Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Sister Marie Tremblay: 70 years in ministry

Sister Marie Tremblay entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph from her home in North Vancouver B.C. seventy years ago. Her ministry as a sister began in the field of education. At first, she taught in the elementary schools in St Catharines and Toronto and then moved on to secondary school teaching for 29 years in Prince Rupert, Chilliwack, and Vancouver B.C. and in Ontario, in Barrie and Toronto. She earned her B.A. degree at UBC through summer school extension courses, and her M.A. in English from the University of Toronto in 1971 while living at St Joseph's College.

As she continued to teach she engaged in extracurricular work with the students, especially in oratorical and debating tournaments, in drama, and in a social action club, Sister Marie participated in the education committee of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and in prison visitation with Toronto's Youth Corps. During a leave of absence from teaching in 1975, Sister Marie visited India to express solidarity with people suffering extreme poverty. A highlight of this visit occurred at Jesu Ashram in Siliguri, Darjeeling District, where she was invited to assist by distributing rolls and tea at a Christmas picnic for more than 900 people with leprosy. To her mind the experience recalled the Gospel passage in which Jesus and the Apostles distributed food to the multitude. Food for the hungry was always a concern of Sister Marie.

In 1981, she took early retirement from teaching with a view to finding a ministry focused more sharply on social justice. The fruit of that decision was her founding of Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank. Creative and generous volunteers enabled the work to go forward. She saw it incorporated as a registered charity in 1983.

Among Sister Marie's favourite memories is the success of her Barrie co-ed students debating in the Archdiocesan PROCON Forum. The visit of her parents to Toronto on the occasion of her final vows in 1945 and her own visit to family members in Vancouver the following year are also recollections filled with joy. From 1995-2000, Sister Marie lived in Vancouver and ministered to her mother who was still well, living on her own, and able to celebrate her 100th birthday during this period. Sister Marie counts this as part of the hundredfold promised to those who leave all to follow Christ. With a group of pilgrims from Vancouver, Sister Marie joined in a Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome.

Sister Marie noted that in challenging times good friends supported her endeavours and provided practical assistance. She is grateful for her involvement with the laity in the work of social justice. Sister Marie's abiding interest in helping women to find their rightful place in the Church found validation in the study of our founders as urged by Vatican II, and she has engaged in study, discussion, and action groups to this end.

At present Sister Marie continues to minister by assisting the Treasurer's office at Morrow Park in accepting and receipting donations for our missions in Haiti and Honduras.

By Mechtilde O'Mara CSJ


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