Sœur Denise Lefebvre

Sœur Denise Lefebvre

1990 Social Social

After a great deal of soul searching, Marie-Denise Lefebvre donned the holy habit of the daughters of Mother d’Youville on February 5, 1927 and took her vows two years later.

Her first official order was to complete a nursing course at St. Boniface Hospital’s school in Manitoba, run by the Grey Nuns, where later she would head up a pediatrics department.

In 1936, Sister Lefebvre was recruited to study in the United States to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She would return to Montréal from 1938 to 1942 to teach at the Institut Marguerite-d'Youville, founded in 1934 by Mother Virginie Allaire, assistant general of the congregation. After obtaining a master’s degree in nursing education at the Catholic University in Washington D.C., Sister Lefebvre returned to the institute to teach and would be named its director in 1947.

In the years that would follow, Sister Lefebvre became very active on various committees and associations, including the Conférence des écoles catholiques d'infirmières and the World Health Organization, and would become exceptionally skilled in nursing. In 1955, she became the first Canadian nurse to obtain a doctorate, following the approval of her thesis on evaluation techniques in nursing schools by Université de Montréal. Her work and studies would allow her to institute major advances in the training programs offered by the Institut Marguerite-d'Youville.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the number of students and programs was growing steadily, which meant that the institute would have to expand and move closer to the university campus. In spite of unfavourable social and financial circumstances, a large building was erected on Côte-Sainte-Catherine Rd., and the institute moved in 1963.

Beginning in 1964, Sister Lefebvre started to seriously evaluate the possibility of integrating the institute to the recently created Faculty of Nursing at the Université de Montréal; for the congregation this integration would involve the sale of the building that housed the institute. The integration was completed on June 1, 1967, marking the end of the existence of the Institut Marguerite-d'Youville. Sister Lefebvre, then 60, would stay with the Faculty of Nursing as director general of education programs.

The year 1967 also marked her election as assistant general of the Grey Nuns of Montréal, and in July 1973 she would be appointed superior of the congregation. Sister Lefebvre would leave the general administration at the age of 74 to devote her time to the canonization of Mother d'Youville. She passed away on June 3, 1993 at the age of 86.

Excerpt from the Notice biographique de sœur Denise Lefebvre 1907-1993, by Sister Jeannette Forest, s.g.m.

Photo Credit : Archives des Sœurs Grises de Montréal