Dean Rook, long active in Catholic health care in Lethbridge, received the annual Service Through Christ Award from Covenant Health.


Dean Rook, long active in Catholic health care in Lethbridge, received the annual Service Through Christ Award from Covenant Health.

November 3, 2014

Alberta's health care story began 150 years ago in November 1863.

The Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Montreal cared for their first patient in St. Albert where they founded the first hospital, 42 years before Alberta became a province.

The foundations of quality, compassionate care Albertans expect of their health system were laid by those risk-taking sisters. They responded to the needs of their times, founding hospitals and health services across the province.

Covenant Health is called to continue the healing ministry of Jesus and those pioneering sisters by serving with compassion, upholding the sacredness of life in all stages, and caring for the whole person – body, mind and soul.

The Covenant Health annual community meeting Oct. 22 was a chance to highlight a century and a half of accomplishments. The meeting was held at Double Tree by Hilton West Edmonton.

Prior to saying grace at the lunch-hour meeting, Archbishop Richard Smith took the opportunity to compliment Covenant Health.


"Light and hope have come to us in Jesus, and light and hope become visible when people band together to do good. That's what Covenant Health is all about," said Smith.

The Grey Nuns, with their helping hands and religious values and charism, had a profound impact on the pioneering era of Alberta.

In those days, 150 years ago, health care was largely funded by religious denominations. Most hospitals were labeled Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian or Anglican. People's medical needs and religious needs were adhered to within the confines of their own specific faith traditions.

Today, as a Catholic organization, Covenant Health is committed to serving people of all faiths, cultures and circumstances. It works with the provincial government and Alberta Health Services as an essential partner in an integrated provincial health system.

"In 2014, we're proud to carry out the sisters' legacy of care and their vision of hope, responding to the challenges today as they did in their day with courage, compassion, quality, innovation and a call to service," said Patrick Dumelie, president and CEO of Covenant Health.

Covenant Health is Canada's largest Catholic health care organization. Its team is comprised of 10,264 employees, more than 2,700 volunteers, and 836 physicians. They provide acute care and continuing care services at 17 facilities in 12 communities across the province.

A 30-minute documentary about Covenant Health, entitled Visions of Hope, was shown at the meeting. Told through personal interviews, archival photos and on-location action sequences, Visions of Hope is a compelling documentary that captures both the history and future legacy of Catholic health care in Alberta.

Some of the highlights included the flood damage and subsequent repairs to the aging Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, renovations to St. Joseph's General Hospital in Vegreville, and the work being done at the Bonnyville Health Centre.

Covenant Health is looking to communicate via social media, opening a Facebook account Oct. 7, as well as having a YouTube channel and a new site called

Dumelie said the next 10 years will call Covenant Health to be of even greater service and the organization is reviewing its strategic framework. He's asked teams, communities and partners to connect with them to guide Covenant Health on this journey.

"Tell us: what do you think is the potential of our organization? Email your response to patrick," he said.

Covenant Care is a non-profit partner in Alberta's integrated health system. Supporting seniors, Covenant Health opened two new facilities in the spring. Holy Cross Manor in Calgary and Villa Marie in Red Deer each provide supportive living for 100 residents.

Edmonton's St. Thomas Health Centre was established in 2008, and will join Covenant Health this year. It provides supportive living for 138 residents and independent living for 62 people.

Patrick Dumelie

Patrick Dumelie

Place Beauséjour was established in Beaumont in 2007, and also joins Covenant Health this year, providing supportive living for 48 residents.

Two new facilities will open next year in Calgary – St. Marguerite Manor and a facility in the Redstone community.


Honoured at the meeting with the annual Service Through Christ Award was Dean Rook, who has been active in community service in Lethbridge, serving on the governing board of St. Michael's Health Centre and St. Michael's Housing Association.

The award recognizes those in the community who reflect the same selfless acts of service as the Grey Nuns did a century and a half ago.

As an educator for 40 years, Rook has spent his career teaching special education, providing counselling and in school administration. His selfless contributions extend well beyond the classroom.

Throughout his life he has been active in parish activities. He was recently inducted into the Alberta Schools' Athletic Association Hall of Fame for his years assisting new coaches and athletic directors, and hosting sports tournaments.

"Today's recognition pays special tribute to his contributions to Catholic health care, and Dean's passion for health care enduring well into the future. As board chair, he made St. Michael's Health Centre his priority," said John Brennan, board chairman of Covenant Health.

"He recognized how the sisters always focused on the needs of others, working towards that common purpose of giving people hope no matter what their circumstances," said Brennan.

Rook's prudent leadership, he said, helped make the health centre in Lethbridge what it is today.

"By extension, he helped Covenant Health become what it is today. Ultimately his work benefits all Albertans, serving our facilities with quality care and passion," said Brennan.