ASGM L082_14Y2 Maison mère, Réfectoire des dames âgées, Sœur Alice Boisseau, 1940.
Dining halls in the Mother House were located in different wings of the vast complex to provide meals efficiently for the Grey Nuns community. The refectories varied in size and customs of etiquette according to which population dined there.
In the building’s main refectory, the nuns followed a highly ritualized process. Sisters sat quietly at long rows of tables, their silence broken only by nuns reading aloud from scripture, a task that rotated weekly. If someone needed to rise from the table, the entire row stood – stepping over benches was frowned upon. The building’s orphans observed similar practice, all facing the same way while seated at converted picnic tables to discourage conversation. The pensioners’ refectory was more casual and decorative. Smaller tables and chairs fostered a café ambiance.
ASGM L082_9Y2 Maison mère, Sœur Antonia Larivière sonnant la cloche du règlement, s.d.
"At 4:20, Sister Cécile Castonguay rang the bell for the last time. The bell that signaled us to wake up first thing in the morning and to prayers throughout the day, along with the holy water basin from the community hall, was given to the Sainte-Anne Basilica in Varennes, where Saint Marguerite d’Youville was baptized on October 16, 1701."
Entry in the Chronicle of the Grey Nuns, June 2, 2009
ASGM L082_14Y9 Maison mère, Réfectoire, avant 1946.
“We ate in silence except when on holidays”
Sister Rejeanne Reid
The demands of busy university life called for a reimagining of the Grey Nuns refectories. Catering to hectic student schedules, the new dining hall offers a central space for residents to enjoy meals from early in the morning to late at night. A pantry and self-cook stations stand ready for residents to select and prepare food according to their tastes and dietary needs. And though the sight of pajama-wearing students sitting down to dinner clashes with the formal customs that the nuns once observed, a nod to the past remains in the chapel pews repurposed as benches around longer tables.