Sister June Dwyer: Woman of Distinction
"My life and ministries up till now have prepared me for this latest ministry with women and children," said Sister June Dwyer.
Sister June was born and received her early education in Quebec. As a young woman she moved to Toronto where she received her RN from St. Michael's School of Nursing. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and, later, her Master of Arts in Ministry and Spirituality from Regis College, Toronto. What had she accomplished with this formidable background?
In the 70s and 80s, she was in turn staff nurse, clinical teacher, supervisor and director at St. Michael's, and Sister June readily admits, "It was really the trust placed in me by Sister Mary Zimmerman and Sister Irene McDonald that made the difference. They encouraged me and continued to challenge me with new experiences."
From 1977 to 1985, Sister was also coordinator of the Family Life Clinic at St. Michael's where she taught and counseled clients in sexuality, fertility awareness, natural family planning and infertility. She also helped establish and coordinate the Medical Day Care Unit of the Hospital. In 1980, she established the St. Lawrence Health Services, a satellite clinic of the hospital, and was its director until 1985. From 1988 to 1995, Sister June was director of mission, philosophy and values at SMH as well as secretary of the Board of Directors.
She has been a member various hospital and agency boards including those of Casey House, Providence Villa, Surrey Place Centre and Fred Victor Centre. In 1995, Sister June left St. Michael's Hospital to take up her new position as Executive Director of Nazareth House.
"When I had been there long enough to reflect on my new situation, providing a safe home for women and children at risk and helping prepare the women to take their place in the world, I realized that everything that had gone before was a preparation for my work at Nazareth House," said Sister June. She recalled the variety of persons she had met: in the public wards of St. Michael's, as counsellor in the Family Life Clinic, in her work with addicts and with those in prison (while studying in Thunder Bay) as well as members of the various boards and committees.
I asked who had influenced her in her life outlook and choices. "I am particularly grateful to my parents, as well as Sisters Odelia, Mary and Irene. I have loved all my ministries and am deeply grateful for them; they have all formed me and have made me who I am today." She says, "I woke up one morning and said to myself, 'You know, Jesus, I love these women; they are so courageous in their brokenness.' These women are so wounded — my only desire is to bring God's healing love, compassion, hope and courage to them."
Sister June is deeply aware of her need for support, a support she find primarily in "my life of prayer, my community, the staff I work with and the women and children I serve. Although Nazareth House is non-denominational, I want the women to hear God speaking to them through the Scriptures, saying,
'I have called you by name, you are mine' — Isaiah 43:1
'I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.' — Isaiah 49:16
Reflecting on her years with the women and children of Nazareth House, Sister June concludes, "I know that I am not the person I once was; I have been transformed by their lives."
By Mary Buckley CSJ
Photo courtesy of YWCA Toronto