Tribute to Sister Claire Gagnon, visionary and instigator of the new vocation of the Augustinian monastery

Tribute to Sister Claire Gagnon, visionary and instigator of the new vocation of the monastery. re des Augustines


Sister Claire Gagnon has just died at the age of 96. They'll tell me it's normal, I know. Born in Saint-Urbain in 1927, she was the secretary of the local Caisse populaire in her village before beginning her religious life, which lasted more than 68 years.

When two-thirds of the village burned down in 1952, it was on his shoulders that the security of the accounts, the payments to be made and the various allowances rested. She is 26 years old and the village, or at least what's left of it, is counting on her. until his death.

Sister Claire Gagnon was responsible for the archives service of the community of the monastery of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec from 1967, one year after her entry into this service. This engraving shows a view of the Hôtel-Dieu in 1870.

Reviving the monastery

It was under his leadership that the Augustinian chapter began to document its heritage to find out what will happen to it. She was then the superior general and had a vision for the future of the order. It was in 1995; she was long before her time.

The Claire Gagnon room, A.M.J. was inaugurated on January 17, 2019 at the Archives Center of the Augustinian Monastery. Archivist of the community for nearly 50 years, Sister Claire Gagnon held various positions at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital and at the monastery, including the position of Superior General of the Federation of Augustinian Monasteries of the Mercy of Jesus, from 1990 to 2000. We see here Sister Claire Gagnon signing the visitors' book.

In 2000, my colleague, Robert Caron, and I accompanied Sister Claire Gagnon to a meeting with actuaries, a meeting that made a strong impression on me. These, without any qualms, said to the Augustinians: “My sisters, in 25 years, you will no longer exist. ” Sister Claire Gagnon then turned to my colleague and me and said: “Now, what do we do? 

Sister Claire Gagnon was the instigator of the colossal and avant-garde work of archiving the incredible quantity of documents under the aegis of the Augustines. For example, we see here a photograph of the sick in the courtyard of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, in 1865.

This is how the heritage inventories, feasibility studies and building surveys began. This work resulted in the largest classification of objects that the Ministry of Culture and Communications has ever produced. It is also the beginning of the Augustinian monastery project as we find it today.

It was decided to find a function in the monastery that would be linked to the mission of the Augustinians. They had always cared for Quebec – since New France! – and they decided to continue by taking care of the soul and the body.

Preserving future generations

Sister Claire Gagnon had a vision and she helped to carry it and develop it. She was a woman of great wisdom. 

At the monastery, they said of her that she did everything quietly, but efficiently.

When I think of her, I am also thinking of all those people who made Quebec, who built it, built it, they too quietly, but efficiently. It is to them and to them that we owe what we are.

For more than 375 years, the Augustinians have been the guardians of an unsuspected heritage, preserved in the archives and the museum reserve. The monastery is today a unique place of memory as well as an exceptional center of research to discover the history of the Augustinians and that of Quebec society: