Sr. Jeanne Bossé

Sr. Jeanne Bossé

January 14, 2013

One of the best-selling living Canadian authors over the last four months has been a 96-year-old nun who lives in Chofu City, Tokyo, and teaches women's Bible study classes.

Sister Jeanne Bossé's book, Smile Brings Happiness, is in its second printing since it was released by Media Factory in mid-September.

With 19,000 copies in circulation and a rave review in one of Japan's national dailies, the book would count as a moderate success in Japan, said Japan Foundation chief librarian Mariko Liliefeldt.

With sales on that scale it would be a "definitive best seller" in Canada, said Quill and Quire Magazine editor Stuart Woods.

It's a slight exaggeration to call Bossé the author of the thin volume of wise sayings, sage advice and recipes.

The Quebec-born sister is the source and inspiration for the little compendium brought together by one of her former students, Eri Kamata. Kamata interviewed Bossé then edited and organized the material from their conversations.

Books by or about remarkable senior citizens are enjoying a wave of popularity in Japan, said Liliefeldt. In part, the Japanese have always had a fascination with long life and how to obtain it. But the success of the sister from Montreal's Congregation of Notre Dame's book may also reflect the post-tsunami mood of Japan.


"Not everything now is a big materialistic thing," said Liliefeldt, a member of the Toronto Japanese Catholic Community.

"Japan has been through a big earthquake and the economy is not so good. People are thinking more about what is real happiness, so this kind of book is going to be a success."

While the book doesn't preach in an overt way, "it's indicative of the mission of our sisters," said Sister Arlita Matte, secretary of the general council of the Congregation of Notre Dame. It's really the example of a life well lived that has captured the imagination of ordinary Japanese people, Matte said.


"She is such a wonderful person. She's so open. She's open to the Spirit. She's open to people. It's a reflection of the love and the life she shares with everyone," said Matte.

The Montreal sisters are considering whether a French edition of the book might be in order.

Bossé was 30 years old and had been a sister nine years already when she sailed for Japan in 1947. After 65 years in Japan she now feels she belongs among the Japanese, Matte reports. At 96, she still teaches four days a week.

"She always prepares her courses fresh. She never uses old material," said Matte. "She plays the organ every morning at Mass. . . . She's just living."