Sr. Anne-Marie Bourque stands outside St. Mary’s D’Youville Pavilion where she works as a chaplain in the mission office doing pastoral care. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Visiting her grandmother as a little girl, Sr. Anne-Marie Bourque would always dart up the stairs, unearth her grandmother’s Bible and immediately settle in to read.

“My parents would be downstairs, ‘Where are you? Come down and visit with your grandmother!'” she said.

Something about those saints and the stories pulled her in.

When Bourque was 4 or 5, she remembers draping white nylon curtains over her head and her mother telling her she was a beautiful bride.

“I stamped my foot and said, ‘I am not, I’m a nun!'” said Bourque. “She tried to talk me out of it, all the way through to when I entered (the convent). It didn’t work.”

Bourque didn’t join her order, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and start her formal training until her 30s. Soon turning 72, she’s in what she considers her fourth and favorite career, a chaplain at St. Mary’s d’Youville Pavilion.


She visits with rehab patients and residents, conducts spiritual assessments, offers help and offers prayer.

“Sometimes they’re shy about asking,” said Bourque. “I’ll usually say, ‘is there anything else I can do for you before I go?’ Some will say no, some will say, ‘Can I have a ginger ale with ice?’ Even though that’s not in my job description, if they want it, I’ll go get it.”

Bourque grew up in South Portland attending Catholic Mass with her parents every Sunday. She felt pulled toward God from a young age but it wasn’t until she was 16, attending a Sunday School retreat, that there was no question.

“During the Mass at the retreat, the priest quoted St. Augustine. He said, ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee,’ and honest to God, it was like a lightning bolt I felt come down through my body, it was just electrifying,” Bourque said. “I kind of knew at that moment that there was something special going on but I didn’t know quite what.”

She attended college and became a teacher, but still feeling “a sense of restlessness and incompletion” at 30, finally explored entering a convent.

“The hard part for me is that my parents were very much against it,” she said. “I was an only child, so there went the hopes of grandchildren. So they fought me tooth and nail …”


But within days of arriving, “I felt like this was where I was supposed to be,” Bourque said.

She started at St. Mary’s five years ago, working as a chaplain on the hospital side at the time.

“I absolutely love what I do. Every day I wake up and thank God that I can go to that job,” she said.

Each morning during clinical rounds, she and one other d’Youville chaplain hear about new arrivals, people who had a rough night and those who might need a little extra attention, then set off to their rooms.

Last summer, she let administrators know she’d like to keep going at least one more year. Next summer, she’ll weigh that decision again.

Her faith is about her relationship with God, Bourque said, and it doesn’t have to be within the confines of religion.

“I look at God as a cosmic power that draws us all together as well as something that’s very personal and deep inside me,” she said. “I have an inner dialogue with God from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. I couldn’t imagine life without God. God gave me the gift of life; in turn, I’m sharing my life with his other creatures.”

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