Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 29, 2003
Prairie sisters join in celebration
Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate mark 75th anniversary
By ROMA DE ROBERTIS, scic
Special to the WCR
Saint John, N.B.
Prayer and service continue to grace their long lives, agree three Prairie women each celebrating 75 years as Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception.
The three were together for anniversary celebrations honouring them and other SCIC jubilarians Sept. 8 at the sisters' retirement home here. While Sisters Cecelia Martz and Anne Fix live at Ruth Ross Residence, Sister Mary Ell travelled from Edmonton for the occasion.
As Saskatchewan teenagers, they arrived here by train in 1928 to join the first English-speaking religious community founded in Canada.
Each aged 92, they are witnesses to sweeping changes in religious life, church and society. And they help embody half the life of their community on the eve of the SCIC's 150th anniversary (1854-2004).
Sister Cecelia engages in prayer and telephone ministry. Still an avid reader and letter writer, she supports the Canadian Bible Society and the charismatic renewal.
From a young age, Cecelia knew she was called to religious life. "One man would never fill my bill" in marriage, she said candidly.
At the SCIC's Rosary Hall residence for women students in Regina, she was inspired by a picture of St. Vincent de Paul, whose spirituality the sisters share. That practical spirit of charity, humility and simplicity "was for me," she decided.
She served in pastoral work in Wetaskiwin, Alta., and helped establish the sisters' former parish ministry in Hope, B.C. She was administrator of Our Lady of Mercy Home for single mothers in Vancouver and the former St. Joseph's Hospital in Radway, Alta.
Sister Anne Fix was born in Gossinga, a village near Odessa, Russia. When she was two, as the First World War loomed, her family immigrated to Regina. The eldest of four children, she recalled that "daily prayer was a must" in her German-speaking Catholic home.
Sister Anne worked at Our Lady of Mercy Home and taught in Vancouver. For most of her religious life, she kept medical records in former SCIC hospitals in the West: Holy Family in Prince Albert, St. Joseph's in Radway and St. Vincent's in Vancouver. Today she offers telephone and prayer ministry and keeps abreast of spiritual reading.
Sister Mary Ell is still busy tutoring, painting, working on the computer, contributing to her parish and visiting the sick in Edmonton.
Born the eldest of seven children into a German-speaking Catholic family on a Holdfast farm, she knew from an early age that her "vocation came from God."
She was principal and teacher in Wetaskiwin, Alta., taught in Vancouver and held teaching and principal positions in Winnipeg. In 1983, the Alberta Teachers' Association gave her an award for 50 dedicated years of teaching.
Sister Mary did literacy work in Edmonton's inner city and tutored seminarians from Vietnam and Africa preparing to serve in the Edmonton Archdiocese. On March 23 this year, Edmonton's St. Alphonsus Parish honoured and blessed her as she celebrated 75 years of religious life.
"Sometimes I say, 'Lord, why am I still here?'" she says with laughter. "I had some very difficult times" when sent out with few answers or resources, but ultimately the mission "always brought happiness."