Sister Ruth Olga Yakimishyn, SSMI
1923 — 2015
Sister Ruth died on Friday, June 19, 2015, at Holy Family Home, Winnipeg, MB, in her 92nd year and 60th in religious life.
Sister Ruth (Olga) was born in Roblin, MB, near on October 15, 1923, the oldest daughter of John Yakimishyn and Emily (nee Borody), and baptized at St. Michael’s Church in Roblin. Her father had immigrated to Canada from Brazil, where he had immigrated from Ukraine. She attended the local school and later attended Sacred Heart Academy, Yorkton, SK, graduating in 1941.
She then entered the teaching profession. After attending the teacher training program in Winnipeg, she taught for several years in Manitoba schools. She also attended Business College, which enabled her to teach secretarial and typewriting in later years. In 1951 she enrolled at the University of Manitoba, graduating with Bachelor of Arts and Education degrees.
She was the second vocation to the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in her family. Her younger sister, Victoria, entered the Novitiate of the Sisters Servants in Mundare, AB, in 1944. She also had attended Sacred Heart Academy.
Sister Ruth’s vocation to religious life had come earlier in her life, but a very difficult family situation arose. Her father was killed in a car accident on the very first day Sister Ruth (Olga) began teaching. Her mother was left to raise and provide for four children. As the oldest in the family, she decided to postpone her entry to religious life and devote her life and earnings to the welfare of her family.
Small in stature, Sister Ruth was a giant in generosity and a pillar in spiritual strength. Throughout her life as a Sister Servant, she was devoted to her family, supporting her brothers and sisters with her wise and kindly counsel, regularly keeping in touch by letter, telephone and visits. She enjoyed her vacations at their homes. Above all, she offered many heartfelt prayers for each, asking the Lord and the Blessed Mother to guide and protect them. She was delighted to be a great-aunt!
Her long awaited day arrived on January 22, 1955: she entered the novitiate of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Ancaster, ON. She took the religious name “Sister Ruth.” She made first profession of vows on August 15, 1957, and final profession on August 15, 1960.
Sister Ruth continued her studies. She upgraded her teaching of commercial courses, obtaining a certificate in 1958. She studied school administration in the 1960s. She was grateful for the opportunity to study her beloved subject, “theology” at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa in the early 1970s, and afterwards, at the University of Toronto (St. Michael’s School of Theology), convocating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1977. It is noteworthy that the Sisters and her family were unaware of this distinction until her archives were opened at the time of her death.
Sister Ruth loved her religious congregation and served it wholeheartedly as local Superior in Winnipeg, Provincial Home – Toronto and Ancaster. She generously served as a General and Provincial Chapter member. In the summer of 1973, she served at the Sisters’ Motherhouse in Rome, assisting in the secretariat.
Sister Ruth served as Superior in the Novitiate in Mundare in the 1980s. At her departure for a new mission, the novices said “farewell” by composing a song. These verses reveal how she touched their hearts.
Thanks for the memories,
your patience in our cooking,
your looking past the dust.
You know we’ll always member your carrot juice, a must!
Thanks for the memories,
your nutrition consciousness,
your deep concern for all –
the example of your faithfulness leaves you very tall!
Thanks for the memories,
your soft and gentle smile,
the gleam within your eye,
will always live within us, as we say “Bye, Bye.”
Sister Ruth was grateful for all the opportunities the Sisters Servants gave her to be enriched culturally and spiritually. She especially treasured the opportunity to visit the Holy Land and St. Peter’s at the Vatican.
Her major contribution to the Sisters Servants was serving as Provincial Secretary at the Provincial Home in Toronto under four different Provincial Superiors for a total of 26 years: 1968-1971; 1986-2009. In addition, she welcomed the opportunity to assist in the Provincial Office for five years. She unstintingly gave of herself, her time, energy, and God-given talents.
During this time, changes in technology took place. Thus Sister Ruth took a computer course in 1987. She also took courses in archival practices. She was always open to learning, to better serve the needs of the Sisters Servants.
While serving in Toronto, she was involved in the parish apostolate of preparing children for Holy Communion. This she joyfully did in St. Nicholas and Holy Eucharist parishes.
Sister Ruth served in the educational apostolate of the Sisters Servants in their Academies for 16 years. She taught at Mount Mary Academy in Ancaster from1956-1961 and 1971-1972; Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy/High School, Winnipeg, from 1961-1966, where she also served as principal for three years. She also taught in her Alma Mater in Yorkton, Sacred Heart High School from 1979-1982, where she was on staff with her sister, Sister Georgina. In addition to teaching commercial subjects, including typewriting, she taught senior level mathematics, history, literature, biology and Ukrainian.
Her former students welcomed the opportunity to visit her and thank her for all they gained in her classes. They were especially grateful for her kindness, gentle spirit and prayerful support.
The congratulatory messages Sister Ruth received on her Silver and Golden Jubilees in religious life expressed the gratitude and esteem of the Sisters Servants:
In the past 25 years, your self-sacrificing service, your dedication, self-effacement and humility have been an example, encouragement and support for us, your Sisters in Christ.
On her Golden Jubilee, she was greeted with these words: In your religious life and your apostolate, you have been as constant as the Northern Star. Your professionalism, efficiency, knowledge and peacefulness in the midst of difficulties are beyond question. We appreciate your prayerfulness, your kindness, gentleness and unbelievable patience. Your hospitality and welcome are second to none.
In her final ten years at the Provincial Home in Toronto, Sister Ruth generously volunteered to take responsibility for beautifying our grounds by planting a variety of flowers. This entailed research, purchase of gardening supplies, planting the donated bedding plants and ones she purchased and, above all, supervising the helpers, so that the colours and shapes were harmonious. Wearing her broad-brimmed hat, she sat on a lawn chair, watching the work progress. She certainly had a “green thumb.”
In September 2013 Sister Ruth joined the Sisters at Bethany Home in Winnipeg. From the time of her arrival to the time of her heart attack earlier in June, she shared her gifts of prayer and service, as her strength permitted. She was especially grateful to be re-united with her sister, Sister Georgina, and share her burden of pain. She welcomed new opportunities to bring the love of the Lord and his compassion to those she encountered. It brought her joy to help Sister Oresta with her English skills.
In her life journey, Sister Ruth found strength and peace in the chapel, in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord. It was her joy to devote much time daily in prayer for the needs of our Church, Sisters Servants, her family, friends, former students and those most abandoned. She had a tender devotion to the Mother of God, to whom she entrusted all those she loved.
This year marked her 60th Jubilee in Religious Life, each year being rooted in the strength and peace of Jesus. All those, whom she loved, she entrusted to the Mother of God. Much time was spent praying for the needs of those near and far. Truly Sister Ruth lived the exhortation of St. John of the Cross: Where there is no love, bring love, and there you will find love.
Sister Ruth was predeceased by her parents, sister Alma, brothers Walter, Mike and sister-in-law Doris. She is survived by her sisters, Sister Georgina and Marie and her husband Jean-Paul Patenaude, her brother Nicholas and nieces and nephews.