Sr. Christina Wong
EDMONTON — While others around her believed she would make a good sister, it took Christina Wong a long time to realize it herself.
As a high school student in Hong Kong, she was asked by the sisters who ran the school whether she had considered becoming a nun.
“I was under 20 and I didn’t take their question too seriously because in a convent school the sisters looked after the students,” said Wong, seeing a reverence in them that she did not see in herself.
But after years of searching, Wong made her perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence Sept. 17 at the chapel of Providence Renewal Centre, with Archbishop Richard Smith presiding.
After graduating from high school, she did as many young women do — went to college, worked and travelled. She never considered becoming a sister until she came to Canada. Here, she met some Sisters of Providence through their connection with Mary Help of Christians Church, Edmonton’s Chinese Catholic parish.
“I still didn’t think about religious life too much. I felt that I had an obligation to look after my aging parents at that time. When they passed away, I started to think about it more seriously after 1996,” she said.
She needed to stay busy to take her mind off the loss of her parents. While grieving their deaths, she spent her hours doing volunteer tasks, such as working funeral luncheons for the Catholic Women’s League.
“After my parents passed away, I started to volunteer in the church and in the hospitals. At that time I didn’t see it as a ministry, just a way to use my time. It turned out to be very meaningful for me,” she said.
In 1997 the Sisters of Providence invited some young women to join them for five weeks, experiencing the life of a sister by living in the convent and doing inner city ministry.
Wong was assigned to the Marian Centre and L’Arche Edmonton. The call to embrace religious life tugged at her once again. She brought Communion to patients in the hospital. Patients would ask if she was a nun. The question always struck her as odd. In retrospect, those patients already saw the qualities of a religious sister that she had not yet seen in herself.
In 2000 she became an associate with the Sisters of Providence. In 2003 she spent a few days on retreat in Combermere, Ont. When she spoke to a priest there about the possibility of becoming a sister, he suggested she give it a try.
In the Chinese culture, Catholics treat priests with utmost reverence and respect. Whenever the priest speaks, they listen. So Wong obeyed the priest’s suggestion. She entered the Sisters of Providence as a candidate in 2004. She went to Spokane as a first-year novice, returning to Edmonton in 2006.
Now, she is the treasurer of her local convent and also a part-time receptionist at Providence Renewal Centre. She does pastoral care at a continuing care centre, and sometimes works in Calgary at Father Lacombe Home.
She is the director of the Providence Associates. She is an English/Chinese interpreter in court and hospitals, and for others who need help communicating.
Wong acknowledged that changes in Canadian society have meant that far fewer women choose religious life.
“In the past we had institutions, the schools and hospitals, and so people knew about the religious sisters from those avenues. Right now we don’t have that kind of institute to make us connect with everyday society,” she said.
She believes that Canada will always have people entering religious vocations, but they will wait until later in life, not joining immediately out of high school as in the past.
On Sept. 28 at the Alberta Legislature, Catholic sisters will be honoured for their pioneering contributions in education, health care and social welfare in Alberta. Such celebrations are imperative, Wong said, in promoting religious life to the mainstream culture.
“I think it’s important for them to have something like this occasionally, then it will bring up the message about the importance of the religious sisters.”