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She may be 100, but Alyce Daly (left) makes the trek to Mass at St. Gabriel’s parish every Sunday with her niece Virginia West. Photo courtesy of Virginia West

‘Saintly’ niece helps centarian aunt enjoy her weekly Mass

By 
  • July 12, 2014

TORONTO - Virginia West is living a saintly life, at least she is in the eyes of her aunt, Alyce Daly.

“She’s a saint,” said Daly, who turned 100 on July 7.

For more than a decade West has allowed Daly to continue attending Mass, something that got increasingly difficult as Daly aged. West has spent every Sunday morning escorting her aunt, who lives at Rouge Valley Retirement Home in Markham, Ont., to Mass at Toronto’s St. Gabriel’s Church, the family’s longstanding parish.

The tradition, which Daly described as “the only highlight” of her week, began after West’s mother passed away 11 years ago.

Not only did Daly lose her younger sister, she also began to lose her independence as the health complications of aging began to set in. Eventually this forced Daly to move from her condominium near St. Gabriel’s to her new home about 25 kilo-metres to the north-east.

But in that loss Daly and West gained each other.

“Since mum died and Aunt Alyce has needed support I’ve been doing what I can to help her out and I enjoy her company,” said West, 61.

“I just felt that she deserved some support to allow her whatever independence she could have and still be able to pursue what she thought she needed to pursue, and going to Mass every weekend was something that is very important to her. I was quite happy to support her in doing that and obviously I have benefited from doing that over the years too.”

While Daly maintained her weekly presence at Sunday Mass, West gained a deeper insight into the family and faith.

“It has given me a chance to know Aunt Alyce better and she is the historian,” she said. “The other thing is seeing someone who is so clear about her own faith and what is important to her has been bolstering to me. For me personally it is helpful to watch someone practice it who is quite genuine and consistent in her practice of faith and so I feel more encouraged as I have doubts from time to time.

“To see how central (faith is) to who she is, it helps me in holding onto my own faith.”

West’s commitment to her aunt has also garnered her about an hour and a half of travel each Sunday to pick up Daly, bring her to Mass and drive her home — that’s assuming the two don’t go shopping along the way. But those hours alone together in the car are treasured by both.

“It keeps me going,” said Daly. “I just love going to Mass. When you get to be nearly 100 ... you get a little frightened at times (but) when you watch the priest put the chalice up, put the host up, it is a wonderful feeling and you need it as you get older.”

Daly grew up with 10 siblings who went on to have about 30 children. But neither West nor her aunt married or had children.

“Virginia is the perfect one for me and we did get to know each other through the Mass,” said Daly. “We never miss it. I am spoiled.” 

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