Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 12, 1999
Slowly drawn to religious life
Sr. Hazel's parish involvement led her to become an Ursuline
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
God works in mysterious ways and Sister Hazel Dalton knows that well. After God hooked her in parish work and canon law, he drew her into religious life and gave her a top Church position.
Dalton made her perpetual vows as a member of the Ursulines of Jesus at St. Anthony's Church July 5. Right after the ceremony, she flew to Prince George to take over as chancellor of the diocese, an administrative position that has become increasingly open to women.
"It was a surprise to me too," she says of her call to religious life, a call which she says didn't come through lightning and thunderstorms but in very human ways.
It came through her daily involvement in parish life and her desire to be closer to God, to serve him totally.
Some 200 people attended the celebration of Dalton's final vows, presided by her new boss, Prince George Bishop Gerald Wiesner.
Dalton said she feels totally fulfilled as a sister and wouldn't trade the feeling for anything.
Religious life wasn't part of her plans in the beginning. Growing up in Wainwright, the young Dalton wanted to become a musician. So after graduating from Blessed Sacrament High she went straight to the University of Alberta to study music.
Upon graduation, she started working as a Yamaha piano teacher.
But one day she was invited to do secretarial work at St. Anthony's Parish in Edmonton and got hooked, getting involved in all areas of parish life.
After four years at St. Anthony's she studied liturgy and moved to St. Michael-Resurrection Parish, where she served for another four years in the same capacity - working with new Catholics and doing sacramental and marriage preparation.
"In parish work you work with people who are preparing for marriage or are in difficult marriage situations and need that kind of help. I found it very interesting and I felt it was a real ministry to be able to help in broken marriages," she said in an interview.
From 1985 to 1992 Dalton worked in the Alberta Marriage Tribunal, processing marriage annulment applications. While at the tribunal, she took a few years off in the late 1980s to study canon law at St. Paul University in Ottawa.
After completing her studies, Dalton took a close look at her life. Everything seemed to be in order - she had a good education, a good job and lots of friends. Nevertheless, she felt "unfulfilled."
Deep inside, she felt a "quiet stirring," an itching for something more. She recalls feeling a desire to live in community and surrender totally to the Lord. At that point, Dalton realized God was calling her to religious life.
And the Ursulines of Jesus, whom she had met at St. Anthony's, became the obvious choice because they represented what she wanted to do with her own life. "In whatever they where doing, they really were the presence of Jesus," she recalled. "Jesus shined through them."
Dalton, now one of 17 Ursulines in Canada and 700 around the world, made her first vows in 1993. Today she is more convinced than ever she made the right decision. "I really feel that this is where I want to spend the rest of my life."
For the past five years Dalton has been a parish worker in Chetwynd, a small town in northern B.C., becoming administrator of the 130-family parish a year ago.
Now her life has taken a different turn. As a chancellor of the Prince George Diocese, she will be in charge, among other things, of keeping the diocese's records and of overseeing the independent Catholic schools. She also expects to do some marriage tribunal work and is ready to tackle "anything the bishop wants me to do."
Dalton won't call herself a feminist but says women have a good ally in her, somebody who truly cares about their place in the Church.
"I'm very committed to the Second Vatican Council and its model of Church," she said. "I really believe in empowering people to respond to God in the best way each one can."