Holy Rosary Sister honoured for her missionary zeal

By 
  • May 7, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - It was a year of firsts this year as the first woman and first person from eastern Canada received the St. Joseph’s Award for outstanding missionary service.
"There are many missionaries more deserving than I am. But they have to choose one and I was the one this year," said Sr. Henriette Essiambre in a telephone interview April 22.

A sister with the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary for the past 50 years, Essiambre has served in the diocese of Labrador City-Schefferville in Newfoundland and Labrador for the majority of that time as a teacher, principal, counsellor, pastoral minister and now as the executive assistant to Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI.

Catholic Missions In Canada presented the St. Joseph's Award to Essiambre at its sixth annual Tastes of Heaven gala in Toronto April 25. Catholic Missions In Canada raises funds for more than 600 mission communities across Canada.

All monies raised at this year's fund-raiser will go to the diocese of Prince Albert in Saskatchewan. With more than 40,000 Catholics, 27 First Nation communities and only 51 priests, the diocese needs funding to train church members to lead spiritual services when a priest is not available.

"Religious women have always been humble in mission, but they have done a lot of work," said Essiambre, who accepted the award on behalf of female religious in the north.  

"They can't do all the work of a priest because they are not priests, but they do most of the same things. They minister, give pastoral care, they instruct the children."

"Right now we realize how important the women religious are in the north, but (also) all across the country," said Fr. Philip Kennedy, Catholic Missions In Canada president. "The women are running the missions and keeping catechesis going, keeping the missions alive."        

Kennedy said the five-person award committee was most impressed by the apostolic leadership Essiambre has shown among her peers, catechists, missionaries and native people, helping them to learn about the faith and pass it on.

When Essiambre began her missionary work in 1963 on the Lower North Shore of Quebec in St. Augustine, the community didn't have televisions or electricity. While Essiambre now goes online to communicate, just seven years ago her mission didn't have Internet access.

Over the years Essiambre has watched her First Nations' students move beyond the 1,000-person community and integrate into larger cities.    

"Now we can find people working in every profession or every trade that we find everywhere. After over 50 years of education they've reached a point where they are equal to everybody else. They are doctors, pilots, teachers, engineers," said Essiambre.

Essiambre said after all these years it's the people who keep her working in the mission territory.    

"When you love your work and you know your work is bringing something to others that's it, that's the main thing, to help others and to try to improve their living or their thinking."

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