Pauline Labbe, O.M.M.I.
Secular Institute of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate
By Katie Fiermonti, Photography by Charlene Graham
Pauline Labbe, O.M.M.I., believes the greatest part of belonging to the Secular Institute of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate is her flexibility to serve God anywhere, even and perhaps especially in her job as a hairdresser. Her salon’s name, New Beginnings, is even a reverent nod to her spiritual life. It is there, amid the shampoos and scissors, that Pauline fulfills her vows. “In the Oblates,” she says, “we use the gifts God gave us.”
“One of my customers was a very loud and vulgar lady who came in every week,” says Pauline, of Atkinson, New Hampshire. “Most people who come in know my story, but she didn’t. I didn’t know how to handle her. So one day I put a bottle of holy water on the sink and put a little of it in her hair when I shampooed her. She never knew, but would you believe she changed?”
Pauline was the ninth of 12 children and in her large and loving Maine family, she was nourished by God’s love. She felt God’s call at an early age, and prayed to him to see her way through years of working as a weaver in the mills to support her family.
“With much prayer, discernment, and guidance from the Holy Spirit my dream was answered,” she remembers. “I was encouraged by an Oblate priest who gave me a pamphlet on the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. I was attracted by the lifestyle, spirituality, and having Mary the Blessed Mother as our model. I felt this was where God was calling me to do his will – to be leaven in the midst of the world, to bring Christ to all people I meet and serve. I’ve been a member for 34 years.”
The Secular Institute of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate is a worldwide group of women of faith consecrated to God and was founded in 1952. The Oblates consecrate themselves to God and remain single. They are not referred to as “sister” nor do they live in community. Today there are approximately 500 Secular Oblates in 20 countries. They work in the world and live out the Institute’s Five Attitudes of Life: being attentive to the presence of God, abstaining from criticism, abstaining from complaint, being of service, and acting as peacemakers.
"Centered on the charity of Christ, I try to live out the best I can the Five Attitudes that give me strength and nourishment I need for each day,” says Pauline. “Making time for prayer is very essential and important in my life to fulfill God’s will. My day starts with Mass before work, and I am in my job to serve God's people. It’s not easy. As a hairdresser I try not only to make people look good, but also to make them feel better about themselves. To be a good listener is the most important part in my work.” Pauline, 75, often accepts customers who cannot fully pay for her services. She bestows small kindnesses every day, helping people with their coats, holding the door, or offering small prayers for those who need it. “In my workplace, at home, or wherever God is calling me to be I can be a presence for his love by my actions, words, or deeds. I absolutely love my Oblate life.”
She finds time in between her prayer, monthly institute meetings, and correspondence to read, cook, sew, listen to her gospel music, and take walks. Pauline exudes the spirit that the Institute generates in her, and she encourages any interested woman to come and see what the Secular Oblates are like. “Come and taste the goodness of the Lord wherever God is calling you to be by using your God-given talents,” she says.