Jubilarians 2013: Looking Back Over 50 Years
Sister Pat Boucher
As I celebrate 50 years as a Sister of St. Joseph, I have so much for which I am grateful. I think of special moments on retreats when I was touched with a deep knowledge of God’s presence living with me and speaking to me through the gifts of nature and of people sustaining me and giving me energy for our mission of nurturing community wherever we are.
I did this first as a teacher. My favourite experience as a teacher was working with adults who had not had a previous opportunity to get their high school diploma. It was so heartening to see them grow in self-confidence as they recognized they were able to learn and to express themselves well in writing. I worked six hours a week with them while I was ministering in the parish in Stewart in northern British Columbia, where there was no resident priest.
I enjoyed all my work there. We had wonderful discussion groups on many topics, from Scripture to bereavement. It was a small parish in a small mining and logging town. Because most of the people employed there had no extended family, the parish was in many ways the family. For example, we had a late afternoon Mass on Easter Sunday when the priest had driven the four hours to get there and then we had a pot luck Easter dinner together.
Another special time was the eight years I spent as Vocation Director for the congregation. As well as promoting a vocation I love, I was privileged to journey with women who were searching for the best way for them to respond to God’s love.
It’s been a wonderful journey of discovering God’s unconditional love and finding joy in sharing that treasure with those I am blessed to meet.
Sister Monica Marie Kelly
The word that comes to mind is: "Changes." When I first entered on September 14, 1962, there were 26 new postulants, today called candidates. That band number decreased each time I took a new step: receiving the habit, first vows, renewal of vows and final vows on August 26, 1970. I first trained in nursing but much preferred the Food Supervisor’s Course that followed. It gave me the opportunity to visit different downtown hospitals and take courses like the excellent Food Cooking and Nutrition Course at George Brown College.
This led to joining the food service at Providence Villa. A story that stands out in my mind is about adjustment challenges for residents. One night, a new senior came into the dining room and then disappeared. Someone spotted her in the fields north of the residents’ dining room — the large numbers had disturbed her. But with the help of staff and residents, she was made to feel right at home in a day or two.
My next ministry involved helping out the secretaries in the large inner city schools of the Metropolitan Separate School Board. Here, I encountered many fine principals. In 2001, I was asked to help out at Fontbonne Ministries’ Mustard Seed.
During my life as a Sister of St. Joseph, I have been involved in many congregational ministries, namely: food service at the St. Joseph’s College and at St. Joseph Morrow Park High School’s cafeteria; both food service and hospitality at Invermara from the early 60’s to the present. Changes have taken place continually over the past 50 years, each bringing its own challenges. The Lord has been at my side from the beginning in 1962 and continues to be the one constant throughout the 50 years.
My journey with the Sisters of St. Joseph and God's call to community began when I finally let go of my desire to be a mother nurturing a large family. Ministry has become a pilgrimage in which I am being led to serve in ways that I may not have envisioned. The first stage of this journey led to the classroom, where I taught Home Economics in Grades 9 - 12. I cherish my time there. I was challenged to let go of what I loved and to move on to serve the community as Director of Food Services at Morrow Park.
During this time, nourishing both the inner and outer person became important. Once again, I was to learn that I did not have control of the direction this pilgrimage was to take. During some time off, 25 years ago, I discovered the amazing gift of clay. This led me to a wonderful experience teaching pottery at Providence Healthcare. The pilgrim's journey took another unexpected change. The desire to work with men, women and children of all ages and creative abilities led to the studio at 3277 St. Clair. And then the call came to change. Would I ever have stability in this pilgrimage?
Seventeen years later, there is greater clarity. The number of groups at the studio at 967 O'Connor speaks of the need to be faithful to the call. People from 5 to 90-years of age attend, but it's the flexibility that allows seniors at Leisureworld to take part, as well as adult day program groups, women from Grant House, Brownies and those who take part in the Journey of Clay. The most enriching part of this spiritual journey came in 2011 when I was part of the Federation Pilgrimage to France where we retraced the footprints of our first Sisters. Pilgrimage is an amazing part of life!
Sister Anne Purcell
I feel very blessed because of all I have received and the opportunities that came my way because of my vocation. In 1959, I began my health care profession as a student nurse at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto. During this time, I attended a retreat where I heard myself asking, "How do you know if you have a vocation?" Shortly thereafter, I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto. Over the years, I was blessed to be able to advance my education with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and then a Masters in Health Science, Administration, along with numerous other courses.
In my nursing ministry, I served in many capacities: as a direct care provider, an evening/night supervisor, an executive director, on boards of directors and many committees. Currently, I am serving on the board of directors at Providence Healthcare. Over the years, my health care knowledge has allowed me to work with all levels of staff in a hospital setting as well as a home setting, which has enabled me to have a direct influence on peoples' futures.
What stands out for me in my years of health care is the people I have met and the ability to change lives by listening to them and putting things in place to alleviate their concerns, watching them improve and go back to their own homes.
As well as always wanting to be a nurse, my dream was to care for diocesan priests in retirement when staff and other supports were withdrawn. In my retirement, I am privileged to coordinate the health care for the Jesuits of English speaking Canada. It is very rewarding to see men who were house-bound or bedridden return to active ministry for many more years.
"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me." — Matthew 25:45
Sister Theresa Rodgers
My first thought when I began thinking about my Golden Jubilee was, where did those 50 years go? It can’t be 50 years already! Yet, when I look in the mirror, I know it is true. There is a saying that time flies when you are having a good time. The past 50 years have not all been good times, they never are in real life. But as I look back, I know I have been very happy as a Sister of St. Joseph. My main ministry for most of these years has been in education, first as a student and then as a high school teacher. After first vows, I attended St. Michael’s College and later the Faculty of Education. These years of learning and discovery were most enjoyable despite the hard work. Even as a child, I enjoyed school. This continued to be true for me as an adult.
My teaching years spanned three decades in two schools: Oshawa Catholic High School and St. Joseph’s Morrow Park High School. As a teacher, you learn along with the students. You delve deeper into your teaching subject, but even more importantly, you learn about life and people from your students and colleagues. Learning for me has always been an adventure. This adventure has continued even after my retirement from the classroom. After retiring from teaching, I did volunteer work at the Furniture Bank and at St. Paul’s Food Bank. These were enriching experiences. In recent years, I have been ministering within the administration of our Congregation. This too has been part of my ongoing education. As I look back over the past 50 years, I realize how good God has been to me. They have been wonderful years with many wonderful memories. My vocation as a Sister of St. Joseph has been God’s greatest gift for me.
As I look back over the 50 years I have been a Sister of St. Joseph, I am amazed that the years have melted away so quickly. Even more — I am filled with gratitude for the gifts I have received. Through most of these years, I was a high school teacher in Toronto, Oshawa, Vancouver and Edmonton. I was able to approach each of these new assignments, each new school and new community, with a spirit of adventure and enthusiasm (pure gift to me from God!). I remember the joys and challenges of helping young people to learn and grow, and of the collaboration with fellow teachers. A few highlights of these days were: a back-packing trip in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with grade ten girls from Caritas High School; and the various high school musicals which I helped to put on (Bye-Bye Birdie, Guys and Dolls, and Oliver).
Through most of my life I have worked in ministry with other Sisters, always with their support and encouragement. Other gifts I have received: my studies at the Toronto School of Theology; my six years of living with and taking care of my elderly parents and the support I received from community, family and good friends during that time; my eight years as vocation director, with the sacred privilege of journeying with women wanting to deepen their relationship with God. In this last ministry, I have been enriched by the help and friendship of other vocation directors.
The years have brought me many joys, challenges and some sorrows, as in any life. Overall, I realize that I received far more than I gave. The overarching reality has been God's faithful love and care, every step of the way. I face the future with hope and the certainty that "God's mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning." (Lamentations 3:22b-23)
Sister Jane Wilcox
I was born on May 29, 1936 and grew up in East York with four brother and two sisters. I attended Holy Cross Elementary School and St. Joseph’s College School. In high school, I took a commercial course. Upon leaving school, I worked seven years as a secretary in advertising at The Globe and Mail. I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph when I was 26 years old. After completing my novitiate, I worked as a high school secretary in two different schools — St. Joseph’s College School and Oshawa Catholic High School. I enjoyed both these ministries. The students and the teachers added a rich dimension to my life. In 1972, I was asked to move to our western mission at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, B.C., working first in the main office and then in the psychiatric unit as ward clerk. I also worked for a short period in Kitimat, B.C. The time I spent in western Canada, I still consider to be one of the great gifts of my life.
On several occasions, I was given an opportunity for spiritual enrichment. I participated in a sabbatical program in Spokane, Washington and several years later in a renewal program in Oakland, California. I then spent many fruitful years working for the Leadership Team and in the congregational archives. In recent years, I have discovered a gift for writing poetry. During this, my jubilee year, in moving to 2 O’Connor Drive, I have returned to my roots as our new building is only a short distance from where I grew up.