Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 19, 2010
Sr. Coulombe had passionate concern for the needy
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT - "A Grey Nun with the heart of Marguerite d'Youville."
That's how friends and colleagues describe Sister Rita Marie Olympe Coulombe, who passed away April 7 at Youville Auxiliary Hospital. She was 87.
"She was compassionate, practical, respectful, peaceful, discreet, supportive and ever searching for ways and means of assisting those in need," says Coulombe's long-time friend Sister Madeleine Therrien.
During her 64 years as a Grey Nun, Coulombe made her mark in nursing, social services and support for immigrant families.
She co-founded Youville Memorial Residence in Calgary and the La Salle Residence in Edmonton, which today continues to provide a loving and safe environment for women in difficulty and their children.
In 1988, she was awarded the Merit Medal by the late Bishop Paul O'Byrne for service to the diocesan Church.
In 1996, she was recipient of the Sage Award from Edmonton Capital City Savings for her community contributions.
Born in Legal, Coulombe received her basic education as a boarder in the convent of Morinville and in Legal where the Grey Nuns taught. At age 21, she joined the Grey Nuns.
"From the outset, she proved to be a genuine Grey Nun 'with the heart of Marguerite d'Youville,'" Sister Marguerite Letourneau, leader of the Grey Nuns, said in an April 11 eulogy.
Coulombe's professional preparation was in nursing.
Over the years, she realized a long-time dream of caring for the sick and needy in all walks of life. She served briefly as a bedside nurse in several Alberta and Saskatchewan hospitals until 1965, when she was appointed director of nursing at Holy Cross Hospital.
She served in that capacity until 1971, when she started doing social service at Calgary's St. Mary's Parish. Late in 1974 she moved to St. Albert Nursing Home where she was superior and administrator.
For a great part of her active life, Coulombe served as either local superior and/or member of the provincial council.
"Her ability to listen, her understanding, and her gentleness served her well in various leadership positions," Letourneau said.
In 1977, Coulombe and Therrien established a forward-looking project to assist women in difficulty in Midnapore. It was named Youville Memorial Residence, a name that brought to mind the work accomplished by Marguerite d'Youville for neglected and battered women.
Coulombe ministered in this home for women until 1984.
In 1988, living in Edmonton, Coulombe and Therrien set up the La Salle Women's Project, which is now operated by Catholic Social Services.
In the later years of her life, Coulombe continued to assist at La Salle while being involved in immigration work. She also volunteered in the Edmonton General Hospital's pastoral care department.
"There she became a friend to seniors helping them enrich their spiritual life where meaning and purpose of life takes on a greater significance," Letourneau said.
"She lived a life of service, dedication and commitment, creatively finding ways and means to reach out to the most vulnerable in society."
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