Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 28, 2010
Alta. Grey Nuns honoured for 'exceptional evangelical spirit'
CSS gives sisters top award for contributions in education, health care, social services
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
They came to Alberta a century and a half ago with little more than the clothes on their backs. A deep faith and a desire to bring healing to the sick, comfort to the dying and education to the children brought them to the province.
But the Sisters of Charity of Montreal had little when they arrived and actually had to go begging in order to feed themselves and others.
They suffered hunger, cold and other hardships that few today can comprehend. Yet they put meeting the needs of others before their own comfort.
For their commitment and dedication, this beloved religious community, better known as the Grey Nuns, was awarded the Msgr. Bill Irwin Award of Excellence at Catholic Social Services' 48th annual meeting at the Hotel Macdonald June 17.
Some 300 CSS staff and volunteers who attended the meeting gave the sisters a standing ovation.
Named after the agency's founder, the Msgr. Bill Irwin Award is granted to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the well-being of the community or who have demonstrated the highest standard of excellence in a human service field.
"This community is being honoured for their exceptional evangelical spirit, selfless service and remarkable contributions to the people of Alberta in the fields of health care, education and social services," said Father Mike McCaffery as he presented the award to Sister Marguerite Letourneau, provincial leader of the Grey Nuns.
"It is an honour for us to receive this award," Letourneau said. "I only wish our foremothers were here to witness this moment but they are in some way."
The provincial leader said the congregation's foremothers specialized in the impossible and in risk-taking, always for the sake of others.
"Their faith, their pioneering spirit, their passion and their vision empowered us, the next generation, to be attentive to a call, to gaze at the unknown and to trust in possibilities."
When the Grey Nuns accepted an invitation from Bishop Alexandre Taché, in 1857, to come to Alberta and minister to its people, there literally was no easy, well-travelled path for them to take.
"However, imbued with courage, tenacity, generosity of spirit, a keen sense of humour, and a firm belief that anything is possible with God's help, the (Grey) Nuns took up the challenge and arrived in 1859," McCaffery noted.
"Now, 150 years later, we can clearly see the remarkable trail that was indelibly created by the vision, blood, sweat and tears of the Grey Nuns. What wonderful gifts they have left for all of us to share."
In his presentation, McCaffery enumerated some of the congregation's most notable legacies:
"I could go on and on, but needless to say, the Grey Nuns heard God's call, came, saw and acted," McCaffery said.
"Theirs was a journey of love, commitment and courage. These holy women responded fully and generously, despite significant hardships and losses. Throughout their journey, the Grey Nuns modelled respect and dignity in the holistic care of the human person."
At the annual meeting, CSS also handed outstanding volunteer awards to:
Muth, pastor of the Urban Bridge Church, has been a program aide and visitor volunteer at Kairos House - a residential hospice for men and women with HIV-AIDS - since December 2007.
Asked about the outstanding volunteer award, Muth said he felt "undeserving, quite frankly."
'NO GREAT THING'
Why? "Because I think that I do no great thing. I think that I do what should be expected of me as a Christian and as a member of the human race."
Not only has Muth dedicated a substantial amount of his personal time to Kairos, he has encouraged many of his parishioners, including his wife Cheryl, to get involved at Kairos.
"Darrell has become a very significant member of the Kairos House family," noted Catherine Marquis, who presented the award to the Protestant minister.
"His visits are looked forward to by residents and staff because he makes each resident feel valued and loved. Darrell's smile and warmth of character fills the house with joy as he joins into a highly competitive game of Triominos or spends time chatting over tea."
Muth's Sunday dinners have become legendary at Kairos "and though he is a great cook, it is his authentic presence and genuine concern for the residents that make his visits special to them," Marquis said.
"Darrell has become the spiritual shepherd at Kairos House. He is a great listener and thoughtful responder in times of crisis."
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