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Ursuline celebrates 100th birthday

By Louisa Brost, OSU

12/09/2015

SASKATOON — Sister Helen Hoffart, an Ursuline of Prelate, celebrated her 100th birthday Nov. 8 at St. Angela Merici Residence in Saskatoon.

A program with messages, tributes, a biographical slide show, and sharing of memories, a mass celebrated by her nephew, Rev. Louis Hoffart, OMI, and a banquet marked her milestone birthday.

Hoffart’s life had a double focus: her creative talent in art and her passion to assist the poor.

Born Nov. 3, 1915, on a farm near Kerrobert, Sask., she was the third youngest in a family of 12 children. They moved to Tramping Lake when she was eight years old. She attended St. Angela’s Academy at Prelate to finish her Grade 12 and entered the novitiate in 1933. Hoping to begin a career in teaching, she went to Normal School in Moose Jaw, but was interrupted by a nine-month stay at the Providence Hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis. She completed her teacher training the next year.

In 1942, it was clear that teaching art was Hoffart’s forte. She began with students from the towns nearby Prelate — Sceptre and Leader. She tackled the huge task of painting an outdoor Christmas crib set, and this was soon followed by demands to create stage sets for drama programs at St. Angela’s Academy.

A desire for missionary service was awakened when the call came for her to teach at LaLoche in northern Saskatchewan. Here she spent eight years facing many challenges, one of which was a fire which destroyed part of the trailer in which she and her companion, Sister Bernadette Feist, OSU, lived.

Hoffart’s thirst for missionary work took her to Swaziland from 1978 - 1982, where she worked at a rehabilitation centre for the handicapped at St. Joseph’s Mission near Manzini, Africa.

When she returned to Saskatoon, Hoffart spent a brief time assisting with the work of the infirm and spent several months in a renewal program at Arnprior, Ont. in 1983 - 84.

Her achievements were many. She restored and painted statues for churches and chapels such as Duck Lake, St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral and the Liebenthal Heritage Church, and many more statues were brought to her while she resided at St. Angela’s Convent in Prelate. She taught art in the classroom at the academy for many years. In her retirement years, her painting has expanded to paint on almost anything — velvet, trophies, hand saws, bottles, old clocks — always creating an array of interesting works.

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