Sr. Cécile Dupuis, a Filles de Jesus, served as archdiocesan archivist for 20 years.


Sr. Cécile Dupuis, a Filles de Jesus, served as archdiocesan archivist for 20 years.

August 17, 2015

EDMONTON - The beloved archdiocesan archivist Sister Cécile Dupuis was a petite woman. Yet when someone needed research material, she would climb up and pull heavy boxes off the shelves with the energy and speed of a tornado.

"She just pulled in and out these boxes from those shelves like there was no tomorrow. It was amazing to watch; it was funny," recalled vice-chancellor Josée Marr.

"A little woman, very petite, and she would just grab these heavy boxes. I helped her too sometimes but often she'd be ahead of me in pulling these boxes out."

Marr assisted Dupuis in the archives for 11 years until Dupuis retired. The pair also shared the duties of sacristan in the chapel at the Catholic Pastoral Centre.

"She was the best archivist. I don't know how the archives worked before but I heard stories that basically she took everything in a somewhat chaotic state, and she set everything up in an orderly fashion," Marr said.

Dupuis died July 25 at age 96. She spent 77 years as member of the congregation Filles de Jésus and about 20 years as archivist.

When Archbishop Joseph MacNeil asked her to become archivist almost 35 years ago, Dupuis said "yes" but demanded some training in order to understand what the job entailed.

"Because she was a perfectionist, she didn't want to take a job she didn't know how to do," MacNeil recalled. "She went to the Provincial Archives to do her training and because she was very intelligent, she learned very fast."

When she was ready, Dupuis became the first full-time archivist of the Edmonton Archdiocese. "She did an incredible job," said MacNeil. "She loved the job and she was very committed to it."

Dupuis created the first indexes to the historic records of the archdiocese and compiled the first histories of the bishops, parishes, priests and women religious.


"Nearly every file prior to 1960 in the archives contains one of Sister Cécile's handwritten notes detailing its content," Marr observed. "While she may be gone, her legacy lives on in the archives."

Dupuis was pleasant to work with. "She was an inspiration," said Marr, describing her as faithful, clear-minded, smart and punctual. "When you work with a person like that you just feel you are on solid ground all the time."

Dupuis started serving in the archives when the chancery office was located next door to St. Joseph's Basilica.

She was gentle, efficient, intelligent and quiet, recalls MacNeil who, through his interactions with Dupuis, learned the two had studied together at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. They graduated at the same time in 1944, but never met at the university because Dupuis went home right after finishing her classes.

MacNeil and Marr visited Dupuis while she was dying. She was visibly weak and had lost her speech in her last days.

Nevertheless, MacNeil made the sister smile several times as he recounted her life stories while gently holding her hands. "We are all going to miss her," he said.