Judith Desmarais, SP – 60 Years

Judith Desmarais, SP

Sr. Judith’s ministry has been full of surprises.  From her life-long service to deaf people to her unexpected roles in leadership, Providence has guided her on a journey she never expected.

When she first entered, Sr. Judith wanted to teach and was able to do so for nine years at elementary schools in Vancouver and Seattle.  She found that preparing second graders for their First Communion strengthened her own love of the Eucharist.

She didn’t seek out her ministry as teacher and interpreter for the deaf. It began when the religious education volunteers who went weekly to the Washington School for the Deaf said they needed help.

“I just happened to be ‘that someone’ although I did not know sign language. At first, I learned fingerspelling, and the signs I needed for each class. Then I took some good sign language classes.” Sr. Judith explained.

The experience led to formal training in interpreting, years of working with the Archdioceses of Seattle and Portland in ministries for the deaf and disabled and interpreting at liturgical celebrations – something which she continues to do to this day.  She also connected with a group of deaf sisters while in Montreal serving in Congregational leadership.

“At one point, it occurred to me that the service to the deaf was the last official ministry sanctioned by Blessed Emilie Gamelin,” remarked Sr. Judith. (The ministry began in 1851 and led to the establishment of the Institute for Deaf Girls in Montreal in 1864.)

Sr. Judith also led marriage prep, interpreted for weddings and funerals, visited people who are deaf and homebound or incarcerated, guided religious education programs for deaf children and interpreted sessions at CYO camp.

The other big surprise in her life was her roles in leadership.  In the 1990s, she served as a provincial councilor in Sacred Heart Province, then in the late 1990’s became a general councilor for the international community. 

In 2009, she was elected councilor in the Mother Joseph Province only to find herself being named superior when Sr. Karin Dufault left to become general superior in 2012. Sr. Judith went on to serve a “term of her own,” ending her service in December 2019, right before the start of the Covid pandemic.

The journey through education, parish ministry and leadership during her 60 years as a Sister of Providence has impressed on Sr. Judith how dedicated to the mission and generous the Sisters are.

“A great benefit of serving on the General Leadership Team is developing an international view of Sisters of Providence.  You also develop connections with other religious congregations and organizations throughout the world,” said Sr. Judith.  “Because of travel and connections with other groups, your outlook becomes more international, intercultural, etc.  My fellow team members fit this description as well.

“Life has been good,” she said.  “Throughout all my roles people have been very supportive. All of my vocation has been such a great blessing.”