Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 19, 1999
Sisters' farewell to Trochu
Local residents have fond memories of their 90 years of service
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Convents are just for Catholics. Or so Harry Lloyd thought until the Sisters of Charity of Notre Dame d'Evron opened theirs to him.
In 1953, when Lloyd was a single father raising two young children, the convent was the closest thing he had to a miracle.
"One night I got down on my knees and started praying," said Lloyd whose children were five and seven at the time.
"Lo and behold the next day a lady asked me what I was going to do with my children. She said 'Why don't you take them to the sisters, they will take care of them.' I thought convents were just for Catholics, but I brought them there and the sisters took them in."
Lloyd's children stayed at the convent during the week and spent the weekends at home with him. Two years passed and a maintenance job at the convent opened up. Lloyd applied and spent the next 17 years maintaining the facility.
"They were really good to my kids," said Lloyd, 83. "They were really good to me. I don't know what I would have done without them."
The small farm town of Trochu was home to the Sisters of Charity for almost a century. Some of them will return Aug. 8 to celebrate the order's 90 years of service in Trochu. They will also bid farewell.
Sister Agnes Knievel, who moved to Edmonton in February, was the last Sister of Charity to leave Trochu.
"Of course I will miss the people there, that was my hometown since I was two and a half," said Knievel, 82, who grew up in Trochu. "It's a close-knit hometown kind of feeling. I will miss that."
The sisters settled in Trochu in 1909 after being forced out of their native France. They set up house on what is now known at St. Anne's Ranch, donated to them by a local rancher.
They erected a hospital, school and orphanage, and convent, which served as the motherhouse for the order in Canada. St. Mary's Health Care Centre, an acute care facility and nursing home, and the Catholic school were the first of its kind in the town.
The sisters' departure from Trochu was partly due to declining numbers and to changes in the hospital. Although the sisters still own St. Mary's, they have turned administrative duties over to the staff. Provincial funding also played a hand in cutting back on staff and the number of sisters who could work at the hospital, said Knievel.
The order also has hospitals in Vegreville and Bonnyville where they are still actively involved.
"They definitely had an effect on people here," said Lorene Frere, who lives at and manages St. Anne's Ranch and Museum. "They served the community for so long and people looked up to them.
"They really contributed to the community. They gave a Christian atmosphere to the community."
Frere said, "They helped everyone here - the poor, the sick, children, everyone."
Lloyd, who now lives at St. Mary's, added, "I don't know what would have become of my children if the sisters weren't there. I don't know where I would be without them."