Sr. Terry Horvath
EDMONTON — The Sisters of Sion were sent to North America in 1892 with the encouraging words, "Congratulations, go and do something."
When the first three sisters came to Edmonton in 1961, they remained busy "doing something," mostly serving in the schools or in parish work. Father Joseph McGrane was instrumental in bringing Sister Alice Godin and two others from the order to Edmonton to help in his parish of St. Angela.
Godin was the first one here — and almost the last. She died last September.
A year after their arrival, they were transferred to the other side of the city and played pivotal roles at the newly opened Austin O'Brien High School. Sister Kay MacDonald became the principal.
Living close to a large high school involved the sisters in many of the students' activities. A neighbouring house was purchased to accommodate the growing number of sisters.
"Our peak period was definitely in the 1960s when there were around 14 sisters here, living in two houses. They were very active in the schools and in music, and they even had their own singing group," said Sister Terry Horvath, the last of the sisters in Edmonton.
Horvath said the 1960s was a time of modified religious rules and of changing styles.
Having been a teacher for 11 years in the United States and teaching in Moose Jaw, Horvath felt a new calling during a sabbatical in Lourdes. She wanted to be a nurse. Arriving in Edmonton in 1979, she nursed at Edmonton General Hospital for five years. She stayed involved with the United Nurses of Alberta, and has been a strong advocate for health care.
After years of serving at St. Michael-Resurrection Parish, Horvath retired in 1999. She left for Saskatoon on Feb. 28.
"I am the last to leave Edmonton. I have good memories of Edmonton and I am sorry to leave, but I have always believed in community living, so I'm going to Saskatoon," said Horvath. "I'll be living in an apartment. There are seven sisters in Saskatoon."
The Sisters of Sion are an international congregation of vowed women, both contemplative and apostolic. They are dispersed through 22 nations and have a motherhouse in Rome.
Locally, an important field of work for the sisters was ecumenism and interfaith relations, which goes beyond the search for Christian unity and extends to people of all beliefs. They are women set out to heal a fractured world by building bridges of understanding among all faith traditions. The sisters have always strove for Jewish/Christian relations.
Education has always been a main thrust for the sisters, at all school levels as well as adult education.
Through Catholic Social Services, the sisters sponsored refugees, an Ethiopian couple that have successfully raised a family here, found long-term employment, and enjoy productive lives.
Seven former sisters still live in Edmonton. Three are married and the others are involved in the Church in lay ministries.
"Our chapter will meet again next summer to deal with diminishing numbers, and see what our future is," said Horvath, noting this is a common problem that all religious orders are experiencing.
Today there are Sion communities in Saskatoon, Montreal, St. Laurent, Winnipeg and Toronto.