Sister Therese LeClair’s departure from Prince Albert this week marks not only an end to 50 years of community stewardship, but also the end of an era when it comes to her religious order.
As Prince Albert’s final member of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross, when she departs on Friday, so will the order.
Not that the order hasn’t left a long-lasting legacy, Mont St. Joseph Home executive director Brian Martin explained, noting that they founded the special care home in 1956.
“They raised the funds, designed and planned and built it all,” Martin said of the original building.
LeClair dates her beginnings with the order to 1941, when she found her calling and moved to Forget, Sask., for training at a boarding school.
“I guess after praying a lot and asking the Lord what his will was for me, we get our calling and we follow it like all other people do in their callings, whether it’s married life or whatever,” she said.
After moving around Saskatchewan over the next couple decades, she settled in a position as cook at Prince Albert’s Mont St. Joseph Home in 1962.
“I worked there for a couple years, then I moved on into other areas,” she explained.
“The last job I had was working in the sewing room, which I loved.”
Although she retired in 1989, she couldn’t bring herself to leave her efforts at the Mont St. Joseph Home.
“I retired, but I never really left it. I still remained involved and still am. Mostly with the auxiliary, now,” she said.
“There would be a lot of things our people would not enjoy if not for volunteers. Everybody’s trying to raise money to give comfort to our seniors. We always need equipment that needs to be replaced, or new methods coming out.”
LeClair has been a tremendous help, Martin said. Even though health issues have slowed her down a bit in recent years, she’s continued to push through and help as much as possible.
We are going to miss herShe was always there. She was like superwoman … I have no idea how we could do what we’ve done without her. - Mont St. Joseph Home executive director Brian Martin
Although she’s leaving her home city of the past 50 years this week, LeClair considers her departure something of a homecoming.
On Friday, she’ll join three members of her order at her new home in Saskatoon
“That’s my religious family over there,” she explained, noting that an additional two members of the order reside in Edmonton. Everyone else has passed on.
“We are going to miss her,” Martin said of LeClair. “She was always there. She was like superwoman … I have no idea how we could do what we’ve done without her.”
Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross history
Founded in Murinais, France, in 1832, Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross started up with a goal of educating young girls and caring for the sick and elderly in their homes.
The order came to Forget, Sask., in 1905, establishing a bilingual school the following year, with more schools subsequently opening up throughout the province along with a handful of homes.
One of these homes was built in the Village of Marcelin, though after about 10 years, politicians including Mayor John M. Cuelenaere and Bishop Leo Blais invited them to move about an hour northeast to Prince Albert.
The first Mont St. Joseph Home was built at First Avenue and 25th Street East and opened in the fall of 1956, with five sisters from the order accepting the role of keeping things running at the home.
A new Mont St. Joseph Home opened at its current 28th Street East location in September of 1997.