Denise Bergeron, CND,
Graduate, 1944
Photos: Josée Sarrazin


Diplôme supérieur, 1944

Have you recently passed by this imposing residence with very classic lines and a welcoming gate situated at the corner of Sherbrooke and Atwater? Next time you do, take a moment to salute a centennial building.

I was barely fifteen years old when, shortly after arriving from the remote countryside, I began my first of four years as a student at École Normale Supérieure. The long cor­ri­dors, the silence, the reserve of the teachers, the large number of students, all created an imposing setting.

Within a short period of time, the schedule, the classes and the daily routine all came together harmoniously. Large classrooms spread out over two floors – the upper floor was reserved for the last two years of studies – an im­mense study room with individual study desks secured to the floor created a serious learning environment. After an unexpected back-to-school retreat, a full schedule of clas­ses occupied the entire day. Free time was completely organized and very efficient since all the students were boarders. During the week, each class would go for a walk after lunch. The long line of students walked calmly two-​by-two on the neighbouring landscape. We preferred the north-west corner of Sherbrooke Street that we called the “little English village.”


Schedule, École Normale [enlarge]


Corridor - Sherbrooke Street


Study Room - Sherbrooke Street

The approach of winter meant planning time spent in the house. Our teachers organized en­ter­tainment that involved the students performing one of the great classics on stage. It was prodigious: a challenge that Mother Sainte-Agnès liked to take up. The preparation, or­gan­i­za­tion and execution of such a plan in addition to the regular daily routine consumed all the hours and weeks without anyone noticing. This very large house had an orderly hum similar to that of an industrious beehive. The vast majority of this family consisted of students who, one year, totalled one hundred and forty-four, in addition to the teachers and other religious who took care of us.

I can still remember certain persons and they bring a smile to my face. One taught us English in the advanced course. Her white hair made her venerable in our eyes as did her very slow mobility – our class president would meet her at the end of the corridor to carry her book bag. She would greet us with cheery “Good morning young ladies.”

The other was our French teacher also in the advanced class. She would come into class carrying our papers which contained the secrets of her corrections. When, worn out after having finally finished the last dissertation, we would groan at the threat of a new assignment, she would respond: “You find your way by pursuing your path!” Today, after all these years and the many times I have had to start over, I still refer to it with complete confidence.


Denise Bergeron



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