Sr. Marilyn MacDonald, left, community director of the Sisters of Service, and Sisters of St. Joseph congregational leader Sr. Thérèse Meunier sign a sponsorship agreement between the two orders. Photo courtesy of the Sisters of St. Joseph

Sisters of Service, St. Joe’s Sisters sign sponsorship deal

  • February 8, 2012

TORONTO - At their peak in the 1960s, the Sisters of Service had 125 members. But with their numbers down to 20, the congregation decided it was time to plan for their future. For help, they turned to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

On Jan. 25, the Sisters of Service and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto signed a sponsorship agreement wherein the Sisters of St. Joseph will now be responsible for the management and governance of the congregation of the Sisters of Service as long as a Sister of Service lives.

“They no longer had sisters who were able to carry on those tasks,” said Sr. Thérèse Meunier, congregational leader of the more than a century-and-a-half-old Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, who signed on behalf of her congregation.

“The important part in all our conversations was that the Sisters of Service remain as the Sisters of Service so they don’t lose their identity,” she said of the order founded in 1922. “They maintain their charism and their mission and our role was to take over the administrative and governance role for them so they don’t have to worry about that.”

Sr. Marilyn MacDonald, community director of the Sisters of Service, said this decision was reached as the Sisters of Service continue to age and their numbers get smaller.

“We’re just so grateful to the Sisters of St. Joseph for taking this on,” said MacDonald. “They basically have a responsibility to preserve our mission and charism. And that means looking after anything civil we have to deal with.”

For the majority of the Sisters of Service, there will be very little difference in their day-to-day lives now that the agreement has been signed, said MacDonald.

“Our leadership team now becomes the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

The Sisters of Service have also created the new role of animator, who will support the sisters in remaining independent and managing their community life and ministries.

“It’s more personal,” said MacDonald. “Dealing not so much with the legal matters, but more the personal needs of the sisters.”

Meunier said she felt very humbled to be asked.

“It was a real courageous move on their part to realize that they had to plan for their future and they needed support and help.”

The sisters are all living out the changes everyday — and finding out more as they go along.

“Whatever issue comes up, we say ‘who should be doing this?’ So we have to keep the dialogue and keep on talking… as we grow into our new role,” said Meunier.

“It’s just about that whole delicate balance.” 

The two congregations have some shared history. When first founded, the Sisters of Service asked the Sisters of St. Joseph to provide sisters to serve as superiors and to assist in the religious formation of the members of the new community.

“We’ve always had a comfortable relationship with them,” said MacDonald. “We’ve dealt with a number of losses for us, but at the same time you grow through those things… So I would say the main attitude is one of gratefulness and trust and knowing this is the right thing for us at this time.”

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