Congratulations to Sister Mary Ellen Burns
Sister Mary Ellen Burns was recently featured in Missions Today magazine. The article touches on her many achievements as a teacher and religious educator as well as being awarded the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Pope Francis.
The full article is below and is reprinted with permission by the editor.
The year 2016 is considered by many to have been a very bad year on a number of fronts, but for Sister Mary Ellen Burns, it was a very good one.
Not only did Sister Mary Ellen celebrate her 60th anniversary of profession in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto on March 16, but she also received one of the Pope’s highest honours in November.
Sister Mary Ellen was among a group of five who received the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for Church and Pope), the most significant award a lay person can receive from the Pope. This award, established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, is recognition of distinguished service to the Church over a period of years.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB spoke of the award recipients as people who, “truly exemplify the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that Pope Francis has invited us to reflect on and practise with renewed vigour during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is truly a privilege to shepherd the Archdiocese of Vancouver, where so many faithful generously give of themselves.”
Sister Mary Ellen “truly exemplifies the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.” Throughout her 60 (and now into her 61st) years as a Sister of St. Joseph, she has lived a life of outreach, most especially in her care and love of children. She taught school in both Ontario and British Columbia prior to serving in the Archdiocese’s Office of Religious Education (ORE). Sister Mary Ellen spent 14 happy and productive years in the ORE training catechists, providing children with religious instruction and assisting teachers in developing meaningful religious education programs for their children.
I present to you a brief look at some of the accomplishments of this remarkable person in her own words:
After obtaining my teaching certificate, I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto. Over the years I taught in St. Catharines, Islington, Oshawa, Toronto and Barrie in Ontario and then later in Kitimat, British Columbia.
In this Archdiocese (Vancouver)
- In 1962 - 1964, I taught at Holy Trinity in North Vancouver,
- From 1967-1972, I taught at St. Patrick’s, Vancouver,
- And then St Paul’s in Richmond from 1974 -1976;
- From 1981 - 1994, I served as Coordinator of Religious Education Programs in the Archdiocese.
- From 1995 - 2002, I was director of the English Program for Japanese students from Nanzan University in Nagoya while also doing Holy Childhood.
- From 1995 until the present, I have worked with the Holy Childhood Children Helping Children Program in our schools and PREP programs.
So, in total, I have spent 44 years in this Archdiocese and 46 in BC.
Because of her knowledge and experience, she is often called upon to provide talks and presentations at religious institutes and workshops. I would suggest that her positive manner and overall enthusiasm and happiness for what she does are major factors in what attracts people to her.
In 1995, she became the director of the Holy Childhood Association for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, a role that she has tackled with great zeal and industry. Nothing makes Sister Mary Ellen happier than visiting schools and spreading the Good News message of the Holy Childhood Association.
So congratulations, Sister Mary Ellen. You are a true exemplar of what it means to be a Christian in contemporary society. If only I had your energy!
By P. Coady, Missions Today, Spring 2017
Reprinted with permission from the Pontifical Mission Societies