or any one of her daily adventures.

And ‘Alice loved Alice’ - in the very best sense. She had a healthy self-image, a concept confirmed frequently by the affirmations she received from others. Although short in stature, she had no problem in holding her own in any discussion with anyone. She was a ‘giant’ in so many endearing ways.

As she aged, Alice increasingly lived an “intentional life”. In her senior years, she made the simple and deliberate choice “to be grateful” and “to see the glass as half full”. She grew in age and wisdom and grace to the very end.

Alice had a gift for friendship, and joyously greeted everyone who came to see her – often accompanied by her face lighting up and her arms outstretched for a hug. Her love in her last years was like a strong, magnetic field as she welcomed us into her heart. It was as if Alice herself had become a fountain of love.

We are told that it takes a village to raise a child. In a similar sense, it takes a community to tell the story of such a long, fruitful life as Alice lived – for 103 years and 8 1/2 months. As we marked her passing, we told many stories of Alice. Such remembering and such telling was a way of honouring Alice, and also a way of drawing strength and inspiration for ourselves as we continue our own journeys enlivened by her life and her faith.

In an undated note, reflecting on her life story and how she would like to be remembered, Alice wrote: "I would like to be remembered by all the talents God gave me and my love of sharing them with others."

We will so remember. In the days/years ahead, we will continue to tell and re-tell these stories of Alice “in memory of her”.

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