Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 26, 2010
God's call came when she was only 3
With priests living on one side, nuns on the other, Ann Coster was immersed in Catholic environment
CHRIS MILLEREDMONTON - Finding one's true calling in life sometimes takes many years. Not so for Sister Ann Christine Coster, who had her life all planned out at an early age. She was only three years old when she first said she was going to be a nun.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
"I was shopping with my mother, and this woman serving her asked me, 'What are you going to be when you grow up?' I told her that I'm going to be a nun. Well, this was a big shock to my mother. Obviously I didn't know what it meant at that time, but as we got to know the sisters, I always got the feeling there was a call there," said Coster, an Ursuline of Jesus.
The third of six children, Coster was born in London, England, in 1942, during the Second World War. Her mother had converted to Catholicism, but stopped going to Mass because she was afraid of the local priest, a strict man. Coster's father urged his wife to return to the Church and eventually the whole family started attending Mass.
"On both sides of the family there were converts to Catholicism. My father actually helped my mother come back to the Church, strangely enough, and then he became a Catholic himself," Coster said.
When she was only four, her father, at the request of the parish priest, took over caretaker responsibilities of a Catholic school.
"We had the priests living on one side of us, and the sisters living on the other side, the Ursulines of Jesus. As we grew up, we were very much immersed with the whole ambience of the Catholic Church, with the priests and the sisters," said Coster. "The sisters would come into the schoolyard, and we often saw them walking around saying the rosary and going into the church. I guess all of that was part of my growing up."
VISIT THE CONVENT
As children, her brothers and sisters spoke of their futures and building a mansion when they got older. Coster, however, told her siblings that they would have to visit her in the convent.
"All of my life, when I look back, I can see this movement of the Lord within me. I can't say there was a big revelation at any stage, but there was always that call. It was there quietly working."
At age 11, she went to the Ursulines' boarding school in Liverpool. Her parents were convinced her longing to be a nun would pass, but they supported her nonetheless. She attended school for six years.
Upon completion of boarding school, she worked as a pre-training nurse at a nursing home in South Wales. Working in the nursing home, she saw the sisters in different ways, foibles and all. Disappointed by their way of life, she questioned whether becoming a sister was the right thing to do.
"I expected them to be perfect. When I saw the sisters in Liverpool, they weren't perfect either," said Coster. "She (the regional superior) told me, 'Remember, you make your life what you want it to be, not the way others are living it.'"
Her regional superior's advice influenced Coster. In 1961 she entered St. Margaret's Convent in Edinburgh, Scotland. There she began to understand what the Ursulines were all about.
A French priest, Father Louis-Marie Baudouin, and Sister Charlotte-Gabrielle Ranfray had founded the order. The international women's congregation allowed the Holy Spirit to urge them to be the image and presence of Christ.
"Their whole charism of the adoration of the Incarnate Word, being Christ in the world today, really began to let me see this is where I was being called to all these years. Whenever there was a doubt, I felt there was always a thread pulling me back again onto the right path."
Coster always dreamed of going to Africa but never did. Instead, in 1986, she came to Canada.
ENTERING THE UNKNOWN
"I was given three months to decide whether to come to Canada. I knew that I wouldn't say 'no' because it's part of my vow of obedience, but it was a real struggle to know how I would do it. I had no idea what I was being asked to do."
She came to the Prince George Diocese as a frontier apostle, teaching at Sacred Heart School in Prince George. She loved the new posting and felt right at home the minute she arrived.
The Ursulines' original ministries entailed education, nursing and support of priests. Now they do parish pastoral ministry, catechesis, hospital chaplaincy, counselling, holistic therapies and working with the marginalized.
Coster's expertise took her to many places throughout Western Canada. She spent four years in Prince George; two years in Dawson Creek; about a year in Edmonton; and six years in Chetwynd, B.C. She became a Canadian citizen in 1996. In 2000, she returned to Edmonton and has been here ever since.
There were at least 17 Ursulines of Jesus when she came to Edmonton; now only nine remain. The hopeful news for the order is it has several younger members in Cameroon and Latin America.
"We can see this trend throughout the Church. African priests are coming now to Canada. Before, we went to them as missionaries. Now they are coming to us as missionaries."
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