Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2008
Sister endured poverty, hunger, persecution
Sr. Christina Schell taught in Edmonton, served God for 78 years
Special to the WCRr
Christina then fulfilled a promise to God by moving to Saint John in 1930 to become a Sister of Charity.
In 1987, at age 76, Sister Christina chronicled her familyís suffering and remarkable flight to freedom in a book titled, Tragedy, Travel and Triumph.
Fleeing to Germany, her father, Jacob, joined a horse-drawn caravan with Christina, her two brothers and four of her sisters. (One child died earlier, while the oldest sister married and remained in Russia.)
During the arduous journey, Jacob fell ill and died. Separated for the first time, the orphaned Schell children were cared for in different homes in Germany.
One of Christinaís sisters wrote to their motherís brother ó a baker and grain speculator in Young, Sask., named Vincent Uebell. The same day the letter arrived, their uncle also received an offer of $7,000 for a grain sale. He used the money to bring his nieces and nephews to Canada.
Early in 1923, the seven children sailed from Germany to England and then boarded a ship for Halifax. After a five-day train trip to Saskatchewan, they joined their uncle and his family in Young.
Christina moved temporarily to the home of an older uncle in Luseland, Sask. Her sisters left Young to enter the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception in Saint John.
Their decision was influenced by two SCIC who visited their uncleís home during a trip to raise funds for the hospital and orphanage in Prince Albert, Sask., which were served by the Sisters of Charity. Anna and Margaret entered the SCIC in 1924, while Barbara and Paula arrived the following year.
Before she went East, Barbara arranged for Christina to come to the orphanage, which included a school. Christina spent most of her high school years in Prince Albert, though she attended Grade 11 at a boarding school served by the SCIC in Holdfast. In 1930, she graduated from the Academy of Our Lady of Sion in Prince Albert.
Christina then fulfilled a promise to God by moving to Saint John in 1930 to become a Sister of Charity. After novitiate, she earned her teacherís licence and was asked to teach in the Catholic public school in Holdfast, which included Grades 1-12.
Although she was told the mission was temporary, Sister Christina remained until 1968 and served 23 of the 35 years as principal. The Holdfast high school that bears her name was built in 1960.
Sister Christina also taught six years in Edmonton Catholic high schools -- St. Maryís, Louis St. Laurent and Archbishop OíLeary. In 1967, she received the Centennial Medal in recognition of valuable service to the nation.
Over the years, she earned bachelors degrees in arts and education from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, as well as a masterís degree in education from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
Returning to Saint John in 1974, she served as coordinator of religious education for St. Vincentís and St. Malachyís high schools for three years. Love of books and education then led her to serve as director of the cityís Catholic bookstore from 1977-84.
Later, Sister Christina volunteered at the store while doing clerical work at St. Josephís Hospital until 1987. She lived at the SCIC motherhouse before moving to Ruth Ross Residence in 2004.
Her brothers, John and Jacob, married and lived in British Columbia. Sister Christina lived in Vancouver from 1992-94 to be near Jacob during his illness. Her brothers and sisters have all died. She is survived by a nephew, Gary Schell of Calgary and a niece, Angelika Bauer of Russia.
At a young age, Sister Christina knew hunger, poverty, persecution and dislocation. In her book and during her long life, she credited Godís grace with turning tragedy to triumph.
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