What We Do
“We must be mothers for our people … assistants of Jesus.”
(writings of Sr. Athanasia Melnyk, SSMI,
from the conferences of Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytskyj, OSBM)
Since the Sisters began their ministry in Canada they have been extensively involved in the educational apostolate, opening nursery, elementary and high schools, and teaching in others, up to University level. Today they remain committed to educating people of all ages in various ways, encouraging them to develop their gifts for the service of God and of the community. The Sisters still own and direct Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Winnipeg. This Kindergarten to Grade 8 School provides an environment which allows for academic, spiritual, cultural, social, physical, and emotional growth.
In Saskatoon, the Sisters operate the Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre (UCREC). The Centre houses an extensive library and is a distribution centre for catechetical materials. In addition, the Sisters are very active in lay formation throughout Saskatchewan.
The Sisters provide spiritual direction, in formal, one-on-one and informal settings. They have been called upon as spiritual support and retreat directors for parish groups and organizations such as the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Until recently, having owned and run the Mount Mary Immaculate Retreat Centre, in Ancaster, they still remain onsite as a prayerful support for groups who come for spiritual renewal.
In Ukrainian Catholic parishes throughout Canada, the Sisters are still called upon to teach Catechism, especially helping prepare children for the Sacraments. They are also involved in various catechetical camps throughout Canada during the summers, in youth and young adult events, such as Unity, and other occasional events on request.
Many Sisters over the years had also taught music privately; they still hold music lessons in their Toronto home, though their music ministry has moved more to liturgical singing and choral work.
Caring for the Sick and Elderly
To bring the love of Christ to those who are sick and to the elderly is at the heart of what many of the Sisters do daily.
From their first years in Canada, the Sisters ministered to the sick, travelling long distances to give home nursing care, and opening hospitals in prairie centers where Ukrainian immigrants settled. At present, the Sisters still own and operate Holy Family Nursing Home, in Winnipeg, which houses over 300 residents. They work closely with the lay administration, staff and volunteers, and have taken on more pastoral care roles in their ministry. They provide prayerful comfort and hold the hand of the elderly during their final days. Through the example set by Blessed Josaphata, the Sisters love people in a truly human way, with great dedication and service. Our call is “to serve is to love”.
Concern for God’s House
The first aim of the Sisters is to seek God’s glory. Even when not serving people directly, God’s glory is essential. By the example of their care for the physical and liturgical beauty of God’s House, the Sisters lead thirsty souls to the source of all refreshment – right relationship with God.
In the simplicity of the first years of ministry, Sisters served as sacristans in the parishes, cared for the church linens, embroidered and sewed priests’ vestments by hand, and made flowers to decorate the church, in seasons where flowers were not available. The Sisters still provide vestments for all levels of orders: acolytes, deacons, priests and bishops, and have shared their craft with Sisters of other Provinces.
The Sisters led the people in prayer in the absence of clergy, in those years, teaching the people liturgical and devotional services with their music. Sisters continue to act as cantors today, participate in choirs and provide music in scores and recordings.
In more recent years, Sisters have been involved in iconography, writing icons themselves, and organizing iconography workshops with guest iconographers.