The Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement were started by Lurana White in  the late 1880’s in New York. They arrived in Vancouver in 1926 at the request of Katie OMelia, the daughter of Anglican missionaries in Japan. OMelia was in Vancouver providing daycare, English classes and religious education to residents of the former Japantown near Oppenheimer Park. The Sisters expanded OMelia’s work until 1941, when Japan entered WWII.
        The work was not abandoned. Some of the nuns, including Kelliher’s older sibling, accompanied Japanese-Canadian citizens to the internment camp where, in the once-abandoned mining town of Greenwood, they established an elementary school and a commercial high school where classes included typing. A resident of Kitsilano, who was three years old when she was evacuated from Steveston to Greenwood, said it was her happiest days when, at 12 years of age, she was singing Latin hymns and learning to play the piano.
         Picking up their mission again in post-war Vancouver it was surprising to find that the hunger and needs had increased. For decades the Sisters have provided a free-of-charge clothing centre for men in need of warm clothing or back-to-work outfits (including shoes and boots) housewares and alcohol and drug abuse counseling. There was always food, emergency food hampers when needed, and meals: free lunch (incl. sandwiches, hot soup and dessert),  sit-down suppers on the Third Sunday of each month plus Easter and Christmas, and fresh fish Friday mornings. For decades they have served food to an average 500 people, mostly middle-aged men, five days a week. Proselytizing has never been on the menu.
        Kelliher, was an outspoken advocate for peace, justice and affordable housing. She worked with Stop War, World Views Collaborative, the Metro Vancouver Alliance which unifies churches, temples and synagogues, unions and community organizations to express shared concerns to elected officials. She also worked with the Urban Core Community Workers Association stressing the need for housing for low-income families and elderly people, highlighting the problem of human trafficking and forced prostitution, the urgent need to care for the earth, air and water and people in less developed countries who are mistreated by corporations.
        For 85 years the Sisters have adapted their services as needs changed. The four remaining nuns departed as there are not enough nuns of their Order to replace them. Society has changed, employment opportunities for women has opened up. One thing hasn’t changed in the 23 years Kelliher was in Vancouver – she had not seen situations for poor, marginalized people improve.
        87-year-old Kelliher believed that Franciscans are to always be of service, particularly to the poor, and to spread the good news of God's love to all – unity and peace with justice. When the Vancouver mission could no longer be sustained she moved to Edmonton to work at a women’s shelter – the Sisters’ last Canadian mission. In 2012, she moved back to the mother-house and died there surrounded by her community.

       There is good news: the Missionaries of Charity, an order established by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, will move into the convent.

Sister Elizabeth Kelliher      Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement

         Mary Jo Leddy, CM (born 1 February 1946) is a Canadian writer, speaker, theologian and social activist.
     Leddy is widely recognized for her work with refugees at Toronto's Romero House. She began working for the centre as a night manager in 1991, and has been its director since then. .

     In 1973, she was the founding editor of the Catholic New Times. She is author of the books "Say to the Darkness We Beg to Differ" (Lester and Orpen Denys, finalist City of Toronto Book Award), Reweaving Religious Life: Beyond the Liberal Model (Twenty Third Publications, 1990), At the Border Called Hope: Where Refugees are Neighbours (HarperCollins, 1997 and finalist for the Trillium Award, Radical Gratitude (Orbis Books, 2002), "Our Friendly Local Terrorist" (Between the Lines 2010) and "The Other Face of God: When the Stranger Calls Us Home" (Orbis 2011).
     Leddy was the recipient of a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto with a thesis titled "The Event of the Holocaust and the Philosophical Reflections of Hannah Arendt." She studied under the direction of Emil Fackenheim, and she is currently a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto, and a board member of PEN Canada and Massey College. After thirty years as a member of the Roman Catholic Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, she left the congregation in 1994.
     Awarded the Human Relations Award of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews (1987), the Ontario Citizenship Award (1993), she received the Order of Canada (1996). She has received several honorary doctorates:

Some contend that nuns were the first feminists.
Sister Elizabeth Kelliher confirmed that this independence dates back to the 12th century when Saint Claire of Assisi, a follower of Saint Francis, wrote her own rules for a religious community of women. The Pope of the time wanted Francis and other male superiors to supervise the women, but Francis said No.

Healthcare and Education are two of the pillars that have built and maintain our nation.  We owe much to those who joined communities of religious orders and those who remained single to take up vocations as they felt called and as they were trained. Sometimes in situations of hardship and poverty. They were human - not perfect - apostles of faith and goodwill, founding mothers and fathers of the country’s education, health and social service systems. Here are some of the women and men whose Irish roots helped to shape the caring, mutually respectful and welcoming culture that Canadians are known for. *

                                             Born 1757 near Omagh (Northern Ireland), son of

                                             Andrew Cochrane, a “respectable farmer”. He married     

                                             Rebecca Cuppaidge in 1785. They had seven children.
      Classically educated at a private grammar school in County Tyrone, Cochran entered Trinity College, Dublin, in June 1776, was elected a scholar in 1779 and took his degree in 1780. During his later years at the college he developed doubts about divine revelation and renounced his previous intention of ordination in the Church of Ireland. In 1781 he took a position as tutor to the family of a country gentleman in County Galway. However, ideals of the American revolution aroused his strong sympathies, and at the close of the war in 1783, repelled by political conditions in Ireland, a country he still greatly loved, he emigrated to the United States (In the course of passage he changed the spelling of his name from Cochrane to Cochran.)
      He had not taken letters of recommendation, nonetheless was quickly appointed chief assistant in the Academy of Philadelphia, a grammar school attached to  U. of  Pennsylvania. January 1784 he moved to New York to open a grammar school and was, at year end, appointed professor of Green & Latin, Columbia College.
     Revolted by the institution of slavery he experienced a revival of religious studies and belief and decided to seek ordination in Church of England, Nova Scotia. He was recommended as a suitable candidate for a mission. Whilst awaiting for the church’s  response, he was appointed headmaster of the newly established Halifax Grammar School. With the support of Halifax printer John Howe, he brought out the first volume of the Nova-Scotia Magazine, writing on a variety of subjects. Including the series of articles entitled “A plan of liberal education for the youth of Nova-Scotia, and the sister provinces in North-America” which appeared in the first edition.
       His appointment to the presidency of King’s College began an association  that was destined to last for more than 40 years. In 1788 the legislature passed an act for the establishment of a college, to bear the name of King’s College in Windsor and to be headed as president by a Church of England clergyman.  Cochran agreed to accept the position. 1  July, 1791, he was invested as president of King’s College.
     The outbreak of war between France and Britain postponed the Royal Charter that would seal his appointment and as a decade of diifficulties followed Cochran and his family lived in hardship. Enrollments were small, building proceeded slowly, and inflation depreciated his fixed income.His status was at last enhanced by his appointment to the board of governors in the 1820s. Cochran received two honorary degrees from Columbia in 1788 and a Doctor of Sacred Theology from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1802.   In 1821 Cochran, on the advice of physicians, travelled to the US “in the hopes of removing a serious complaint in his chest.” The following year, though “far from well,” he returned to Nova Scotia and resumed his duties as professor and clergyman.
In October 1831 he resigned his appointments in the college. He died in Windsor on 4 Aug. 1833, and was buried in the Old Parish Burying Ground.
      His son, James Cuppaidge, was a prominent Anglican clergyman in Nova Scotia. Another son,  Andrew William, served as civil secretary to three governors of Lower Canada and also sat on the Executive Council of that province                                          


                                       Nursing Sister Henrietta (Hetty) Mellett

                                       Hetty was born in October 1883, the daughter of John  and                                        Elizabeth (Conway) Mellett who ran The Ivy House Guesthouse in Roundstone, Galway. In 1908 she boarded the Empress of Britain with her sister Susan, Susan's husband the Rev. Richard Bowen and their son on their way back to Canada where she settled with them in London, Ontario.
At the outbreak of WWI and with ‘prior experience’ Hetty enlisted into the Canadian Army Medical Corps (#15 General Hospital) at London, Ont. on January 22, 1918. She served in Europe and it was on October 10, 1918, that Nursing Sister Henrietta Mellett was Killed in Action – drowned in the sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster, torpedoed by UB-123 off the coast of Ireland.
On May 29, 1920, in the wide corridor just outside the Legislative Chamber of the Parliament Buildings, Toronto, the memorial tablet to the memory of the nurses of the Ontario Military Hospital, Orpington, Kent, England, who gave their lives during the war, was unveiled by the R.R.C. Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian overseas military forces. Nursing Sister Henrietta Mellett was one of the 48 names read out and recorded on the British Nursing Journal Roll of Honour.

              With family and community gathered for a Church of England service,                         Hetty's was laid to rest now with her brother and sister, in the Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin (Plot 410.A62.) the Commonwealth War Graves Commission marker at her grave.
The Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) included a small permanent nursing service. Only women were eligible to serve as military nurses. The army created a special officer rank for nurses, with the relative rank of lieutenant and title of “nursing sister.” Appointment to the CAMC nursing service required women to have British citizenship, to have graduated from a recognized three-year nursing program, as well as possess high moral character, dignified deportment, physical fitness, and be between the ages of 21 and 38. There were 2,845 Canadian nursing sisters who served with the CAMC during the First World War – both overseas and in Canada. Of the Canadian nurses who served overseas, 53 were killed from enemy fire, disease, or drowning during the war. They had won the affection of thousands of Canadian soldiers who often referred to them as “Sisters of Mercy” or “Angels of Mercy.” A memorial to the war’s nursing sisters was erected in Ottawa in 1926 in the Parliament of Canada’s Hall of Honour.

* a brief note of the work of religious orders in Saskatchewan:                                   In 1906 the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception moved  from St. John, New Brunswick to Prince Albert, where they opened St. Patrick’s Orphanage (1906–73) & Holy Family Hospital (1910–97). In Regina they ran a girls' school from 1921 to 1968.
   In 1911 three Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth from Austria went to Humboldt, Sask. where they opened a hospital and a school of nursing (1923-69), and hospitals in Macklin (1922), Scott (1924–32), and Cutworth (1924); they later served in Seniors’ Homes in Saskatoon and Humboldt.
   A hospital was opened in Moose Jaw by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul from Kingston in 1912, and in Estevan by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peterborough in 1937. The Notre Dame Sisters ran hospitals in Ponteix (1918–69), Val Marie, and Zenon Park. Homes for the Aged were founded by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross in Whitewood (1920–68), Marcelin (1944–56), Prince Albert (1956–92), and in Weyburn (1953–70).
    Other religious orders engaged in social work. In 1923 the Sisters of Social Service of Hamilton went to Stockholm, Sask., to minister to
an Hungarian community, and in 1949 to Regina where they engaged in parish work and teaching. In 1951.                        Father G.W. Kuckartz, OMI, of Battleford, founded the Sisters of Mission Service to serve in a wide variety of ministries.

Catherine Donnelly, Founder and the Sisters of Service .

                                          Mary Jo Leddy

Writer. Theologian. Founder Romero House                        Order of Canada 1966        129

Lord Selkrik School opened in 1908. The brick building expansion was used as a hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic.

  Chair of the Royal Commission on Health Services


                                                  Born in St-Colomban, Quebec, Emmett Matthew Hall                                                                        (1898–1995) was a lawyer, jurist and civil libertarian. In 1910, he moved with his family to Saskatchewan. He received his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1919, called to the bar in 1922, became Chief Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench in 1957, Chief Justice of Saskatchewan in 1961, and Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1962. In 1961, Hall was appointed by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to chair a Royal Commission on Health Services, whose task was “to study the existing and projected health needs of and health resources of Canada; and to study methods of ensuring the highest standards of health care for all citizens of Canada” (Malcolm G. Taylor, Health Insurance and Canadian Public Policy: The Seven Decisions That Created the Canadian Health Insurance System and Their Outcomes [Montréal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 1987], p. 335).Mr. Justice Emmett Hall, the Prime Minister’s law school friend and Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, was appointed chair of the Royal Commission on Health Services in 1961.
     The commission’s report, released in 1964, stated: “Health services must not be denied to certain individuals simply because the latter make no contribution to the economic development of Canada or because he cannot pay for such services. Important as economics is we must also take into account the human and spiritual aspects involved” (Walter Stewart, The Life and Political Times of Tommy Douglas [Toronto: McArthur & Company, 2003], p. 232). Tom Kent, Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s Principal Secretary, appreciated the impact of the commission’s report, because it “took much of the wind out of the opponents of medicare” . Hall is widely regarded as a founding father of key leadership roles for the majority of these years. During this time, a number of charitable establishments came into existence; schools, boarding schools, orphanages and a hospital.     .

Mr. Justice Emmett Matthew Hall


Rev. William (Cochrane) Cochran, D.D.B.A.        183 Educator. Writer.  Church of England Clergyman 

       Sister John Mary Sullivan Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist .

Sister Mary Providence

                                                                            Susan Mellett Bowen
                                                                    Anglican Missionary in Canada

Born 1870, Galway, Ireland, to John and Elizabeth (Conway) Mellett,  In 1893, Susan was the first unmarried woman Anglican Missionary sent to the Canadian Yukon. . When she arrived from Ireland she went directly to Forty Mile Creek, Yukon ... where no unmarried woman missionary had dared to venture.

Happily the Reverend R.J. Bowen arrived in the Yukon in 1895. They met and married. They had one son.  In 1897 the couple was called from Alaska to go to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. Here they built the 1st log church, St. Paul’s. In 1899 Rev. Bowen became ill with typhoid fever and had to return to England to recover.

       On  August 1, 1900 he was back, this time serving in Whitehorse, Yukon. He held services in a tent until a new log church was built in October. When you visit Whitehorse you can visit the original log church which is now a museum, and walk into history with Susan Mellett Bowen and her husband..

     By May 1903 Rev. Bowen became ill again, forcing the couple to leave the far north, serving instead in Nanaimo and Ladysmith, British Columbia.On a journey to visit family in 1908, Susan's sister Henrietta accompanied them and made her home with them in London, Ontario.

Susan died in 1962.

Mary Ellen Tucker / Sister Mary of Providence born in                                         County Sligo, Ireland, October 2, 1836, enjoyed a                                                          privileged upbringing. She  was  educated by the                                                           Sisters of the Presentation                                                            of  Mary.,

        The death of her mother and a family financial disaster resulted in the family immigrating to Montreal, Quebec. Blessed Mother Marie Anne Blondin, Foundress of the Sisters of St. Anne, personally recruited her to the Congregation and she entered the Novitiate at Vaudreuil in 1851 and took her vows two years later. 
          Sister Mary Providence was twenty three years old when she arrived in Victoria, British Columbia on 26 October 1859. Her desire to use her talents for the welfare of others enabled her to guide the young Institute during the formative years of this mission.  For forty five years, Sister Mary Providence devoted herself to the advancement of education, health care and charity in the Pacific Northwest. Her exceptional finesse and governance style kept her in key leadership roles for the majority of these years. During this time, a number of charitable establishments came into existence; schools, boarding schools, orphanages and a hospital.
      She was recognized for her love of the poor and especially the orphans who always claimed her special attention. She was present and attentive to each but particularly the Sisters who were sick or dying and those serving in remote missions.  As a leader she was appreciated as a woman filled with joy and compassion. Her vision of education was based on the formation of a strong character and would often remark, “A woman’s influence is not limited; life will be mostly what women truly wish it to be.”
      Despite leading a virtually semi-cloistered life, Sister Mary Providence was a shrewd businesswoman, whose advice was sought by leading citizens of Victoria.  She accomplished so much both within and outside her religious community that it was said: “the consensus of the public is that this nun, who seldom left the convent grounds, exerted a far-reaching and beneficent influence which distinguished her as the greatest woman of the time in British Columbia.”
      Her passing on 29 May 1904 after 50 years of religious life was deeply felt throughout her Community and the countless people whose lives she touched.

 Kathleen McGeer   Teacher 1919 - 1927

 On April Fool's Day 1897, Kathleen McGeer was born in the McGeer family home, at 18th east of Main, the 8th of 11 children born to James and Emily McGeer. Her father, from County Kildare, ran a dairy farm at 15th & Fraser.
     In 1891 the East Vancouver forest (known only as D.L. 301) was being pushed back by development and Cedar Cottage Drive (Commercial St.) would be a thriving business stop along the interurban line between Vancouver and New Westminster.
    Lord Selkirk School opened its doors in 1908 with two storey wooden buildings.  It was then expanded to include a larger brick building next door. During the 1918 flu pandemic, the building was turned into a hospital: a men's ward on one floor, women's ward on another,
a morgue in the basement. 22 patients passed away.
    Timmie (as she was known) arrived the following year to take up her teaching at Lord Selkirk from 1919–1927.  She was hardworking and passionate.  She could hardly believe that some teachers thought they could not teach more than 20 children. She'd handle twice as many!               

      She married a mining engineer, Roy Priest, and moved with him to north-western B.C. for a short time. Roy died young. They had no children of their own. Timmie had many students she would see grown up under her influence. But it was her great extended family - brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews were her family and she supported and assisted them generously. Her 100th birthday was a great celebration at a nephew’s home where she was the centre of all attention, enjoying life to the fullest. Kathleen McGeer Priest died aged 101.                           

Born on a farm on February 26, 1884 in North Adjala Township near Alliston, Ontario, Catherine was the oldest of three daughters of Hugh and Catherine Donnelly.
In 1922 teacher Catherine Donnelly founded the first English-speaking Canadian Catholic religious order: the Institute of Sisters of Service to  minister to  immigrants of rural communities and from many culturesacross western Canada                              They became known as the Grey Nuns for the simple 

grey dress, cloak & hat they wor rather than the dress                                                   and veil of the time.
On August 2, 1924, Sister Catherine Donnelly and Sister

Catherine Wymbs became the first Sisters of Service to

profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.                                                          Nine days later, dressed in their grey serge, they got

off the train at Camp Morton, Manitoba.  The SOS mission took off.
        In 1934 they opened their first Saskatchewan mission in Regina, operating a Correspondence School for Religious Instruction over the winter, and travelling to rural areas to teach catechism in the summer. They also taught in public schools in Marquis (1936–43) and in the Bergfield area (1938–48)

       Sinnett was the heart of a district known as the Irish Colony named after Fr. John Sinnett, the missionary priest who founded the settlement in 1905.  By 1910, St. Ignatius church  was enlarged, St. Patrick’s was built 5 miles down the road and Loyola and Manresa Schools had been built to serve the spiritual and educational needs of the wider community.
       In 60's, Sister Catherine arrived from Toronto to teach in the new Loyola Continuation School (high school). Other Sisters followed in the early 40s and 50s. They were enthusiastic supporters of drama and oratory as well as Catholic education. For nearly 30 years, the Sisters were an integral part of the Irish Colony.  The Sisters left in the late 60's when the school closed 
due to low enrollment. .
       SOS also served in Saskatoon as social workers for the Catholic Welfare Council and its successor, Catholic Family Services (1942–76); and operated a residence for Catholic women students attending St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan (1946–68).     The Sisters were involved in Education and Social Work in La Loche, (1975–79), Green Lake (1979–83) and La Ronge (1983–94), and in pastoral ministries in Regina at Campion College (1976–80) and Holy Rosary Cathedral, as well as in parishes at Milestone (1991–94) and Radville (1997–2002).

       In 1907 the Grey Nuns opened hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon (with schools of nursing attached), followed by Biggar (1923-67), Rosthern (1927–35), Gravelbourg (1928–2000), Ile-à-la-Crosse (1927–2001), La Loche (1943–81), Zenon Park(1972–73), and Esterhazy (1987–89)  The community left Saskatchewan in 2003.

"A woman's influence is not limited,

life will be mostly what women truly  wish it to be.".

Mary Sullivan, was seeking "that relationship that I saw within my parents, a real intensity of love and goodness." She found it unexpectedly in religious order.
       The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist is recently formed Order, started in 1973. They served in Vancouver briefly until 1976 and returning now, Sister John Mary is joined by Sr. Angela Marie Castellani, FSE. They have managed the gap between traditional habits and 'ordinary' fashion with a simple brown dress and short black veil.

        Members of the order are encouraged to get advanced degrees and to serve in areas for which they have particular skills.
        Sister Sullivan is a graduate of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a family therapist for eight years. Arizona-born, the seventh of ten children she learned the value of human life and relationships early on. Her oldest brother, John, was hit by a car and killed when he was 11 years of age. It was hard but the family, pulling together in a positive way, became very cohesive. She now has forty-five nieces and nephews and feels perfectly fitted to the role of programme with the archdiocese's Life, Marriage, and Family Office.
        The LMFO runs a number of programmes to do with marriage preparation, fertility awareness and natural family planning, personal formation, marriage enrichment, and parenting.
        Sister Sullivan was studying at the John Paul II Institute when she first met a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist, who worked as the head of admissions. The sisters invited lay people to work outdoors with them on the land, planting or building fences. Sister Sullivan found in that working community the same intensity of love and goodness she experienced in her family and realized it might be a fulfilling life. 
       After completing her degree and teaching for a year, she moved to live with the sisters in Connecticut. From discernment and formation to final vows takes about nine years. Each sister wears a cross fashioned out of real nails. A metal circle on the symbol reminds the wearer of the Eucharist symbolically drawing all their lives into union with God.