Sister Mary Phillips
Sister Mary Phillips followed the footstep of Sister Catherine Donnelly who founded in Toronto in 1922 a new Canadian Catholic Women’s Religious Order, the Sisters of Service.
Sister Catherine was born in 1884 in Alliston, Ontario and grew up to be an adventurous woman. After many years of teaching experience, this adventurous spirit led her on a journey to Alberta in 1918 to teach in the rural areas where immigrant families were settling. Shortly after her arrival, the Spanish influenza epidemic swept through western Canada and the government closed the schools. She volunteered to nurse the sick in their homes. This was a soul-searching experience as she came to realize the great lack of spiritual and material resources for the families and their children.
A devout Roman Catholic and an ardent Canadian patriot, Catherine’s experience there demonstrated to her that the struggling church in western Canada was ill-prepared to serve the increasing numbers of new Canadian settlers. She became convinced that only dedicated Sisters living with and among the people would enable them to remain faithful to their Catholic and Christian heritage. The Sister of Service dedicated their lives to the care of these newcomers, helping them to remain faithful to their Catholic heritage.
The Sisters brought a holistic approach to life and mission, seeing the spiritual, social and cultural needs of all people and a way of being church where the church was not present. The Sisters would live in small groups, in scattered settlements being the ministering church for those most in need. To carry out their mission, the Sisters of Service taught in public schools with a strong emphasis on home visiting, operated small rural hospitals, taught religion by mail, provided immigration services at the ports of entry to Canada and established hostels in the major cities across Canada. Cooperating with public agencies, the Sisters aided the integration and adjustment of those most in need to take their place in Canadian society.
Sister Mary Phillips was a teacher in Fort McMurray Catholic Schools for many years and devoted her life to provide catholic education to many children in our region.