A celebration was held on Wednesday to honour the years of service the sisters of St. Martha have given to the Lethbridge community.
“When I first learned that the sisters were leaving, I thought, ‘What better way to recognize them for their 90 years of impact in our community than on International Volunteer Day?” said Diana Sim, executive director of Volunteer Lethbridge.
The Sisters of St. Martha first came to Lethbridge in 1929 from their Motherhouse in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. On arrival they built the St. Michael’s hospital, now known as St. Michael’s Health Centre.
Their influence can be seen throughout the city.
“It’s the sisters that went before us, we often say — we’re serving on their shoulders because the people have embraced the sisters,” said Sister Theresa Parker.
Their mission was to serve the sick and help those in need, at one time having as many as 35 sisters serving in the Lethbridge area.
“Their main work was the hospital,” Sister Josephine Keyzer said. “When they built the hospital they were in nursing care here for most of those years, and then in the 1940s and 50s did a lot of teaching, so that was also one of our main ministries here.”
Now there are only three sisters left, with their role changing throughout the years.
“We’re now mainly at the retreat centre,” Keyzer said. “So it’s retreat programs, anything related with spirituality. I suppose enhancement of the individual.”
But by the summer of 2019, a tradition of 90 years of service in Lethbridge will come to an end.
“When you live in a place for x number of years, you develop friendships and so that will be hard when we leave,” said Sister Josie Maclellan. “But again it’s, you know, we have family members back in Nova Scotia, so will be nice to be with them.”
With the sisters leaving, a chapter in Lethbridge history is closing. But their service will not be forgotten, as a new board of directors will take over the management of their retreat centre.
“The bond that has been built because of their interest in community development is strong and will continue to be strong,” Sim said.
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