In 2011, contributions of risk-taking Catholic sisters over the last 150 years were commemorated with the Service Through Christ statue on the Alberta Legislature Grounds.
To recognize those people today who make similar selfless acts of service and compassion as those early sisters, Covenant Health established the Service Through Christ Award.
The award is given to a person or team, regardless of faith, who is widely recognized as supporting, advancing and working tirelessly on behalf to carry on the sisters' legacy in health care.
Those early sisters responded to the needs of their times, founding hospitals and health services before Alberta became a province. Covenant Health owns the sisters' legacy, collaborating with others to bring Christ's healing love to the most vulnerable in society.
Recipients of this year's awards are Marg Mrazek and the Grey Nuns of Montreal.
Mrazek's career has long intertwined with Catholic health care in Alberta. Upon accepting her award Oct. 23 at Covenant Health's annual meeting, she confessed that she was stunned to be a recipient.
"What I did, I did because I loved it. There are so many who have contributed to the continuous path of health care over the past 150 years, and I really have been privileged to have contributed in just a small, small way," said Mrazek.
She was both a student and instructor at the Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing, once holding the position of acting director there. "The sisters taught me what it meant to give compassionate, loving care, something that has remained with me all my life, including the care of my mother."
She earned a master's degree in health service administration, then returned to the Misericordia Hospital where she held administrative positions, including vice-president of patient care services.
"However, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Marg again left the Mis, this time to pursue a law degree at the University of Alberta," said Covenant Health Board Chairman John Brennan.
As a lawyer, she assisted with the legal transfer of many Catholic hospitals from religious orders to the Alberta Catholic Health Corporation to ensure the Catholic ministry would continue.
"She contributed to both the formation of the Caritas Health Group and Covenant Health, and assisted Catholic Health Association of Alberta, Covenant Health's canonical and legal sponsor," said Brennan.
Also receiving a Service Through Christ Award were the Grey Nuns.
The history of health care in Alberta has strong connections to Catholic religious orders - courageous women who founded many health care institutions.
Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves
Covenant Health's ministry began with an aged man who sought care from the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Montreal in November 1863 – 42 years before Alberta became a province.
The Grey Nuns were lauded with the Service Through Christ Award for their century and a half of work. Accepting the award was Sister Jacqueline St-Yves, the order's congregational leader.
"I am very proud to accept this award because I am doing it on behalf of all those women who came before me, all those women who made health care what it is today," said St-Yves.
The Grey Nuns were established in Montreal in 1737 and became Alberta's first Catholic health care provider 150 years ago in St. Albert.
Providing some historical background, Brennan said that extraordinary story of the Grey Nuns began with an ordinary person, foundress St. Marguerite d'Youville, who was sensitized to the unmet needs in the community through her own tragedy and loss.
In her tireless advocacy for the sick and vulnerable, she attracted others.
In Alberta, the Grey Nuns founded Calgary's Holy Cross Hospital in 1891 and the Edmonton General in 1895.
Carrying on their tradition of serving the most vulnerable, they also established palliative care services with the Mel Miller Hospice in 1983, and at the Grey Nuns Hospital in 1995. Today, these two units are recognized worldwide as innovators in end-of-life care.