Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 6, 2006
Women live in Christian Peace
Ursuline-run residence offers a safe place to live, study, discern
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The duplex at 18 Gareth Place appears as unassuming as any other residence in the tiny St. Albert cul-de-sac. But what happens inside is remarkable.
Ursuline of Prelate Sister Gertrude Sopracolle is the director of Maryhome, the name for the duplex that serves as a home for women who wish to live in a peaceful, prayer-based, Christian residence and discernment house.
The home offers support to single or married women studying or working towards a vocational or ministry-related industry. It is not open exclusively to women discerning a consecrated life, although one young resident recently left to live in the Carmelite monastery near Devon.
A blessed ministry
"I've been incredibly blessed where I am called, but I don't know if I've been in a ministry that feels so right," said Sopracolle.
Residents are encouraged to participate in prayer and to spend time in the chapel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Sopracolle does not try to persuade the women to enter an order, but she is available for spiritual guidance.
"God works through me to enable people to see their inner worth and goodness and when this happens, they are on the way to being transformed into disciples of Jesus," said Sopracolle, an executive member of the National Association of Vocation/Formation Directors. "Gradually they see there is nothing in life where God is not present."
Six women, including Sopracolle, can live comfortably in the spacious home, formerly owned by the Oblate priests who live in the house next door.
Two rooms are generally left vacant for overnight stays or drop-ins for women on retreat. Communal duties are shared, privacy and quiet are respected and water conservation and recycling are encouraged.
Room and board is determined on a yearly basis. For 2006, it is $500 per month. Each room has high-speed Internet access and office capabilities.
Maryhome has been in St. Albert since June 2002, moving to its present location in October last year. It is designed to live out the educational vision of St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursulines.
Ghislaine Yelle has been living in Maryhome since the summer while working towards a master's degree in counselling from Athabasca University. She is married. Her husband drives up from Calgary regularly to visit her. Yelle also runs a small career counselling business in Calgary and found that she needed to get away to write her thesis.
"When I came, I thought this is where I needed to be. It was the right thing for me to do. My husband arrived later and he agreed," Yelle said. "When I was in Calgary, I worked on my project seven days a week.
"But here, we do fun things like dinners with good conversation. No one wears a mask. Living here is spiritual and contemplative."
Yelle enjoys going for walks in the neighbourhood or spending time in quiet prayer in the chapel. She feels safe.
"There is an openness because we can be living our spiritual lives in different ways. There is no judging," she said.
Sopracolle said Maryhome is available if a woman was to feel a call to consecrated life. She has several cards and letters from women who keep in touch. Many say how their time at Maryhome changed their lives.
"It is a place where a woman can say 'God, I am here if I have a call."
Sopracolle helped Lyndsey Ferguson move into ministry after they met about three years ago. Ferguson is now youth minister at St. Theresa's Parish in Edmonton.
"I was at Star of the North on retreat when I met Sister Gertrude. She invited my out to Camp Oselia. She has been my spiritual director since."
A safe haven
Ferguson considered moving into Maryhome, but chose to stay at home with her parents. "I've had a retreat here and I come during the day to use the chapel. This is my safe haven," Ferguson said. "Being able to come to a place where I can tap into God flowers throughout my life. Give God some room and people will grow."
Freelance writer Cheryl Moskaluk has a close connection to the spiritual history in St. Albert. Her uncle is retired priest Father John Hesse, former pastor of Holy Family Parish.
The mother of three young children finds her time at Maryhome "centring."
"I found that the connection is with Mary and I thought this could be good," said Moskaluk.
"The more I think Maryhome is here for me, I think I have yet to take full advantage of it. I get busy in my life, but I always have a feeling I'd like to be here for adoration. Having a quiet place is important."