|Mrs. Rosario Côté
25 years ago, on Saturday (Our Lady's day), January 15, 1977, Mrs. Rosario Coté, mother of our Directress General, Mrs. Gilberte Coté-Mercier, finally left her bed of suffering to fly to the beauties of Heaven which she had so ardently desired. This anniversary gives us the opportunity to remind our readers of the history of the beginning of our Work, with all the sacrifices it implied.
Mrs. Rosario Côté had hoped to die on a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary. January 15 is the anniversary day of the first Apparition of “the Virgin of the Poor” at Banneux, Belgium, in 1933. Our Lady chose well; this was the date that suited her best, since she did so much for the poor.
At 10:20 in the morning, while her daughter was reciting the prayer for those in their death agony, just before “After the sick has expired,” she exhaled her last breath. Mrs. Coté was 94 years and 9 months old. She had been in great suffering for the last 20 months, in spite of the good care given her, night and day, by her daughter and son-in-law. Since August of 1976, the good nurse Léola Albert and the devoted Mrs. Aurore Ménard would replace one another at her bedside.
Mrs. Coté was a tertiary of Saint Francis of Assisi and a disciple of Father Henri Saey. Through them, she learned the value of poverty. Never in her whole life did she hire a servant, never did she buy a car for herself, never did she ever go on a vacation trip. Her joy was to give and to give. To always give, and never keep anything for herself. She was a great donor to the missions. The Franciscan Fathers, the late Father Paul-Edouard Dulude, Oblate in Africa, the Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, and many others were beneficiaries of her generosity. She contributed to the education of priests. And there were those who were financially in a bind who happened to pass her way. She always had a generous sum to pass to them secretly on condition that they tell no one about it.
However, she never put her charity so much into practice as when her daughter, Mrs. Gilberte-Coté Mercier, became acquainted with the Work of Louis Even.
Vers Demain (the French version of “Michael”) came into being thanks to the genius and total dedication of Louis Even and of his collaborator, Gilberte Coté. But also thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Rosario Coté who supplied the money and office space in her own home, first of all on St. Joseph's Blvd., then on Chabot Street, in Montreal. She provided free office space for the Vers Demain headquarters for 25 years, and she paid all of its expenses.
She could have rested and simply watched the Work grow and expand, but it was her desire to take part in it by undertaking the most menial tasks: to cook for Louis Even, for her daughter, for her son-in-law and the Full-timers, sewing the clothes for the Full-timers, washing the floors in secret on Saturdays when everyone was out, doing the laundry, the ironing, the sweeping, and even helping with the office work.
Her greatest sacrifice to make was that of her daughter, who had to leave every now and then as part of her work. Each leave-taking was suffering to the mother. And then, the many battles fought by the Work of Vers Demain brought on many persecutions against the brilliant Directress: calumnies of all kinds, attacks on her reputation, articles full of hate in the newspapers, denunciations even from the church pulpit. This all constituted for the heroic mother a true martyrdom in her heart. However, like all great works, Vers Demain was to be born in suffering. Mrs. Coté readily took on her share of it.
Mrs. Coté wished to be buried dressed as a tertiary of Saint Francis. She had herself prepared, in a box, the serge habit, the black veil, the cord cincture, the cross with a black cord to be put around the neck, and the large seven-decade Rosary fitted at the waist. Everything except the Rosary had been awaiting for 30 years the great day of departure. She had also added her gold medal of Social Credit and her white beret.
She was buried according to her wishes and, of course, without make-up. She had the appearance of a holy nun in her tomb. Her mortal remains were exposed in the hall of the House of Saint Michael in piety, simplicity, and in beauty. One single bouquet of roses decorated her tomb. The beautiful statue of her dear Saint Francis, which was in her room, was placed near her body. He seemed to welcome a beloved daughter. The nativity crib, an invention of Saint Francis himself, served as décor. Vigil lights gave an added note of piety.
The parents, the friends, the Pilgrims of Saint Michael came in large numbers before the casket of their beloved grandmother during the three days that her body was exposed. Each would ask her a favor which we felt seemed to be granted. The Rosary was recited every hour, adorned by beautiful hymns.
The House of the Immaculate was built in 1975. However, Mrs. Coté had never been able to go and see it. She entered only when she died. She loved this house. She would say that parents from the whole world would be sending their children there. One day, she said to her daughter: “It was your father's money that drove the first nail in the House of the Immaculate.”
As she had requested, her funeral service was celebrated in the chapel of the House of the Immaculate, a privilege which was granted to us by our Bishop. This service was held on Wednesday, January 19, 1977. The service was celebrated in Latin by the parish priest, with deacon and sub-deacon, facing the altar, with Gregorian chant and all the ceremonies of the last prayer.
She will henceforth be alongside her husband Rosario, who was a Christian who clung to his principles and his duty, and her son, Rosaire, a great Social Crediter and apostle of Social Credit, and alongside our great founder, Louis Even, to whom she was a very humble and most generous collaborator. She will be with the multitude of her relatives and Pilgrims of Saint Michael who preceded her to Heaven, and who are most certainly engaged in this ultimate battle against the forces of evil. Undoubtedly, she will set herself to work to fight the shameless immodesty, characteristic of our times, and which was the object of her great suffering.
|From left to right: Mrs. Rosario Côté, Gilberte Côté-Mercier, Louis Even, J. Ernest Grégoire (former mayor of Quebec City), at our Congress in Asbestos, Que., in 1949.|
My mother was with us at the foundation of the Movement. She always helped us, Louis Even and myself.
Louis Even founded his Work in 1935. He was working then at Garden Vale, Ste-Anne de Bellevue, near Montreal. In 1936, Louis Even published the first “Cahiers du Crédit Social” (Brochures on Social Credit). In December of 1936, Mrs. Berthe Louard, a Belgian lady living in Montreal, introduced me to Social Credit. I was living in Montreal at 1657 East St. Joseph's Blvd., with my mother and my brother, Rosaire. My father had died in 1932 at the age of 51.
On February 28, 1937, my mother and I attended, for the first time, a lecture given by Louis Even at the large parish hall of Hochelaga in which more than one-thousand people attended. Rev. Father Archange, a Franciscan, had also been scheduled to speak. After the lecture, I went with my mother to greet Mr. Even, and we asked him to come to our house to explain Social Credit to our friends. The following 17th and 24th of March, Louis Even gave lectures to 75 persons, each time in my mother's large parlour at 1657 East St. Joseph's Blvd. We did not invite the same people both times, which means that 150 people among our friends heard Louis Even speak in March of 1937. Among them were Jesuit Fathers, Franciscans, friends of my mother, and lawyers and doctors of our circle of friendships.
Louis Even came thus to my mother's house for the first time in the year 1937. It was a great honour for us. From that time onward, our house became his refuge, his place for shelter in Montreal, his family then living in Vaudreuil, and then in St-Hyacinthe.
In July of 1938, my mother and I were going to Chicoutimi to meet a young man who was willing to give all of his time to the apostolate. To facilitate his work, my mother bought a new automobile. The both of us, my mother and myself, left the area, leaving the young man to his own initiative. However, the experience was not a happy one, and Louis Even soon took the place of the young man.
On August 15, 1938, Louis Even left his job at Garden City Press where he had worked as a printer, foreman, and professor. Louis Even, at 53 years of age, dedicated himself to work full-time for the Social Credit cause. He was ready to be on the road 365 days a year without any financial security whatsoever.
The Great Depression had been raging since 1929. Those who earned a salary would not have dared to think of leaving their jobs. However, Louis Even committed this “folly”, having absolutely nothing to depend on to see to the maintenance of his wife and four children. He would sell membership cards to belong to the Social Credit League at $1.00 per year. However, he did not sell many. My mother would advance him cheques the first few months. The address for the office of the "Cahiers" became 1657 East St. Joseph's Blvd., Montreal, in my mother's house.
On January 2, 1939, I, in my turn, set out to promote Social Credit full-time. My mother took care of the office, answered the telephone, etc. She remained alone at home, my brother having been married on July 2, 1938. And my brother, for his part, would leave his wife to drive us, Louis Even and myself, in the neighbouring countryside around Montreal during the winter of 1939.
In August of 1939, my mother rented a summer cottage (see picture) at L'Annonciation, in Labelle County, north of Montreal, where we would take refuge by her side, evenings, after holding meetings in the countryside in the nearby parishes. My mother would sleep on the floor.
Louis Even would do his correspondence during the day. I myself would prepare two meetings at different places for each evening: Mr. Even would hold one, and myself, the other.
One evening, we held our meeting in Labelle, on the porch of a house. Stones had been hurled at us, and someone had taken the air out of the tires of our automobile. Things were not going well, as you have noticed.
The next day, while I was visiting homes in the countryside, and my mother was keeping the house, she received the visit of a man from Labelle who wished to see us. He said that he was grieved because of the persecutions launched against us the night before, and that he himself was confident that Social Credit was a good thing. This man will never know how much he was delegated by Providence on that day to console my mother who had so much to suffer from the insults heaped upon her family. One was not to believe that after undertaking the fight against the worldwide banking dictatorship, as Louis Even was doing, that this act of audacity would meet the approval of all! It was not even given approval by those who should have understood this apostolate for social justice.
My mother was the one who suffered all of the blows. It was to her that people would say that her girl was a fool, a streetwalker, etc. etc. She would defend me as best as she was able, and she would cry in secret. However, she had confidence in the Work of Louis Even, in spite of all of what her former friends would say, even those for whom she had been a great benefactress.
We were there in this rented house when we learned that war had been declared in August of 1939. People were saying: “You will no longer be able to go visit the homes, nor hold meetings. War censorship will stop you!” But Louis Even reacted promptly, and said: “Very well! We are going to found a regular journal to continue the fight, a journal which will replace the Social Credit brochures.” We therefore returned to the house on St. Joseph's Blvd. in Montreal where the foundation of Vers Demain took place.
In 1941, we followed my mother to another house located at 4885 Chabot, Montreal. Right up until 1963, for 25 years, my mother lodged the offices of the “Vers Demain” Journal free of charge, the offices and the personnel. She also paid the telephone bills, the electricity, and many other things.
We had such a great need of her help. Without my mother, we would have been unable to manage financially. For the office, mother would do the housekeeping, wash the floors, prepare meals for her daughter, Louis Even, for her son-in-law, Gérard Mercier, and for the Full-times who were passing through. Every weekend, she would answer the door and the telephone. She received the bad news as well as the good news. She would always worry when we left on mission. From the window, she would look at us come and go. She was always awaiting our return. She was fearful that our enemies would do us harm. She prayed, prayed, and prayed in such a way that Saint Michael kept us unharmed in spite of the trials.
Twice, when my mother was alone keeping the house, she received the visit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who searched every nook and cranny of the house. The first time, it was on St. Joseph's Blvd. They had a suspicion that we were Communists. In those days, in 1939, the Social Crediters were the only ones called Communists in Quebec. Today, everyone knows that the Social Crediters are the only ones who are not Communists. You can see now that forty years of work can produce certain results!
Louis Even, my brother, and myself returned home one night after a long tour of meetings. My mother's house had been turned topsy-turvy. My mother calmly explained what had happened. The police had searched everywhere in the closets and drawers to find some Communists. And they had not found any.
The second time, we were suspected of printing money. Seeing that we knew very well how banks create money, we the Social Crediters, it must have been an easy thing for us to print it. The enemies of Social Credit therefore cast upon us the suspicion of being “counterfeiters”! It just goes to show you that you will be accused of anything and everything when you stand up for the truth. My mother gave me the impression of being, during these trying periods, like the strong woman in the Gospel who guards the house against robbers, putting all of her trust in God.
During the night of December 22nd and 23rd, 1946, Louis Even had been brutally removed from his hotel room in Sorel, then knocked unconscious in the corridor, and manhandled down the stairway. Covered with blood, barefoot, and in night clothes, Louis Even managed to lunge forward on the snow-covered street, and make a getaway by taxi. At the same time, Gérard Mercier was assailed by thugs, and dragged by force to a remote room of the hotel where he was held prisoner until 10 o'clock in the morning, suffering interrogations and threats of torture. I myself was able to flee through the snow.
My mother heard the news on the radio during the day. At nightfall, she saw us return to Montreal in a pitiful state, Louis Even wounded in the head, etc. That gives you an idea of the moral sufferings of my mother. She braved all of these hardships, encouraging us, in spite of her tears, to continue the fight. She was always the one who waited at home in anguish while we were out on the battlefield.
The offices of “Vers Demain” in Montreal, from 1941 to 1963.
(Picture taken on the occasion of our Congress in Montreal in 1956.)
In January of 1963, my mother underwent a serious operation at 80 years of age. We lived in Montreal at the time. On leaving the hospital, my mother herself did all of her packing to move to Rougemont. It was quite a sacrifice for her to have to move in this way. It is not an easy thing to do – to suddenly uproot yourself at 80 years of age.
She had lived with us at the House of Saint Michael until the very end. She was still doing her laundry and my own, and her own meals, and many other things right up to the age of 92. And especially she prayed, saying six Rosaries each day and also the Chaplet of Saint Michael, as she would join each successive group praying in the chapel.
She attended Mass every day at the parish church right up to the age of 89. In 1971, she attended Holy Mass at the House of Saint Michael itself. This made her so happy! She would say: “Now it is the Good Lord Himself who comes to our house. What a reward!”
In June of 1975, she fell gravely ill. From November 3, 1975 onward, she was kept bedridden, unable to take care of herself anymore. It was twenty months of great suffering! She told me so many beautiful things during these months of agony. Among other things: “When I arrive in Heaven, I will say to them: It is not a queen arriving, just a servant.” She never wished to be served, and she was truly humiliated by having to accept help on her sickbed.
Another day, she said to me: “I have two secrets to tell you. First of all, they want to make a saint out of me, and they are not able to. Secondly, do you believe in the miraculous water of the Blessed Virgin? I myself believe. You, you must also believ<%18>e<%0>!” She always kept beside her Lourdes or San Damiano water which she would take to relive her suffering. She had very great confidence in Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows and in Our Lady of Lourdes. And she very much loved the little Bernadette of Lourdes because of Bernadette's great humility.
For many long years, she had been asking to go to Heaven. One day I said to her: “Mother, aren't you afraid of dying?” She answered me: “No, I'm not afraid. Do you believe that the Good Lord will say to me when I get there: `You are not afraid, you, My little girl? Come here and I will scare the daylights out of you!'”
The night before her death, the priest was coming to give her Holy Communion, and I said to her: “Mother, God is coming.” She was suffering intensely day and night. She said to me in her slow and strained voice, while clutching her crucifix in her hands: “He was crucified.”
Two days before her death, she has the doctor come to her. He examines her. He is seated at a good distance from the bed. She looks at me, and asks: “Did he say it?” I understood at that moment that she wanted him to tell her that she would die soon. Therefore, the good Dr. Beauregard said to her, loudly in her ear as she was quite deaf: “Madame Coté, you are on your way to Heaven!” And in a scarcely audible voice, mother began to sing: “Au ciel au ciel, au ciel!” (“To Heaven, to Heaven, to Heaven!”) She had often been sick during her life. She had received the last sacraments 16 times. One day, when on the point of dying, she said to me: “Do not have me receive the last sacraments because then I will never die!”
Her body was exposed in the habit of a tertiary of Saint Francis of Assisi. She had taken the holy habit on March 25, 1917, the year of Fatima. She took the name of Sister Holy Rosary. Many, many Rosaries were recited in my mother's house. She had been chosen for this by God undoubtedly. Louis Even, in his great, great devotion to the Rosary, had found my mother's house.
And what about Fatima! Louis Even instituted, in my mother's living room, devotions on the 13th of each month. Prayers were recited there all day long on the 13th of each month in honour of Fatima. And the name of Sister Holy Rosary was given to my mother in the year of Fatima, six weeks before the first Apparition! And we launched the Perpetual Rosary in the homes of the whole world in January of 1977. And my mother dies on January 15, 1977. The plans of God are more vast than our own.
Mother had also been consecrated a slave of Jesus through Mary according to Saint Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort since December 8, 1970. She leaves with us the souvenir of being the great benefactress of the Work of “Vers Demain” and “Michael”. She always gave everything she had. She told me this a few days before her death: “You know that I have never kept anything for myself. I always gave all I had to those around me. It has been a long time since I have had nothing left at all.”
She had perfectly understood the words of the poet: “What one keeps, death takes it away; what one gives, Heaven renders one day.”
The great distress of the Church today caused her much suffering. On her bed of suffering for twenty months, she offered everything for the priests. And she suffered for the little children who witness such a bad example in their midst. Often during her life, she had repeated to us: “The bad fashions of today will draw down upon us great calamities! They are truly foolish, those who dress like that!”
Dear mother, all the Social Crediters called you their grandmother. God alone knows all the good that you did in your midst. We receive letters reminding us that you saw to the education of a certain priest, that you took in an orphan in your home for many years. How many great secrets of charity disclose<%18>d<%0>! And God rewards one a hundredfold, dear mother. We beg you to prepare for us a little place in Heaven near you. You had awaited us so often on earth; you are still awaiting us up above. Au revoir, dear, very dear mother.
Your daughter, Gilberte