Cardinal Ouellet still returns twice a year to La Motte to see friends and family (all but one sibling live in the village, including a younger brother, Paul, who was convicted in 2009 of sexual assault involving two minors).
On his low-key visits, Cardinal Ouellet follows the winding lakeside road that leads to the family homes clustered together on the bucolic shores of Lac La Motte, where a neatly made bed awaits in the basement of his sister Monique’s home.
On a day in February, the drive through La Motte passes farmers’ fields so dazzlingly white it feels like plowing through a box of Tide. Homes are few and far between – some of the local men are off working in the mines, and when schoolchildren are in class, the only sound around is the scrunch of snow underfoot.
The silence won’t last long: The family has already been warned to expect satellite TV trucks parked on the country road by their homes during the papal conclave in Rome next month.
So far, however, most of the Ouellets seem an open and welcoming family. In her sitting room, Graziella, her face luminous and crowned by white hair, patiently answers a reporter’s questions.
Is her son up to the task of being pope?
“He is a deep man and very pious.”
Does she think it’s a real possibility?
“God only knows.”
And is there a message she would like to send the world about him?
“Wish him luck,” she says with a kind smile.
Looking at modern La Motte, it is easy to agree he’ll need it.