Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 29, 2003
A story of faith, a mission of love
SCIC spread their ministries to the poor in Peru
By ROMA DE ROBERTIS, scic
Special to the WCR
Saint John, N.B.
From coast to coast and in Peru, the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception are preparing to launch their 150th anniversary year.
A Story of Faith - A Mission of Love is the theme of the year of liturgies, displays and events planned for the SCIC's Pacific, Prairie and Atlantic regions and Peru mission. Founded in 1854 in Saint John, the SCIC became the first English-speaking religious congregation in Canada.
Their foundress, Honoria Conway, left her native Ireland in 1837, living in Saint John and near Meteghan, N.S. In 1853, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of New York.
But when a cholera epidemic left hundreds of Irish immigrant children orphaned in Saint John, she and three companions heeded an urgent call from Bishop Thomas Connolly to serve in that diocese.
With them they brought the practical spirituality of Sts. Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and Elizabeth Ann Seton. In 17th century France, Sts. Vincent and Louise formed the Daughters of Charity to actively serve the poor and unlearned. In Canada, the founding women were first called the Sisters of Charity of Saint John and cared for the poor, sick and orphans.
Early in the 20th century, SCIC missions spread throughout Canada.
The sisters arrived in Edmonton to teach in 1924 and carried on that tradition until recent years. In 1926, they established St. Joseph's Hospital in Radway and went on to teach in Wetaskiwin and Hanna.
The SCIC moved their novitiate to Edmonton from Saint John in 1972. There, formation of new members includes study at Newman Theological College.
SCIC also served in Lloydminster as well as Edson, Viking and Wainwright. Today, one sister coordinates catechetics for the Camrose deanery of the Edmonton Archdiocese while another offers parish ministry in Fort Saskatchewan.
In Edmonton, SCIC ministries include literacy, theological education, music ministry, inner city and prison ministries.
When Pope Paul VI called religious from the western world to serve in Latin America, SCIC responded by establishing eight missions in Peru beginning in 1967.
Two early SCIC missionaries remain among poor, indigenous people in the mountain region of Cajamarca.
Today in new ways, the SCIC mission continues to focus on education, health care and social service in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Peru.
For example, more than 70 women and men are now associates of the SCIC. The associate relationship offers growth in spirituality, mutual support and service, especially among the poor.
In 1968, SCIC membership peaked at almost 400. Today there are 152 sisters.
A new book about their history, Whose Leaves Never Fade, will be launched soon. And a variety of anniversary liturgies and events are planned regionally.
Watch for local announcements and check the SCIC website at www.sc-ic.org.