Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 1999
Sister tells of Grey Nuns in residential schools
Northerners Say: 'Thanks, Sisters'., by Sister Agnes Sutherland.
By RUTH McLAREN, ssnd
Special to the WCR
Northerners Say: 'Thanks, Sisters' is a title chosen by former students, patients and employees of the Grey Nuns.
The stories respond to those who repeatedly ask about the sisters they knew in residential schools and the hospitals in the Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocese.
Now readers can also hear the stories about women whose names live on in the hearts of the people of northern Canada.
Sister Agnes Sutherland, also a Grey Nun, begins by providing a brief history of the beginnings of the Grey Nuns.
She then introduces the economic, political, social and historic highlights of 10 settlements in northern Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories to which groups of 10 to 12 sisters first went to provide service in schools and hospitals.
Sutherland makes skillful use of interviews, photos, quotes of the sisters, stories and anecdotes told by former students, patients and employees and information from the archives.
She presents 37 of the 300 Grey Nuns who served in the Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocese.
For example, "Forced Landing in the Middle of Nowhere" introduces Sister Anne Mercredi, of Fond du Lac, Sask., whose many stories include the trappers and hunters who returned at the end of their day to find a nun stranded in their log cabin after a breath-taking emergency bush plane landing.
Sutherland's stories cross many eras from 1867 to the present and have the power to unlock memories of similar people and experiences of the rapid changes in technology, communication, travel and lifestyles of pioneer days to the space age.
The book provides faces and personalities of the ordinary person behind an important facet of Canadian history. Also in the book you will see the spirit and dreams of St. Marguerite d'Youville expressed in the character of the far North.
This book is also an invitation to discover how we continue to share the same qualities of courage, innovativeness, visioning and flexibility demonstrated by these women.
Northerners Say: 'Thanks, Sisters' can be obtained from: P.O. Box 718, Fort Smith, NT, X0E 0P0 for $27.95 plus postage and handling of $8.
(Ruth McLaren is pastoral assistant at Native Peoples' Parish in Toronto.)