By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
The education of young girls was an essential and important part of the work undertaken by Marguerite Bourgeoys, founder of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal, and the first educator in the colony of New France in the 17th century.
It was on the request of Father Georges-Octave-Fidèle Chèvrefils, the parish priest of the Parish of Sainte-Anne that the Congregation accepted the direction of a new school in the village of Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue. Sister Sainte Marie-Hubert (Virginie Paré), the Superior of the convent in Saint-Athanase was given the task to supervise the foundation of the new school, assisted by sisters Sainte-Agalé ( Philomène-Agalé Sicotte), sister Saint-Clet (Marguerite Bourret) and sister Saint-Coeur-de-Marie (Marie-Anne Antoinette Cloutier). The sacristy, adjacent to the old church, which was used as a school since 1858, became their office and residence.
The school year started on the 6th of September, 1895 with ninety-seven young girls being enrolled. On February 22, 1900, the sisters moved into a new, larger school which had been built on the site of the old church. In November 1907, the commissioners decided to assume the debt of the convent and gave it to the Congregation of Notre Dame. The first eight resident students were welcomed in 1908, and the convent now had one-hundred and eighty-six enrolled students.
In October 1929, the Notre-Dame-de-la-Visitation Association of the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue convent was founded. In the early 1930’s, of the then two hundred and twenty one students registered at the school, thirty-five were residents. In 1935, the Congregation purchased a residence next door to the convent, and converted it into a school for English speaking students.
In January 1962, the Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue school board centralized its teaching at Saint-George school near Senneville, welcoming both male and female students from the region. The boarding school closed its doors and the convent became a residence for religious teachers and a rest home and vacation retreat for the sisters of the Congregation. Over the years the numbers of sisters staying in the residence declined sharply, and in 1975 the convent was sold to the city. The sisters moved into a triplex on Forbes Street, which was bought by the Congregation of Notre-Dame, while the convent was transformed into a community center and a residence for the elderly, operated by the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM) a non-profit organization formed in 2002.
The sisters continued to teach occasionally at the St-George school for some years, but in June 1991, the congregation sold the triplex, and after a presence of ninety six years, the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame left Saint-Anne-De-Bellevue.
The building is located at 171 Sainte-Anne Street in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue
Source: Archives Congrégation de Notre-Dame-Montreal