Decked out in red and white, Sr. Ada Toner will lead the Canada Day Parade in Fort Saskatchewan.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Decked out in red and white, Sr. Ada Toner will lead the Canada Day Parade in Fort Saskatchewan.

June 25, 2012
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

After many years of serving schools, parishes and retreat centres across Canada, Sister Ada Toner was "deemed too old and too deaf to do anything."

Anyone who made such claims has since been proven wrong. Never a shrinking violet, in her 60s, she strapped on a helmet and rode the highways on the back of a motorcycle. For her 70th birthday, she went up in the skies in a hot-air balloon.

Toner, 94, is still active in Fort Saskatchewan's Our Lady of the Angels Parish, and spends her hours visiting hospital patients and leading grieving sessions for prisoners at the Fort Saskatchewan jail.

"I have birds, and I feed the birds in the winter. There are about 100 of them. I think they call all of their friends in, 'Come on over to Ada's,'" she joked.

A great ambassador for the Church and the community, Toner has been chosen as the honorary parade marshal in Fort Saskatchewan's Canada Day parade.

"It's an honour, but it's not just my honour. It's for this whole community," said Toner, who will be wearing red and white for the special event, in celebration of Canada's 145th birthday.

Last year she celebrated a special milestone of her own, her 75th anniversary with the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception.

Toner has a winning smile, and that smile will be evident when she rides in a convertible at the front of the parade, waving to the crowd.

QUICK DECISION

In a news release from the Canada Day Committee, parade chairman Conal MacMillan said, "After we looked at the nominees, it was a pretty quick decision to recognize Sister Ada's contribution to making our great community even greater.

"She has been faithful to her ministry for over 75 years and has become a great ambassador for the Fort."

Toner grew up in New Brunswick, but has worked across Canada, including 18 years in Vancouver's inner city. She taught all grades during her 38 years as a teacher.

She worked for eight years in Fort Saskatchewan leading the RCIA before relocating to Edson. After another brief stint in Vancouver, working in nursing homes, she returned to Fort Saskatchewan to retire.

With a new priest coming in, she wanted to bridge the gap between him and the parishioners.

"This is home. They accepted me here, and I loved them and I know they loved me. I knew that Father Duncan (MacDonnell) was retiring, and I didn't know who was coming. I felt that I had to be here to support the people," said Toner.

Apart from her dedication to the Church, the beloved nun is known for her love of animals and for making fantastic loaves of bread. She bakes her own bread with a recipe that makes two loaves, one for her and another for someone who needs it.

"People are very good to me here. They give me (monetary) gifts, and I use the gifts for bird food and for books," she said.

The books are for the parish library, which has been named in her honour.

The Canada Day celebration is Fort Saskatchewan's largest annual event, drawing over 10,000 people to Legacy Park for the festivities.