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Canadian nun pioneered Catholic family welfare in Bangladesh

Holy Cross Sister Pauline Nadeau, who has died at 92, was a guiding light for the Church's family life ministry

Stephan Uttom and Rock Rozario

Stephan Uttom and Rock Rozario

Published: September 02, 2021 05:07 AM GMT

Updated: September 07, 2021 05:03 PM GMT

Canadian nun pioneered Catholic family welfare in Bangladesh

Canadian Holy Cross Sister Pauline Nadeau, who served in Bangladesh from 1955 to 2009, meets late Bangladeshi Holy Cross Archbishop Moses M. Costa in Montreal, Canada, in this file photo. (Photo: Father Thomas Xavier Gomes, CSC)

Catholics have paid rich tributes to a Canadian missionary nun who worked in Bangladesh for decades in supporting the Church’s ministry for Catholics to have happy married and family lives.

Sister Pauline Nadeau died in the retirement home of the Holy Cross Congregation in Montreal, Canada, on Aug. 30. She was 92.

The nun was last month diagnosed with cancer, which spread all over her body, Montreal-based Bangladeshi Holy Cross Father Thomas Xavier Gomes told UCA News.

Pauline Nadeau was born on Oct. 20, 1928. Her parents raised six sons and two daughters. As she grew up, she decided to join religious life and professed her vows with the Canadian Province of Holy Cross Sisters.

She arrived in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1955. She was initially based in Diang, one of the country’s oldest Catholic settlements in Chittagong in the southeast. The nun paired up with Canadian Holy Cross missionary Brother Flavian Laplante and served coastal fishing communities. Brother Flavian is currently in the process of sainthood.

Sister Magdalene Biswas from Little Handmaids of the Church congregation, who knew and worked with her for more than 40 years, said she was extremely sad about the passing of her friend.

She was always on the path of truth and was a God-fearing and very self-confident evangelist

“Sister Pauline came to Bangladesh as a young and energetic nun and over the years she has made unparalleled contributions to the Church through her hard work, love and spirituality. She was always on the path of truth and was a God-fearing and very self-confident evangelist,” Sister Biswas, 83, told UCA News.

“I believe and pray that God will offer eternal rest to this great nun in heaven.”

Many Catholics expressed sadness on Facebook as they came to know about the nun's death.

“We are so grateful to God for sending Sister Pauline to Bangladesh. May she now enjoy her reward from her loving Master,” wrote Father Gabriel Corraya, vicar general of Dhaka Catholic Archdiocese.

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“Dear Sister, we won’t forget your lessons on how troubled families can live in communion and how couples can live in strong spiritual and earthly bonding despite challenges. You have been a selfless woman with great love in your heart for all. May you find happiness in heaven and bless all couples,” commented Ruby Rozario, a Catholic woman.

Since 1979, Sister Pauline had been involved in the Church’s family life ministry. She became a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Family Life Commission and in 1987 she was entrusted with the responsibility of starting a family counseling center in capital Dhaka.

The nun also opened a family welfare center, the first of its kind for the Church in Bangladesh, under the Family Life Commission. She started to offer training and counseling to Catholic couples seeking happiness and spiritual blessings in married life.

In 1989, Sister Pauline started sending Catholic couples to Bombay (Mumbai) and Calcutta (Kolkata) in India to allow them to participate in weekend programs of Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), the world’s largest faith-based marriage enrichment organization active in nearly 100 countries.

In 1991, she played a key role in organizing the first National Family Seminar in capital Dhaka that drew 150 Catholic couples from various parts of the country. Following years of deliberations, WWME Bangladesh officially started in 1995 with the selection of a couple and a priest as the first ecclesial team.

At the beginning she spent her own money and secured funds from abroad to send couples to various countries for training in the welfare of the family.

Since the founding of WWME in Bangladesh, regular weekend programs have been organized in various dioceses that touched the lives of hundreds of couples.

We know about her great deeds and we continue to follow her teachings

Due to poor health, Sister Pauline left Bangladesh and returned to Canada in 2009.

Catholic couple Robi Dores and Rubi Dores, current members of the WWME ecclesial team, hailed the nun.  

“We are unfortunate that we could not work with the great nun. We know about her great deeds and we continue to follow her teachings,” Robi Dores told UCA News.

In today’s world where families are breaking down every minute, people like Sister Pauline and effective programs like WWME weekends are absolutely essential to strengthen family bonding, Dores said.

Sister Raymonde Maisonneuve, superior general of Holy Cross Sisters (Canada), sent a eulogy to confreres to celebrate the great life of Sister Pauline.

Sister Pauline will be buried at the cemetery of the congregation in Montreal following a public display of her mortal remains for a limited number of visitors and a funeral Mass on Sept. 6. 

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