June 16, 2016
On Friday, June 10th, more than 40 people gathered to bid a fond farewell to Sister Jeannine Bissonnette, sscj, and Sister Georgette Thibault, sscj, as they pack up their things to move to the mother house in Ottawa.
Sister Jeannine and Sister Georgette, both members of the Sisters of the Sacred-Heart, spent many years overseeing Shalom House, our diocesan retreat centre. During their 30+ years at Shalom, they welcomed more than 84,000 people, including youth, couples preparing for marriage, parish priests, various Catholic organizations as well as ecumenical groups. In addition, Sr. Jeannine led a number of faith studies and was spiritual director for many.
On June 29, 2010, Sister Jeannine and Sister Georgette, along with Sister Kathryn Cameron, c.s.c, were awarded the Holy Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice medal by Pope Benedict XVI. The awards were presented to them during a special mass to close the Year of St. Paul, on June 29th at St. Finnan’s Cathedral in Alexandria by His Excellency, Bishop Paul-André Durocher.
Sister Jeannine was born and raised in the Glen Walter area. She entered the order of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and took her vows on July 24, 1957. Following her formation, she taught at Iona Academy and subsequently was principal of St. Bernard’s elementary school.
During the mid-seventies, Bishop Larocque, decided to establish a diocesan retreat house. He invited Sr. Jeannine to undertake this project. She along with Sr. Georgette Thibault and Father Donald Scott oversaw the organizing and furnishing of the original Shalom House in St. Raphael’s. Sr. Jeannine acted as associate director of Shalom House from 1975, when it first opened its doors, to 1988 . In 1988 she took over as director, a position she held until her retirement in 2007.
Sr. Georgette Thibault was born and raised in the Cornwall area. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and took her vows on July 26, 1951. Following her formation, Sr. Georgette devoted herself to her community, working as a seamstress and cook.
For more than 30 years, Sr. Georgette worked in partnership with Sr. Jeannine in the running of Shalom House. While Sr. Jeannine oversaw the administration of Shalom, Sr. Georgette provided support by looking after the kitchen and maintenance for the house.
In addition to her work with Shalom House, Sr. Georgette was involved in the life of St. Raphael’s parish as a member of the choir and helping with the church decor. It was Sister Georgette who made most of the banners that are still used in the parish.