The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate

Centenary Pioneer Recognition Program Continues

contributed by Sr. Virginia E. Pryslak, SSMI


On Sunday, August 11, 2013, a number of Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate received further recognition at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritge village, located east of Edmonton, AB, their names being added to a Centenary Monument.

On August 12, 2012, a year ago, (see below,) Radomir Bilash, Manager of the Alberta Ukrainian Genealogical Project, issued certificates on behalf of the Government of Alberta, for 23 Sisters recognized for contributing to the building up of Alberta through their spirit and perseverance. About 600 other pioneers were also honoured in this way.

This year, the names of seven of those Sisters Servants were approved for engraving on plaques on the Centenary Monument. (Plaques #25, 26 and 27 on the north side; #28 and 29 on the south.) They were among those who settled and lived in East Central Alberta from the beginning of their life in Canada, to the time just before the First World War in 1914.

Fittingly, the first three Sisters who arrived on July 11, 1903, at the farm at Beaver Lake, Alberta, (now Mundare since 1905,) were acknowledged there as:

The first postulant to join the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate on August 14, 1903, was Maria Letawska, who took the religious name, Sister Taida, the name of one of the first arrived Sisters Servants, who had died only three months prior, on May 23, 1903, in Edmonton. However, her baptismal name appears on an earlier plaque, along with the entire Letawsky family, having immigrated in 1901 to East Central Alberta.

Our second postulant, entering on September 9, 1903, appears as the fourth name on the plaque:

The three remaining Sisters Servants found on the plaques on the Centenary Monument arrived from Ukraine later as missionary Sisters, and not with their families. Their names appear as:

25 more Sisters need to be further researched (32 names were initially submitted) for proof of first residency on a “family farm” or of first living and working at the convent of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate at the farm where they first settled, provided by the Ukrainian Basilian Fathers. This Centenary Recognition Program ends on Sunday, August 10, 2014.

On this August 11, 2013, the names of the first four priests of the Order of St. Basil the Great (OSBM), missioned to Beaver Lake (Mundare), AB, in those early, sod-breaking years, were engraved on the monument plaques as:

Many pioneers — Sisters, clergy and laity — who worked so hard to contribute to the growth of Alberta and of Canada, may never have their names acknowledged on this Centenary Monument. Their names are written in heaven, in the Book of Life. (cf. Lk 10:20; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5)

Alberta-Ukraine Geneology Project recognizes the SSMI Contribution to Alberta’s Development

On Sunday, August 12, 2012, at the Ukrainian Heritage Cultural Village, east of Edmonton, AB, The Centenary Pioneer Recognition Program of the Alberta-Ukraine Geneology Project, set up and funded by the provincial government of Alberta, honoured pioneers who emigrated to Canada and settled in central Alberta before 1912. The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate were honoured along with other Ukrainian families from Halychyna (Western Ukraine), with the presentation of certificates, recognizing their hard work in the development of, and contribution to the province from within East Central Albert from 1891.

Beaver Lake, now Mundare since 1905, lies within this area. Radomir Bilash, Geneology Project Manager requested that the “family” of the SSMI be submitted to this project. Individual names, proof of residency on the farms, etc. from July 1903-1914, names of parents, date of birth, village and county names in Ukraine, etc., were submitted in both Ukrainian and English. Upon review of this information, with the assistance of Jacquie Fenske, MLA for the Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville constituency, former premier of AB, Ed Stelmach and wife Marie, Bilash presented over 30 certificates to Sister Virginia E Pryslak, SSMI, compiler of the information required, who received them on behalf of Sr. Patricia Lacey, SSMI Provincial Superior. Other SSMI at the event were Srs. Adrianne Charanduk and Jacinta Shymko. After some 600 certificates were presented, those present of families of the recipients were called up on stage for recognition.

Sr. Virginia also received certificates for the first four Basilian priests who were superiors of the mission from 1903-1910 and subsequent years, since they were responsible for the initial homestead land titles.

In August, 2013, the next phase of this project will be the unveiling of these certified names, engraved on plaques and displayed on the monuments in the Ukrainain Heritage Village, along with those of others similarly honoured over the last three years, since the Geneology Project began.

Family_members_called_on_stage The-Recipients Remember when, a year ago, in Edmonton, the Sisters Servants were also recognized at the Legislative grounds, at the unveiling of a tall statue of a nun? This Sister stands tall and pays tribute to about 80 congregations of women, including the SSMI. Covenant Health, a branch of the Alberta Catholic Bishops Corporation, sponsored this Legacy Day event. The Covenant Health leadership team gratefully acknowledged the tremeandous hardships endured by the Sisters in establishing facilities in the fields of health care, education and social services in Alberta from their beginnings until now. Covenant Health commits to carry on the legacy entrusted to them today.

Earlier, in June, 2011, the Federal Government unveiled a plaque at the Mundare Museum, acknowledging the spiritual legacy of the Basilian Fathers and Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, from their beginnings, which on the farms would have been July, 1903, having arrived in the latter part of 1902 in Edmonton.