Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 7, 2001
Students to learn about Grey Nuns
St. Albert schools see religious order at centre of city's history
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT — The Grey Nuns are being honoured by the Catholic and Protestant school boards for their contribution to this city over a period of 137 years.
The order's history, particularly the Grey Nuns contribution to education and health over the period, will be part of the social studies and religion curriculum in both school divisions.
School officials from both divisions released a self-contained resource kit with lessons for social studies in Grades 3 to 5 and 8 and religion in Grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12.
Dawn Kirvan, religious education consultant with St. Albert Catholic schools, and Lois Gluck, leader of curricular services with St. Albert Protestant schools, introduced the kit to reporters April 3.
The kit contains a teacher manual of lesson plans, reference books for historical research and reproduction of historic photographs.
The lessons focus on the work of the Grey Nuns in education and health care and are designed to meet knowledge and skills objectives from the Alberta program for social studies, the school officials said.
"It's very important to honour the work of those sisters," Kirvan said. "Now it is easy to forget the hardships and the very, very generous love that those sisters showed to the elderly, to the children of this community over 137 years.
"They really helped build this community and they lost a lot of their own in doing so and I think it's important for the sense of community to realize the history of the community. I think that brings it alive for the students."
Gluck said it is important to teach children that it was the Church, and by extension the Grey Nuns, that "provided all of the social systems, not just religion" to the community in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Grade 3 students will learn about changes in St. Albert over time, Grade 4 students will discuss the influence of the Grey Nuns over native people and links between Alberta and Quebec, Grade 5 students will do research using a time line, and Grade 8 students will take part in a research and simulation project.
Students in Catholic schools will learn about missionary work, service, lifestyle choices, vocations, religious orders and the social justice teachings of the Church.
The kit will become a permanent resource in St. Albert schools and will be used by teachers at their discretion at any time of the year. This year, however, the boards are recommending schools use it from now until the beginning of July, when a number of events will be held in St. Albert to honour the Grey Nuns.
The St. Albert Catholic and Protestant boards worked cooperatively to produce the resource, a fact Kirvan called "an example of practical ecumenism."
Writing teams made up of former and current staff of the two school divisions spent about 180 hours to produce each of the elementary and the secondary kits.
"It really has been a joint venture," Kirvan said. "In one sense it's a Catholic history but it's joint history, it's a community history."
The kit, which will be translated into French, was scheduled to be officially approved by the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board May 3 and by the Protestant School Board May 9.
The Sisters of Charity of Montreal or Grey Nuns arrived in St. Albert in 1863. Their first convent was a log cabin lent to them by Father Albert Lacombe.
The sisters sheltered and cared for the sick and aged in their humble surroundings and the cabin became known as the first hospital in central Alberta.
In the early 1900s, their convent became an Indian residential school with a kindergarten and orphanage for white children, run by the sisters.
At the request of a group of Edmonton doctors, the sisters opened the Edmonton General Hospital in 1895, as a continuation of the little hospital they had started in their St. Albert log cabin.
In 1863 the sisters founded Youville Home, now a modern nursing home. They transferred the facility to Caritas Health Corp. last October, an event that sparked a series of tributes to the pioneering sisters.
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