Order of Canada recognizes nun's role in caring for humanity

  • July 8, 2010
Order of CanadaOf the 74 people named to the Order of Canada on Canada Day, only one of them has spent a lifetime explaining to the world how to be human.

Sr. Simone Roach was named to Canada's highest honour for contributions to nursing, particularly her role in helping to write the first code of ethics for nursing in Canada. But that's just one small outgrowth from decades of scholarly dedication to the subject of caring.

"After my work of 20 years, I came up with the conceptualization that caring is the human mode of being," Roach told The Catholic Register a week after she was named to the Order of Canada and an hour after she completed her annual retreat. "I care not because I am a nurse, but because I'm a human being. It's an attribute of humanity."

Roach was nominated by Rev. Dr. Maggie Myers, an Anglican priest whose scholarly interests in nursing have led her to start work on a biography of the Catholic sister who was for years chair of the department of nursing at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.

"She certainly needs to be recognized and honoured. She's a marvelous Canadian who has done a lot," said Myers.

After decades of concentration on the technical and scientific side of health care, Simone's work led a countermovement in the 1980s which sought to define the essence of nursing rather than fit nurses into the machinery of a science-driven enterprise, according to Myers.

Like many marvelous Canadians who've done a lot, Roach is better recognized outside Canada than inside, said Myers.

"We do that," said Myers. "She's quoted in the literature. She's well quoted by American scholars."

The hardest part about writing Roach's biography has been trying to burrow through the shy nun's sense of humility.

"It's very difficult when people don't want to say good things about themselves," said Myers.

Though Myers has no doubt Roach's work on the philosophical underpinnings of nursing is rooted in her Christian faith, one of the sister's great accomplishments has been her ability to speak in a language that reaches everyone, regardless of faith, she said.

"That's the magic about Roach's work," she said.

Roach remains insistent that her work is not limited to a Catholic or Christian viewpoint.

"I like to generalize on those basic human values that are shared by Christians and others," she said.

Her decision to become a nurse began with her dedication to the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity), most particularly charity.

"When I was young and very ambitious I thought about nursing, and I thought about nursing as the best way and the most practical way of practising the virtues — the virtue of charity in particular."

For Roach, the link between caring and charity and what it means to be human is Jesus.

"That is exhibited in the person of Jesus all through His life time. He cared for people in very specific ways. He cured the blind. He was sensitive to the pain of the widow. All of the Gospel miracles come out of that way of being, the virtues and His love of humanity despite the struggles and the persecutions, and in the end, His crucifixion."

Roach will receive her membership in the Order of Canada from the Governor General at a later date.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.