Sr. Sadler

For Sr. Sadler, it’s all for the Lord

  • April 27, 2023

Sr. Margaret Sadler has the disposition of a true missionary.

This means the 87-year-old Sister of the Child Jesus prefers to do her work on behalf of the Lord without attracting any adulation or fanfare.

Sadler expressed heartfelt appreciation to Catholic Missions In Canada (CMIC) for naming her the 2023 St. Philip Neri Award recipient in honour of her over 55 years of service. She was honoured at CMIC’s annual Tastes of Heaven Gala on April 27. But she said being spotlighted is uncomfortable for her.

“I find this whole thing embarrassing,” said Sadler. “I find this interview embarrassing. I was just doing what I was mandated to do, what I felt called to do and what God wanted me to do. I don’t understand how I could receive this attention or acknowledgment.”

Sadler first encountered the Sisters of the Child Jesus, an international congregation founded in 1676, when she was five years old, living in B.C. Her father was working on the farm of the nearby residential school. When her father suffered an accident, Sadler and her family stayed at the school with the Sisters of the Child Jesus.

The innate kindness the Sisters showed Sadler during their encounters and their evident love of God inspired her to request induction into the convent when she was 17. At 18, Sadler and a peer asked to become a Sister of the Child Jesus. The superior expressed skepticism at this request due to their young age, she was allowed to serve and was assigned a teaching position at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in Williams Lake, B.C. Sadler cherished the opportunity to teach the students, but said she would come to learn the uncomfortable truths of the residential school system some years later.

In her early 20s, Sadler took a hiatus from her aspirations to join the Sisters of the Child Jesus for health reasons. She completed postsecondary education to become a teacher and ultimately returned to the order at 25.

One of Sadler’s standout early assignments was teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in North Battleford, Sask.

“I went with fear and trepidation when I was asked to teach the high school,” said Sadler. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this will never work.’ I was never a teenager myself. How was this going to work? This first day of school, I opened the door to let Jesus in first and then went in after Him.”

Around 1986, Sadler was on a sabbatical. During that time, she was president of a Development and Peace program for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. While visiting Killarney in northern Ontario to pick up supplies, she encountered a woman who told her, “Sister, we’re not even a parish. We don’t even have a porch to have coffee so we can relate and socialize with each other.” Once a month, a priest might come to visit if the weather permits.

This meeting hit Sadler “like a punch in the stomach.”

“I thought, what on Earth am I doing in the city when I have all this experience and training, and there are so many people who don’t have a parish?”

She spoke to her priest, who commissioned her to serve the First Nations community at Hollow Lake, Man. Sadler greeted this appointment with a bit of apprehension.

“I was determined when I went there that I would not go there with any white women attitudes, superiority or whatever. I simply came, and when I was invited, I joined.”

In addition to training people to celebrate lay-lead religious services, performing the sacraments and teaching the precepts of the Catholic faith to community members as a pastoral administrator, Sadler became an active participant in the community’s efforts to uncover the root causes behind the suicides on the reserve.

“We came to understand that sexual abuse was a large part of the problem. We got people trained to offer support, and I learned a lot.”

In 2002, Sadler transferred to Lynn Lake, Man., where she resided until retiring in 2016.

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