Sister Therese LeBlanc, IHM, age 90, died June 16, 2021, at IHM Senior Living Community.
Sister Therese was born in Detroit, on Sept. 11, 1930, to Joseph and Marie (Henri) LeBlanc. Her parents were French Canadian; French was spoken at home. Therese attended Holy Redeemer and Gesu grade schools and high school at St. Ann Academy (Rigaud, Ontario) and Immaculata High School (Detroit.) As a young student, she was deeply impressed by the sisters teaching at the schools. Marie Therese was inspired to serve the poor and in her love for little children. After graduation, she entered the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, receiving the religious name, Sister Therese Michelle.
Sister Therese began a life-long service to “the little ones” for many years as a first grade teacher at St. Raymond, Detroit; St. Thomas, Ann Arbor; and St. Joseph, Monroe, where she also served as principal. She later served in parish ministry at St. Joseph.
In 1971, Sister Therese was missioned to India to work with the poor and abandoned. It was “a dream come true!” Her service was cut short when Indian visas could not be obtained, even by Mother Teresa. Five years later, she returned to India to set up a care center for sick and abandoned infants. Again, visa issues shortened her work. Her next mission, to San Juan, Puerto Rico as education director of Casa La Providencia, a rehabilitation home for females recovering from drug addiction, lasted four years.
Sister Therese was one of several IHM Sisters who ministered in Vietnam caring for orphan children in the process of being adopted by families in the United States through Friends of the Children of Vietnam. Unexpectedly, she became part of Operation Babylift. As the Viet Cong army approached Thu Duc, the children were evacuated with 30-minutes’ notice, as volunteers loaded 55 children into vans to reach the outbound plane. She returned to Saigon, caring for children awaiting the next airlift. Sister Therese was on the last plane out of Saigon with 150 “little ones” on board. She continued to aid refugees through the Archdiocese of Detroit at Fort Indiantown Gap (Pennsylvania).
In 1976 she returned to Detroit, and over the next 25 years served as chaplain at the Detroit Psychiatric Institute, Harper and Detroit Rehabilitation Centers and the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. She retired to the Motherhouse in 2007.
Sister Therese is survived by cousins in the United States and Canada and her sisters in community. Read Sr. Therese’s Remembering here.