Ursuline Sisters Honoured

April 23, 2013

From left, Sr. Joan Adams, Sr. Joice Richards, Archbishop James Weisgerber, Sr. Lillian Gaboury, Sr. Mary DePape.

By James Buchok

Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber has presented the Archbishop's Award in appreciation of dedicated service and leadership to Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Winnipeg to the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.

The award was presented April 10 at Our Lady of Victory School which the sisters were instrumental in founding and operating since it opened in 1949 until 1996.

To start the evening Director of Catholic Education Robert Praznik announced that enrollment at Manitoba's Catholic schools reached the milestone of 5,000 students in the 2012-2013 school year thanks to "the strength of our programs and the dedication of our staffs."

Praznik said the situation for Manitoba Catholic schools is "very different" from those in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario where Catholic schools are fully funded by provincial governments while in Manitoba, Catholic schools are 50 per cent funded and before 1990 received no government funding.

"We have a long history of sisters and priests who operated our schools," Praznik said, and because they taught without pay they were vital to the survival of Manitoba's Catholics schools especially when there was no government funding.

Archbishop James Weisgerber related how he "grew up" with Ursuline Sisters in his village of Vibank, Sask., where he was born and raised. The village was home to an Ursuline convent which was founded in 1919, and two of his aunts became Ursulines.

"Sisters have been so much a part of our lives in healthcare and teaching," Weisgerber said, adding that the bestowing of the award "is right and just, as we say during the Mass because we know how important Catholic education is. And it's more important year after year because the world is getting more confused year after year. Jesus asks us to shine and bring his light to our fellow human beings. That is the mission of the church."

"This Catholic school is a gem and that is very much the work of the sisters," Weisgerber said, adding that it is "almost impossible" to build new schools due to the enormous cost. "We could build schools 50 or 60 or 70 years ago because the sisters taught without pay. The foundation of this school was a gift to us from the sisters."

Receiving the award on behalf of the sisters, Sr. Lillian Gaboury paid tribute to the school's founding pastor Msgr. James K. MacIsaac, after whom the school was originally named. It was changed to Our Lady of Victory School in 1999 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

"It can be truthfully said that if we experienced any measure of success it is due in large part to Fr. James MacIssac and all the pastors we have had and the people of God who have formed this parish," Sr. Gaboury said. "Thank you for your faith and trust in us. The friends that we have made and the memorable times have become part of the fabric of our lives."

The Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk was founded in 1818 by a parish priest in Tildonk, Belgium. The Ursuline foundation in Canada was established in 1914.

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