‘We con­tinue to pray for them’

Sis­ters of Saint Martha con­tinue deep con­nec­tion with R.K.

The Casket - - Local - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­ket.ca

The bond is un­break­able.

“It has re­ally been a gift to us,” Sis­ter Anne Au­coin said of the con­nec­tion be­tween the Con­gre­ga­tion of the Sis­ters of Saint Martha and the R.K. Mac­don­ald Nurs­ing Home.

Au­coin spent more than 17 years of her min­istry serv­ing in pas­toral care at the Antigo­nish res­i­dence.

“I loved ev­ery minute of it – vis­it­ing and lis­ten­ing to peo­ple,” she added.

Au­coin noted one of her fo­cuses was to pro­vide com­fort and sup­port for res­i­dents who, of­ten, “suf­fered losses.”

“It has been an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

Sis­ter Caro­line Leahy is equally proud of her time pro­vid­ing pas­toral care at the R.K.

“It was great,” she said.

Leahy be­came well-known for singing for – and with – res­i­dents, par­tic­u­larly Ir­ish tunes.

“I am not sure,” she said, with a laugh, when asked if there were any favourite selec­tions.

Con­gre­ga­tion leader Sis­ter Bren­dalee Boisvert said “their heart is here,” when it comes to her col­leagues’ con­nec­tion to the home.

“Our sis­ters have al­ways loved work­ing here,” she added.

In her re­marks dur­ing an Oct. 3 open house to mark the 60th an­niver­sary of the R.K., Boisvert noted con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers trained in pas­toral care “of­fered many years of vis­it­ing the guests and would take re­quests for prayer home to Bethany.”

“So, in many ways, your fam­ily was al­ways deeply con­nected to our Martha fam­ily,” she said.

From the be­gin­ning

The de­liv­ery of pas­toral care is just one thread in the rich re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Sis­ters and the R.K. – one that be­gan years be­fore the sod was turned for the Pleas­ant Street fa­cil­ity.

It would not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say there is no R.K. with­out the tire­less ef­fort, lead­er­ship and fi­nan­cial sup­port of the Marthas.

“The open­ing of the R.K. was the cul­mi­na­tion of 15 years of plan­ning by the Sis­ters of St. Martha, the clergy and many lo­cal cit­i­zens,” Boisvert said.

“Its be­gin­nings were char­ac­ter­ized by strug­gle, com­mit­ment to car­ing, courage to risk and a de­sire to vi­sion.”

The com­mu­nity rec­og­nized the need for a fa­cil­ity, she noted, but “fi­nances were tight.”

In 1955, Rod­er­ick Kennedy ‘R.K.’ Mac­don­ald willed $100,000 for con­struc­tion of a se­niors’ home in Antigo­nish, a do­na­tion Boisvert called a “great im­pe­tus” to try to raise the $450,000 re­quired for the ini­tia­tive.

“From its ear­li­est day, the val­ues of courage and risk were es­sen­tial qual­i­ties in mak­ing this project suc­cess­ful,” she said.

“Some­where deep in­side our Martha hearts was found a seed of risk and courage as we made the de­ci­sion to mort­gage Bethany, our beloved Mother­house, to fi­nance the con­struc­tion for the orig­i­nal guest house.

“It was a happy day when we were able to burn that mort­gage. I can only imag­ine our early sis­ters singing Al­leluia,” Boisvert added.

Chris­tened by Bishop John R. Mac­don­ald, the then R.K. Mac­don­ald Guest House – a 70-bed, two-storey se­niors’ home – opened in Fe­bru­ary 1958.

In the 1960s, the Sis­ters de­cided they could no longer op­er­ate the R.K., re­lin­quish­ing own­er­ship and en­ter­ing into a man­age­ment agree­ment in 1971.

“We re­mained at the R.K. for many years fol­low­ing this, in or­der to man­age the guest home, over­see its ex­pan­sion and ren­o­va­tions, and we served in roles un­der the di­rec­tion of the new R.K. Mac­don­ald Nurs­ing Home Cor­po­ra­tion,” Boisvert said.

The Sis­ters’ in­volve­ment con­tin­ues, with four con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers oc­cu­py­ing po­si­tions on the R.K.’S board of di­rec­tors.

“We con­tinue to pray for them [peo­ple of the R.K.] and they are part of our lives,” Boisvert said.

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