Sr. Theresa Arsenault, Franciscan Missionary of Mary, 90, died Feb 10, 2017 at St. Antoine’s Residence in North Smithfield, R.I. She was the daughter of the late John J .and Sophie(Peters) Arsenault. Sr. Theresa was born in Rumford, Maine on May 24, 1926, the youngest of eight children. That same year, her family moved to South Providence, RI. She attended St. Michael’s Parish and School, and later, St. Xavier’s Academy.
Theresa heard about the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary from a classmate who spoke enthusiastically about the sisters. Attending a weekend retreat as a senior, she spoke to the Retreat Master about religious life. He asked her several questions and after her responses, suggested a missionary order. Theresa visited the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary at Bell Street, and after graduation from High School, entered Holy Family Novitiate in Fruit Hill immediately after the war in 1945. She received the FMM habit in March, 1946. Her first vows were made in March, 1948 and final vows on the same date in 1951.
Theresa was sent in mission to Divine Providence Shelter, 45thSt. NY City, and later to St. Francis Hospital, Roslyn, NY where she worked with children with rheumatic heart problems. Following this mission, Theresa was sent to Kennedy Memorial Hospital for Children in Brighton, MA. In all these missions she used her gifts with children, helping them in her serene, gentle and genuinely loving way, characteristics of everything Theresa did.
In 1954, Theresa was missioned to Kobe, Japan to teach at Stella Maris International School. There she loved working with elementary school children from different cultures to whom she taught various subjects. She also formed a Sodality for the Catholic students, and led it for fifteen years.
Returning from home leave in the United States, Theresa was next sent to Yokohama where she helped at a children’s home run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Here she also was a substitute teacher at two local international schools. After this she was missioned to Shukugawa, where she taught Religious Education and English to Japanese children in the local parish center. She also helped in a Japanese Montessori Kindergarten. Theresa became increasingly fluent in the Japanese language while there.
Returning to the States in 1977, Theresa finished her degree in early childhood education at St. Anne’s College in Connecticut, and then taught at Espirtu Santo School in Fall River. Sent in mission once again, Theresa went to St. Patrick’s Mission, Sawmill, Arizona as a catechist, and later to the FMM mission in Thoreau, NM. There she taught in the pre-school at St. Kateri Tekakwitha School. From 1993-96, Theresa taught RCIA, ESL and did tutoring. Her next mission-sending led her to the community of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in North Smithfield, as part of the pastoral care team in St. Antoine Residence. Always interested in learning and trying something new, Theresa was a courageous person who liked to read and participate in ecumenical study groups.
When her health began to fail, Theresa discovered a new mission at the FMM Assisted Living Residence in North Providence, RI. Finally, Theresa was missioned to St. Antoine’s Special Care Unit in Smithfield, RI. Deeply prayerful, her kindness and gentleness were evident in her relations with both staff and other residents. She led the prayer before meals faithfully until no longer able.
Therese is survived by several nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. Among these are Lorraine Moore of Warwick, Corrine Condi of Coventry, and Rita Gouca of Florida.
Funeral arrangements are as follows: Wake Tuesday Feb 14, 4-8 p.m. with a Wake service at 7 p.m. in Holy Family Chapel, Fruit Hill, and Funeral Mass, 11 a.m., Feb. 15thin Holy Family Chapel, Fruit Hill North Providence
Funeral Arrangements by Russell Boyle Funeral Home.