Thursday, July 27, 2017
   
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Sister Enid Selke: A Lifelong Teacher

As early as age 13, Sister Enid Selke knew she wanted to be a Sister of St. Joseph of Toronto. But, even before that time, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. When she was 4 years old, her favourite game was playing school with her four sisters and her brother using the chalkboard in their home.

"One of us would be the teacher and the others would be the students," says Sister Enid. "We took turns teaching each other letters, numbers and drawing."
 
In 1941, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto. She was 17 and teaching had become her passion. After teacher's college, Sister Enid taught in grade schools across Toronto, St. Catharines, Oshawa, Whitby and also in Prince Rupert, British Columbia from 1944 to 1974.
 
"I loved knowing that I was helping children form a way of life," says Sister Enid. "I taught math, English, science and more, but I was also teaching respect, courtesy, the presence of Jesus in our lives and the need to love and share with each other."

A Gentle Concern

She developed opportunities for students to learn about people in need and to respond. "All year ‘round, we'd look at what was going on in our town or province or outside our country and we'd bring in food, clothing and other things we could box and send to people who could use them." 
 
The lesson she hopes she imparted was the importance of love. The best way to show it to her students, she felt, was to always take an interest in them. As the class worked on assignments, she would sit in the middle of the room and listen to them talk. "That helped me know which children were happy and which ones needed some special attention and extra encouragement." 
 
When Sister Enid worked as a principal at three different schools, she sought to instill the same gentle concern among her teachers. However, after three decades in children's education, Sister Enid felt the need for a change. Following some time in other ministries and studying theology in San Antonio, Texas, an opportunity emerged. In 1983, Sister Enid joined St. Patrick's Parish team in Kapuskasing, a Northern Ontario town with a population of about 8,000.

Helping Faith Grow

"This was an opportunity to offer adult faith education for English-speaking parishioners," says Sister Enid of her move to Kapuskasing, "in an area where parishes were mostly French." Sister Enid began making trips to neighbouring towns to offer workshops, Bible courses and retreats.
 
"Faith should always be a growing, breathing force in our lives," says Sister Enid, "and as we mature, we can continue our religious studies and improve how we live our relationships with God and others."
 
Two years into Sister Enid's ministry in Kapuskasing, her father, legendary hockey team manager Frank J. Selke, passed away. A former protégé of Mr. Selke offered money to build a memorial. After extensive research, Sister Enid used the funds to seed the construction of the Frank J. Selke Memorial Resource Centre. It opened in 1988 as a two-storey building connected to St. Patrick's Parish, providing Kapuskasing with a spiritual resource library and space for faith education, parish activities and community outreach. 
 
Sister Enid was glad to pay tribute to her father. As the Centre's administrator, she started its programs and developed a board of advisors along with volunteers and staff. "Much of what I did involved teaching and encouraging people so they themselves could offer faith education as part of the Centre's programs."

Adults and Children

A key part of the Centre was also reaching out to people in need, continuing with the same acts of kindness Sister Enid taught in classrooms. "The parish outreach program and the Centre brought together parishioners, townspeople and friends to buy food, clothing, books and supplies for those in need."
 
Sister Enid spent 33 years in adult faith education in Kapuskasing and its surrounding area. "The main difference between teaching children and teaching adults," says Sister Enid, "is that with adults, one can more easily see and assist in their spiritual interest, growth and actions. With children, one is planting seeds and hoping that as they grow, love and faith will be their guiding force."
 
But whether it was children or adults, her goals were unchanged. "I wanted my students to know that God's with them every step of their journey and if we love God, we'll be kind to others."

Returning to Toronto

In 2016 at the age of 92, Sister Enid decided to retire. "It was time for me to reconnect with my religious community in Toronto," she explains. The Frank J. Selke Centre will continue to house faith education and outreach. "The board members will not do things in the same way I did, but they will carry on with the life of the Centre."
 
Now living at the Sisters' main Toronto residence, Sister Enid sees her love for teaching reflected around her. "Many of the Sisters here were teachers too," says Sister Enid, "and some of them were my students." 
 
She's currently considering future options for ministry. "I still hope to be of service in some way that will let people know they are loved by God and by me."
 

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