Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 7, 2005
Caritas honours founding sisters
Hospital still draws its vision from orders foundress, Mother Rosalie
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"We draw our inspiration from the early stories of Mother Rosalie (the order's foundress) who visited the sick and the dying, founded homes for orphaned children and embraced the challenges of unwed mothers and their children."
- Sheli Murphy
Five Misericorde sisters from the motherhouse in Montreal were present at the ceremony - a brief ritual in the hospital lobby to honour the sisters' legacy and to engage them in the blessing of the hospital's new addition.
During the ritual, the sisters had their handprints imprinted in a piece of concrete that will be mounted on a display and placed in the lobby of the new addition. An artistic rendering of Mother Rosalie was unveiled during the ceremony.
"We are so blessed that in 1900, many years ago, the Misericorde Sisters came here, to our little part of God's kingdom, to bring that tender mercy of God into our midst," Archbishop Thomas Collins said.
"And that mission and that apostolic presence flourished and grew and continues to this day because of the deep and true foundations laid by the Sisters of the Misericorde here in our community."
The Sisters of Misericorde came to Edmonton in 1900 in answer to a call from Bishop Vital Grandin who wanted then to care for single mothers in the city. They were so poor they had to go out and beg for money to feed the mothers-to-be so they would be able to get through their pregnancy.
In 1906 they decided to open a maternity hospital to better serve the needs of the increasing number of pregnant girls. That's how in May 1906 the Misericordia Hospital opened on 111th Street and 98th Avenue. Over the years it developed into a full-service hospital and moved to its present location in 1969.
In 1976 the sisters handed responsibly for the hospital's operation to the Alberta Catholic Hospital Foundation, an organization of the Alberta Bishops.
The move was part of a 1967 decision to progressively transfer to lay hands all 11 hospitals that the congregation had accumulated in North America.
"We decided to transfer our hospitals because we felt this was not what we were founded for," said Sister Lucie Lebeau, the order's assistant provincial general. "We were founded to help unwed girls and children (not to operate hospitals)."
After turning the Misericordia over to the foundation, the sisters went back to their original mission and are still at it. "We have homes for young pregnant women in Winnipeg, Toronto and New York."
In Quebec and Ecuador the sisters operate day-care centres or preschool programs where single mothers leave their small children while they complete their studies. But the congregation recently began turning over some of its ministries to lay people simply because it has no new vocations and most of its members are well past retirement age. "We are so young; we are all 78, 79," Lebeau laughed.
Lebeau never worked at the Misericordia but said those sisters who did still talk about the "wonderful solidarity of the people. "They talk of their stay here with great joy and affection. It was a beautiful experience."
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