After 87 years of continuous prayer on behalf of the needs of the people of Edmonton, the Sisters of the Precious Blood are closing their cloistered Edmonton monastery.
Eight nuns arrived in the city in 1925, establishing a monastery at 11105-100 Ave. In 1968, they moved to a new site at 9415-165 St.
"It is bittersweet for someone who has lived so long with the community. You get attached to the sisters as you get to know them," said Sister Consolata, who will move to Providence Centre.
Sister Consolata joined the Precious Blood Sisters in 1948, and has been in Edmonton the whole time. Her best memories are chanting the Divine Office at their original monastery.
"It was very special to me because we were praising God. We used to get up at midnight and then again at 5 o'clock. We had chanting, meditation and prayers. We did six hours of prayer throughout the whole day," said Sister Consolata.
The Precious Blood Sisters are a contemplative, cloistered community.
"When the Precious Blood Sisters arrived here, we did not come to teach in your schools or to nurse in your hospitals. We came, rather, to carry you in our hearts and to hold your needs and concerns up to the Lord in prayer," said Sister Eileen Mary Walsh, the order's general superior from London, Ont.
Although the sisters will no longer be in their midst, they will continue praying for Edmonton's needs. People can phone, email and write postcards to the sisters with their prayer requests.
"We are not abandoning you, my friends. We never have, and we never will," said Walsh. "As long as there are Precious Blood Sisters, prayer for you and your dear ones will continue. You are etched in our hearts forever, and our prayers will always be with you."
Over the years the monastery flourished, and vocations were numerous. In the spirit of their foundress, Sister Catherine Aurelia Caouette, the sisters founded seven autonomous monasteries in Canada – in Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Charlottetown, P.E.I., Pembroke, Ont., St. Paul, Alta., and Nelson, B.C.
Edmonton's monastery was independent from the others.
Now six sisters remain in the city. With a lack of vocations and an aging membership, radical decisions were needed. The sisters reluctantly agreed to join other monasteries.
Walsh said their departure results in a whole range of emotions.
"There is sadness for leaving what has been our home for all these years. There is pain for realizing our paths must part and we may never see each other again on this earth. There is deep gratitude for all that these 87 years have meant to you and to us for that loyal support we have known since our first days in Edmonton," said Walsh.
Even during times when most families were struggling to eke out a living, the sisters were cared for. Their goodness should never be forgotten, said Walsh.
"We think of the Depression years, we think of the war years, times when everybody struggled – you never forgot us. You always made sure that we had what we needed," said Walsh.
Two sisters will remain in Edmonton, moving to the nursing home at Providence Centre. The others are finding new homes in Calgary, Quebec and Portland, Maine.
A July 8 Mass at Annunciation Church was a time to say goodbye to the sisters.
Sister Joan Milot of Manchester, N.H., is president of the American Federation of Monasteries. She thanked Edmonton Catholics for their fidelity, constancy and generosity towards the sisters. She called the closing of the monastery "a bittersweet time for all of us."
Celebrating the Mass was Archbishop Richard Smith, who said, "We have grown to love the sisters, so their departure fills us only with deep sadness. Yet we cannot help but thank God for the gift they have given us throughout these many years."
The archbishop said many people came to the sisters over the years with their difficulties and anxieties, and asked the sisters to pray for them. The sisters did so faithfully and lovingly.