A lifelong calling for the Grey Nuns of Alberta

A 100-year-old nun giving communion to a 100-year-old priest is not something you see every day.

But that’s exactly what happens every Saturday at 10 a.m. sharp, when a spry Sister Irene Lefebvre of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns of Alberta) delivers the sacrament in Father Joseph Murphy’s room in Youville Home, a St. Albert long-term care facility.  

 Sister Irene’s commitment to living her calling isn’t unusual at Youville, a place several Sisters call home.

 “You seldom find a group of people who are so dedicated at that age,” says the priest, who is also a Youville resident. 

Ranging from 75 to 100 years young, several Sisters are spending their retirement years at Youville in a special wing of the building, affectionately known as the Sisters’ Suites: Peaceful Sunset. Currently, six Sisters are in long-term care and 14 Sisters live together in the suites.

Despite their age, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of retiring taking place. Seven days a week, the Sisters are busy helping residents, taking them to the outdoor gardens or to and from mass that’s offered five days a week in the chapel. They also visit with residents and provide spiritual support.

“They have such a huge presence at Youville Home,” says Carol Ewanchuk, Recreation Therapist at Youville Home. “It adds to a great community and is almost as if we’re part of something bigger.”

Resident Blanche Gau, 90, looks forward to her daily visits with the Sisters as they porter her to mass. “I’m glad there’s a chapel here because religion is important to me,” says Blanche. “We grew up with it.”

Blanche is a retired nurse, as are many of the Sisters at Youville.  She believes the vocation gives the Sisters a special understanding of how residents feel. “They are very caring and loving,” says Blanche. “They’re just wonderful to everybody.”

The Sisters are happy to continue to give.

“It gives me the satisfaction of meeting the residents and giving them joy and peace,” says 85-year-old Sister Marie Rose Hurtubise. In her 66-year vocation, she has held many roles including accounting, teaching, playing music and, most recently, archiving the rich history of the Sisters of Charity.

Contribute to The Vital Beat

Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.

Submit an idea