Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 22, 2003
A Secretary without equal
Margot Bilodeau has spent 30 years serving Edmonton's archbishops
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"She is an extraordinary person."
Former chancellor Father Mike McCaffery noted that "people always get a warm welcome" when they phone the chancery office and get to talk to Bilodeau.
"I worked with her for many years and I never saw her mad," he said. Sometimes people call to protest, to insult or to denounce but Bilodeau never loses her cool, treating people with respect, courtesy and hospitality. "She follows a pastoral principle that when people throw rocks at you, you don't throw them back."
Apart from serving in the chancery office, Bilodeau also makes time to visit the sick and the dying and to help the diocese find new vocations for the priesthood and religious life, McCaffery noted. "She epitomizes the true Christian spirit. She is a great witness to our faith."
In an interview, Bilodeau said she has stayed for 30 years because "I felt that this is where the Lord wanted me to be." She sees her duties as an extension of her job as a missionary.
A native of Sherbrooke, Que., Bilodeau has been a member of her secular institute for close to 50 years. Institute members make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, but otherwise remain in the world, living as single lay people and each continuing their trade or profession.
Bilodeau became a lay Oblate in 1955 at age 18 after working as a secretary in a lawyer's office in Sherbrooke. Before coming to Edmonton in 1969, she worked for a time in Rome as a secretary for the Congregation for Religious. Originally she wanted to work as a bar server in order to reach out to bar patrons who might need spiritual assistance. But as she put it, the Lord had different plans.
Bilodeau joined the Edmonton Archdiocese in 1973 and served under Archbishop Anthony Jordan for two months filling in for a secretary who was ill. When MacNeil succeeded Jordan, he appointed her permanently.
Since then Bilodeau has been doing "a bit of everything," from answering calls to the archbishop and writing letters to making appointments and helping organize events. The archbishop's office gets an average of 50 calls a day, most of which require action. When Bilodeau can't find a solution, she refers the callers to someone who can.
Sometimes Bilodeau can be found working in her office until 7 p.m. or even later. "I like to finish what I start," she said. "I want to start the next day with a clean slate. My father taught me not to leave for tomorrow what I can do today."
Her dedication and competence has often led to additional responsibilities. In 1977 Bilodeau was appointed vice-chancellor and served in that position until 1998, when she became co-chancellor. This means she shares the duties of running the chancery office with chancellor Father Greg Bittman.
Since the early 1970s she has been involved in promoting religious vocations. She is also a vocations counsellor with her secular institute. In the midst of it all, Bilodeau still found time to get her licentiate in canon law, which she completed over the years through correspondence.
She also finds time for prayer, which she does in the course of her duties or while taking her usual lunch hour walk on the pastoral centre grounds. "Our spirituality calls us to be spiritual all the time, even when we are waiting for our turn at the photocopier."
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