Sisters head to Solomons to usher in new province

Three members of the Canadian Sisters of the Church will travel halfway across the world in September to help their fellow sisters celebrate the inauguration of a new province in the religious order.

The Community of the Sisters of the Church (CSC), whose Canadian home is west of Toronto in Oakville, Ont., has 82 members worldwide. Currently divided among three provinces, Canada, England and Australia/Pacific, the latter province is being divided in two — Australia and the Solomon Islands — to accommodate growth in the Solomons.

The occasion will be marked by a Eucharist, celebration and dedication of a newly built chapel on the grounds of the Solomon Island headquarters. The gathering will also witness the blessing of Sr. Doreen, who was elected as the provincial or head sister of the community; Veronica, a junior sister, will also make her life profession at the gathering by taking her final vows.

The sisters will also give thanks for Sr. Phyllis’s contribution during the months of civil unrest in the Solomon Islands. Phyllis, sister co-ordinator of the Solomon Islands, led the sisters who dug graves and transported victims of violence to the hospital and spoke with the militants on both sides of the conflict. At one point, the sisters’ truck was the only vehicle travelling through the line of fighting.

The Canadian contingent will consist of three nuns: Sr. Michael, Sr. Heather, and Sr. Margaret. Srs. Heather and Margaret will leave Canada on Sept. 13 for Cairns, Australia, where they will attend the upcoming meeting of the international Anglican indigenous network. Sr. Michael will meet up with them later in the month at Tetete ni Kolivuti, the CSC retreat and training centre in the Solomon Islands, outside its capital Honiara.

Also scheduled to attend are five sisters from Australia and England, including Sr. Anita, who is Mother Superior of the order worldwide and English Provincial (head of the Sisters in England).

Sr. Anita, in an interview, laughed about the logistics of meeting in the hot weather of the Solomon Islands. The worship service will start at 6:00 a.m. so that it and the celebration afterward will be finished before the day becomes too hot.

“One of the remarkable things about their feast is it takes days to prepare,” said Sr. Anita, adding that the men will roast pigs and prepare the feast while the women lay out the table and the meal. “Then, in about a quarter of an hour, it is over. It all happens very quickly.”

Expected at the Eucharist and the chapel dedication, for which the sisters will borrow a generator from the cathedral in Honiara, are Sir Ellison Pogo, archbishop of the Church of Melanesia, and his predecessor, Bishop Norman Palmer. Terry Brown, bishop of Malaita (part of the Church of Melanesia), has also been invited. Bishop Brown is a former staff member of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Founded in 1870, the Sisters of the Church vow to live under gospel values of poverty, chastity and obedience.

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