CSJ Diamond Jubilarians of 2009
On June 14, 2009, the young women who were received into the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1949 celebrated their 60th anniversary. Celebrating are, standing, left to right, Sisters Elizabeth Budicky, Anne Lemire, Marie MacNamara, Stephanie Sinkewicz, and Catherine Marie Macdonald. Seated are Sisters Helen Bradley and Mary Alban Bouchard. Not pictured are Sisters Mary Flynn and Brigid Ann Payne. Sister Irene McDonald, who died earlier this year, will celebrate in heaven.
We asked the Sisters and their friends for favourite memories, which follow...
Sister Mary Alban had memories of a world very different from ours: "When I first went to Haiti twenty years ago I wanted to do not only the corporal works of mercy but also the spiritual works. I longed to bring the Good News to the poor as Jesus did. I was frustrated by my lack of language skills. Then I remembered a Toronto preacher say, 'with the proclamation came power.' So, taking the passage from Luke 4 in which Jesus himself quotes Isaiah about bringing good news to the poor, I practised it well. The next day I set out for Le Dortoir, a shelter where homeless families, the aged who begged their food and the sick including victims of AIDS found a spot to sleep at night. These were now 'my people.'
"I gathered the people, those who wanted to listen, and explained that St. Luke was a doctor who cared for sick people and wrote the Gospel to tell us how Jesus came with the Good News for the sick and those suffering from hunger because they were poor. I told them briefly that Jesus himself had read what I was going to read to them, the very words of Isaiah the prophet, right after he was baptized and the Holy Spirit came upon him. I asked whether anyone knew how the Spirit came on Jesus,. They answered, 'Tankou yon pijon' (like a pigeon!). I told them that they too were baptized and God said of them, as of Jesus, 'You are my dear child and I love you.' They all smiled and looked at each other, very pleased.
"Then I read Luke 4:5-21 as Jesus had done. The people were nodding and murmuring, 'Mesi.' When I finished I closed Bib La (the bible in Kreyol) and said. 'Today the good news has come to you in the dortoir.' The reaction was immediate. They swarmed me, they shook my hand, they embraced me. Some kissed my hands and the Book. Some were weeping softly for joy. I was overcome, humbled at the power that came with the proclamation, the power of the Spirit saying 'Yes' to the Word and rejoicing.
"Walking home I was happy to the point of tears. I had begun! The power of the Word proclaimed had done what I could never do, but what joy to be the instrument and see God pass by here."
Sisters Helen, Elizabeth, Brigid Ann and Irene were all involved in health ministry. Let's look at what they had to say:
Sister Helen Bradley recalled: "From Christ's first gentle call to follow him, the past sixty years have been a continual beckoning to bring his love to his children, whoever and wherever they may be. My experience in many areas of nursing before I entered the novitiate was a great preparation for my journey.
"Answering his call brought me into many exciting and challenging situations. The most fulfilling years were in service to his people in Africa. This continent, a land of breathtaking beauty, and its people - simple, gracious and joyful - inspired me to see the hand of God in all of it. Here, also, I learned first-hand the meaning of the words, 'Put all your trust in God - in him all things are possible.'"
Sister Elizabeth Budicky told us, "I always wanted to be a nurse, but a stronger desire grew within me - that of responding to God's love by becoming a Sister of St. Joseph. I studied nursing; later I taught nursing and loved to teach the students about caring for patients at the bedside, in the nursery and operating room. Many still keep in touch.
"One of my most memorable times was going to Montreal for Expo 67. I felt as if I had traveled to many countries and met people from all over the world! Fatigue and the heavy habit didn't matter. This experience continues to stay with me.
"In more recent years I have been involved in the care of the elderly. This has helped me to learn about and to accept my own aging. I am grateful for the gifts I have received over the past sixty years as a Sister of St. Joseph and my past eighty years on this planet!"
"I grew up in a family of six girls - and one brother," recalled Sister Brigid Ann Payne. "We were a happy family with many friends. During World War II I had a short career in the military as a nurse, but didn't get to go overseas.
"I followed my two sisters to the convent in Toronto. My happiest memories are around nursing the elderly at Providence Villa, and our own Sisters in our Infirmary, where I now live."
If Sister Irene McDonald or those who worked with her were here, they would recall her brilliant nursing career and the history of St. Michael's Hospital she wrote. In their absence, I will recall one fond memory of Irene's time at 74 Wellesley Street. Irene wrote her book in longhand. Often, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when there were few available to answer the phone, she would set up the card table in the corridor near the phone and continue her writing there. She was never alone. On the window ledge beside her was a birdcage, carefully fastened by its "seatbelt" to the curtain rod lest there be a fall. Irene spent the afternoon with both her book and her beloved canary, Toby - and all was right with the world.
Sisters Mary Flynn, Anne Lemire, Catherine Marie Macdonald and Stephanie Sinkewicz all spent some years in the classroom and all moved on, in later years, to something else. Let's hear what they remember.
"Among my fondest memories over the past sixty years are those connected with teaching," said Sister Mary Flynn. "Whether I was a classroom teacher or a principal I loved my ministry; I always saw myself as a teacher. With the Grade Ones, just beginning their school years, it was important that they form positive feelings about school since that would influence their attitude for the remainder of their education.
"As for the Grade Eights, I firmly believed that as Grade Eight went, so went the school. Once when I was principal and the regular teacher was absent, a grade eight boy let off a 'stink-bomb.' For the students this was great fun — supply teachers were considered to be fair game. After the guilty student had been discovered and dealt with, I made a point of visiting their classroom.
"I said to them. 'Teaching is not just filling your heads with facts, it is mainly about helping you to become more fully human.' I asked, 'I know you are already human, but what does it mean to become more fully human?' I insisted that they answer me with examples from their own experience. I believe we had a beneficial discussion. I hope this episode is as much of a fond memory for them as it still is for me."
For Sister Anne Lemire, "A backward glance over sixty grace-filled, wonder-full years of my life as a Sister of St. Joseph shows me a kaleidoscope of daily miracles. What stands out and is forever treasured is the faces of the people who have enriched my life. Where to begin?
"The most likely starting point is with the great women in our congregation who inspired and mentored me, many of whom now look after me from heaven, but a goodly number are still close by and I find their presence brightens my days Then there are the countless thousands of all ages - men, women, young people and children, colleagues, students, friends from every walk of life, from cities and countries I might never have seen were I not a Sister of St. Joseph - Toronto, of course, Montreal, Edmonton, Chilliwack, Santiago and Coquimbo, Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Zambia, Poland, France, Italy - the list is almost endless.
"How did they enter my life? They were blessings sent to me in schools, parishes, the Newman Centre, the Centre for Victims of Torture, the office of World Youth Day 2002, our congregation's Office for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, and in my present living situation. To any of the above who find this page, know that you are in my daily prayer. How can I keep from singing? And all I can offer to our ever-faithful God is thanks."
Sister Catherine Marie Macdonald chose two teaching situations to tell us about. On her way to Vancouver she found herself fearful of the task ahead - the teaching of a great many different subjects. But her fears were allayed when she got to know her students, her grade nines and tens who, she said, were "good to me and good to each other."
"My best time, in later years, was teaching Special Education. Many of my students were greatly discouraged and seemed on track for failure. Once I was able to discover both their difficulties and their gifts, we made progress. Often they had more success than they had ever dreamed of."
Sister Marie MacNamara remembers "the surprise I felt when, on Feb. 13, 1969 I was invited to be part of a group of five Sisters chosen to begin an 'experimental house.' We had been asked to submit our names if we were interested in this project, but I really didn't think I would be chosen. After a couple of months we found a simple little house in St. Ann's parish. We moved in on Holy Saturday so that our first waking up was on Easter Sunday morning.
"These were exciting times as we moved into a new way of living our lives, quite different from the institutional model to which we were accustomed. I remember how much interest there was from our own and other religious communities as we pioneered this project. And, of course, this was the beginning of what we now accept as a normal part of our community living.
"Another precious memory I have is of my eight years in formation ministry. It was a challenging time and I learned much from the young women who came to us as novices. They stretched my thinking about religious life and helped me become more deeply grounded in my own call to this congregation. Although only one of the thirteen who entered remained with us, I remember them all and those years with fondness. For the most part it was a happy time in my life, a time for which I am very grateful."
Sister Stephanie Sinkewicz recalls, "The most significant experiences I have lived in my sixty years as a Sister of St. Joseph were the twenty years of involvement in PRH (Personality and Human Relations). These sessions, known as Rochais Sessions, are designed to help persons to discover progressively who they are, to actualize their aspirations and the unfolding of their potentialities, harmonizing with their spiritual journey.
"I walked this path for my own growth; then it became a significant ministry to offer to others.
"From our CSJ Constitutions we read, '...we live in community, and we devote ourselves to forms of ministry through which others may come to a greater fullness of their humanity and to communion with others and with God.' (Art. 6) and, ' Our founder, sums up in a prayer of dedication to the Trinity the spirituality to which we are called: to live as children of a loving Father and by embracing his will to become all that he has created us to be...' (Art 7).
"It is with deep gratitude to God and to my community that I look back on these PRH experiences which helped me on my journey of becoming a Sister of St. Joseph."
Edited by Mary Buckley CSJ
Photo by Conrad Lauber CSJ