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Sisters pack up after 12 years in northern parish

By Agnieszka Krawczynski
The B.C. Catholic


VANCOUVER (CCN) — Bishop Mark Hagemoen is praising two sisters for their great efforts in serving an isolated community in Canada’s far north.

Sisters Joan Liss and Pauline Girodat, SSND, have just retired after about 12 years of service in Fort Good Hope, NWT.

“Their work and life has left not only a deep impression in Fort Good Hope, but on the entire diocese,” said Hagemoen of Mackenzie - Fort Smith.

The pair, School Sisters of Notre Dame now in their 70s, served at Our Lady of Good Hope as pastoral workers. They celebrated the Liturgy of the Word with communion, taught religious education, prepared parishioners for the sacraments, played the organ, and gave weekly broadcasts on a local radio station.

“Their work featured a ‘ministry of presence and relationship’ that has been deeply valued by the Sahtu Dene people of the region,” the bishop said.

Their efforts were vital. The community is only accessible by airplane for most of the year. Liss said that meant the community only saw a priest once every two or three months, if they were lucky.

“We didn’t have a priest very often, so I was responsible for fostering spiritual life,” Liss told The B.C. Catholic from the airport as she made her way to her order’s retirement house in Waterdown, Ont.

“A lot of it was being present to the people. It was being there. If they had any need of any sort, they knew we were there for them.”

She and Girodat would be there for the 600-member community in times of joy and in times of grief. Hagemoen has seen this in action.

“My first experience of their amazing ministry was during my first visit to the community when a young woman had tragically died. Their careful attention to families and community members affected by the tragedy has left a permanent impression on me.”

Liss said retirement will not be the end of her service. “Sisters never totally retire. There are certain areas I’d like to take on,” such as “working with people who fall between the cracks in society.”

Roger Plouffe, a layman from the Archdiocese of Edmonton who has experience in northern outreach, will land in Fort Good Hope to take over from the sisters.

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