Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 26, 2007
God called and Margot followed him
God's love led her to abandon carefree life to bring the Gospel into secular world
By LASHA MORNINGSTAR
"And then Christmas came. And he gave me the ring. I was shocked."
Recalling the emotion-charged event that happened so many decades ago, Bilodeau, a member of the secular institute of the Oblates Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, slipped back to that pivotal moment on Christmas Eve.
"As soon as the choir sang the opening words to the Mass" - and she shuts her eyes and hums the notes, "I said something that I did not expect. 'If you want me Lord, it's okay.' So then I was at peace for the rest of the Mass. And I was sitting beside Tim and I was wearing his ring."
Again, she decided not to say anything.
"I thought, 'If these are my last Christmas holidays here. I want to enjoy it,'" recalls Bilodeau.
After Jan. 6 (Epiphany), Bilodeau told Tim.
His reply? "If there was another guy I would fight. But I won't fight the Lord."
A smile softens Bilodeau's face as she says, "That helped me a lot because then I felt free."
Tim told her to keep the ring.
"We were taught by our founder to live in the present moment - not to worry about the future."
"And so I have kept it because it is always a reminder of my commitment to the Lord."
It is not surprising that this woman would hear God's call for she was suffused in her faith as a child.
Born in Sherbrooke, Bilodeau was the oldest of six. Louisa, her mother, would ask little Margot to share, or do this or that. If her daughter balked and said no, Louisa knew she would just say to her "Make a sacrifice to Jesus" and she would do it.
"I did not realize it at the time, but that was preparing me for my life," says Bilodeau.
Sunday meant Mass and, come evening, Margot and her father Rosario would go to Vespers.
"He was a great coach," says Bilodeau. "He was not preaching at me to pray. But he was taking me to pray with him."
God was omnipresent in the Bilodeau home.
"Everyday, he (Rosario) and my mother would thank God for something good that had happened," recalls Bilodeau. "So God was part and parcel of our everyday life. So we had been prepared."
Church was just across the street and the Sisters of Providence taught the Bilodeau children.
Graduation time came and Bilodeau found she was too young to be accepted at university to study law. So she took a commercial course so she could be a secretary in a lawyer's office until she was old enough for university.
"But the violence, the tragedy," says Bilodeau. "I don't want to carry home heavy situations like that all the time and get a headache. I would rather go for a nine-to-five job as a business secretary."
Then God called.
"My grandmother could not read but she had a great devotion to the Holy Spirit and she passed it on to us."
When she told her parents about her decision to join the Oblates she was surprised they were not surprised.
"But my mother, although she encouraged me, was crying. And my father said, 'Let her go. And if it is not her place, then she will come back. If she was getting married, there is no novitiate in marriage and then you might be more worried.'"
Bilodeau revelled in learning about God and the Scriptures with her Oblate teachers.
"I found that very fulfilling."
But one Saturday night as she was walking home to her place to go to bed she saw all the young couples on their way to go dancing.
This 18-year-old girl loved dancing.
"And I thought to myself 'Oh they are going dancing at 10 o'clock at night and here I am going to bed.' I felt so terrible. 'What am I doing here? This is crazy.'
"If I could have gone back that night I would have. That was a big temptation."
But when she woke the next morning, "I had forgotten about it."
As her studies progressed, the Oblates taught her, "Because you are in the world you are taught how to reach out to people, how to listen, how to share our faith, how to pray, how to meditate, know the faith documents of the Church so we can respond to the people's questions."
The Oblates take the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience and Bilodeau renews her vows each year.
Her path, since taking her final vows, has been adventurous.
She first worked at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape at Cap-de-la-Madeleine where she was secretary of the director of pilgrimages.
Her next posting was to the Vatican department for religious and secular institutes.
Bilodeau's face comes alive as she remembers some of the joys of her time in Rome.
"To be at the heart of Catholicism and see people of all colours from all over the world at Mass . . . but then we would always say the Our Father in Latin. Wow!"
After three years, Bilodeau journeyed to Edmonton to study pastoral counselling at Newman College.
One day, a request came asking her to fill in for Archbishop Anthony Jordan's ailing secretary.
"I said I could stay for a few months until she becomes better."
That few months lasted 33 years.
A desire to be able to direct people to the right place and give them the answers they needed meant Bilodeau always made space in her busy life to study. And when the new Code of Canon Law came out in 1983, she started a four-year course in canon law.
"I took summer courses in Montreal from professors from Strasbourg, France, and the rest by correspondence - and never lost a day of work," recounts Bilodeau who has her licence in canon law.
How could she do all that she did as executive secretary, co-chancellor and canon lawyer - and she was also meeting young people for vocational counselling in her "spare time" - and still remain her calm, welcoming self?
Her reply is swift. "We were taught by our founder to live in the present moment - not to worry about the future. I just do one thing at a time and devote myself completely to it. That is the way I can do all that I do."
But what about the hard times - the times when Bilodeau faces those troubled, angry, grieving calls or meetings. How does she respond?
"I pray. I pray to the Holy Spirit and I know he is there because I know I could not possibly come up with the answers or words that I do."
Often, all she has to do is listen, say the occasional word and tell them she would pray to God to help them. And just by being able to talk and be heard in the presence of a caring person who has dedicated her life to God is enough.
"The Holy Spirit is always there when I pray," says Bilodeau. "My grandmother could not read but she had a great devotion to the Holy Spirit and she passed it on to us."
Bilodeau worked with three archbishops, but finally her desire to work full time with young people on their discernment paths prompted her to leave.
Now she may have a bit more time to walk or cross-country ski, read books on spirituality and social justice, listen to Brahms or opera (Rosario sang opera), dine on her favourite lasagna.
But don't count on it. Discernment requests are filling in her daybook.
"People are searching all the time and even though they don't know who you are, they seem to gravitate to you," she says with a light in her eye and delighted smile.
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