June 23, 2014

TORONTO – Sister Alice Walsh was excited to accept the position of pastoral minister of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Piccadilly, a remote town in Newfoundland and Labrador.

But a month into her new post, the priest who arrived to celebrate Mass asked her if she realized that she was the one in charge.

No, she said, I'm not. Yes, you are, he replied, telling her to read the bishop's letter. He was right.

So, at the retirement age of 65, it was a new beginning for the now 85-year-old Walsh as she began what she calls a rich, hands-on learning experience, one that would teach the former school principal she was capable of more than she thought.


Now after 20 years of running a parish, Walsh has been honoured with Catholic Missions In Canada's St. Joseph Award for outstanding missionary service. Former prime minister John Turner recently presented her with the award at the 2014 Taste of Heaven Gala.

Walsh was born in 1928 in Kilbride, St. John's, and raised in the Grand Falls-Windsor area. She entered the Presentation Congregation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1948. She taught in schools and served as principal for years throughout the province.

Walsh was also superior at the motherhouse in St. John's from 1989 to 1991.

On Sept. 1, 1993, she began her pastoral ministry at Our Lady of Fatima in Piccadilly, serving the surrounding areas of Port au Prince Peninsula on Newfoundland's west coast.

She already had her master's degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in Chicago and a certificate in theology from Providence College in Rhode Island. So she went to work, learning on the job.


"Yes, I did have fears. I had studied ministry, but they didn't teach me to run a parish.

"So I had to learn so many things. I had to learn how to baptize a child. I had to learn how to officiate at weddings. I had to learn how to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word and funeral liturgies," she said. "I started to move into the life of the people, gradually. And I got to know them."

Walsh began to run marriage courses and baptismal sessions and Confirmation preparation for Grades 7 and 8. But she gives credit to the support she received from others, including Geraldine Tourout, a retired teacher who worked towards a certificate in ministry to serve her parish.

"I have a lot of people who worked with me. It was a tremendous experience. Learning really kept me on my toes and kept me fully alive. So I never got bored with my ministry because everything was new and different," she said.

Though she still finds her work "very energizing," she will move on to a smaller ministry this fall.


In the last two decades, she has learned the importance of communication and sensitivity, the depth of her patience and her endurance for dealing with crises. When people were in need, she would help them and if she couldn't, she'd find help for them.

"What really has strengthened my ministry in the parish, in communication with people, is listening and availability, being available when the need is there," said Walsh. "I think that these two factors blossomed in my life and to me that's an achievement."