Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 5, 2010
Sr. Pat Derbyshire faces change, challenges
Newly-elected leader of Sisters of Charity of St. Louis wants sisters in the field to keep living out their faith.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT - Sister Pat Derbyshire is the new provincial leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis in Western Canada.
The Calgary native was just appointed to a three-year term as leader to replace Sister Mary Anne Mulvihill, the provincial superior for the past six years.
Derbyshire will move to the order's headquarters in Calgary ahead of her installation as leader in mid-August.
Her move and that of her roommate Sister Mary Spence, the last two sisters remaining in St. Albert, will end the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis ministry in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
As superior, Derbyshire will be responsible for 25 sisters stationed in various centres in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Derbyshire will make decisions with the help of a team. "I'm a collaborative leader. We work together in decision-making and I sort of animate the group and call the group together and put forth the items that we need to discuss."
The team's duties include organizing the order's annual assembly and making sure the sisters are happy and well looked after. "Also, as we diminish in age, there is also the area of selling property that we no longer need."
The Sisters of Charity of St. Louis in Western Canada are part of an international congregation and so Derbyshire can expect to attend a number of international meetings during her term. Her order has sisters in Quebec, France, England, Haiti, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Mexico and Martinique.
The average age of the sisters in Western Canada is 75. The last time the congregation had a vocation was in the late 1980s.
"This tells me we are not flourishing," Derbyshire said. "We are looking at the fact that in our Western province we will not continue as a province; like we are going to die out."
The Western province could become part of one of three Quebec provinces, which have a total membership of about 450 sisters. Aging aside, Derbyshire wants to keep the sisters in the field living out their faith.
"My dream would be to have the sisters stay wherever they are as long as they can be a vital presence in their community," she said. "Maybe another dream would be we use our finances sensibly."
Born and raised in Calgary, Derbyshire attended Catholic schools and joined the sisters in 1964. She has served as a teacher, a pastoral assistant and in native ministry in Alberta and B.C.
In 1994, she helped to open Elizabeth House in Calgary, which offers pregnant teens a safe place to live.
Four years ago Derbyshire found a job with Catholic Social Services in Edmonton and moved in with Spence.
"I'm a little sad," she confessed. "I really like St. Albert and the community, the parish here and my involvement."
During her stay here, Derbyshire played piano with a music group for Sunday liturgy at Holy Family Church and became involved with the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking.
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