Sr. Teresita McInally receives the Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross from Quebec’s Cardinal Gerald Lacroix as Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby looks on. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Hamilton

Pontifical medal an award for whole order

  • November 27, 2014

Sr. Teresita McInally may have received the Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross herself, but the unexpected papal honour is really recognition of the work of her order, said the 87-year-old Sister of St. Joseph.

“I really don’t know what it means,” said McInally, a member of the Hamilton congregation since 1945. “But for me I see it really as a tribute to the Sisters of St. Joseph, particularly of Hamilton, acknowl-edgement of the legacy of continu-ing the healing mission of Jesus.”

On Nov. 23 in Hamilton’s Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King, McInally received her Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross from Cardinal Gérald Larcoix, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada. McInally was one of eight who received the Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross. She was one of 15 men and women, laity and those in consecrated religious life, from the Hamilton diocese to receive a papal award (see sidebar).

The award is the highest recognition the Pope can bestow upon a layperson and considered among the top honours the Vatican awards to laity and clergy.

McInally’s award was in recognition of her accomplishments over the last 24 years in health care.

After serving in Catholic education in Arthur, Burlington and Kitchener, McInally, a native of Hamilton, Ont., returned home after being reassigned by her order to health care in 1991.

“When I inherited health care, that is when the Healthcare Services Restructuring Commission came into being” and Catholic hospitals were being taken over by the province, said McInally. Among them was St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton.

So the St. Joseph’s Sisters under McInally formed a board to oversee the province’s operation of the hospital and provide feedback regarding the maintenance of the Catholicity of St. Joesph’s Hospital. She described the board as similar to Catholic school trustees who provide feedback to senior administrative staff.

“It was unique and it still is unique,” she said. “We brought on board chairs as part of the governing counsel because before that it was always the sisters that governed everything.” 

This system would become known as the St. Joseph’s Health-care System.

“We saw that as being a way of being able to have an entity whereby we could hand over the legacy of the sisters in Catholic health care to someone else when we no longer had sisters who were able to be involved directly in it,” said McInally, who went on to develop the hospital’s Spiritual Care Program. “Our involvement in health care was to continue the healing mission of Jesus and in that you respect the whole person — the body, soul and mind. So spiritual care is really important in that.”

McInally also spent 10 years as the order’s general superior and helped establish the International Medical Relief Outreach Program.

McInally insists she was simply in the right place at the right time to assist in good things happening in Hamilton and hopes others will find inspiration in her recognition.

“It was all of us working together. It is not that I did it but that I was in a position to allow that all to happen,” she said. “I’m thankful to Bishop (Douglas) Crosby for putting my name forward and Pope Francis for bestowing the honour on me and the congregation because that is the way I look at it. I hope the other sisters look at it as ‘what could I do like that.’ ”

Among those sharing the spotlight with McInally was fellow Sister of St. Joseph Sr. Ann Marshall, who also received the Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross.

“It was a whole church experience with laity and consecrated life acknowledged,” said Sr. Anne Karges, the general secretary of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada. “We are especially proud of our two sisters for being honoured.” 

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