SASKATOOON — “Please, God, help the Parkinson’s people to keep faith and go on. I accept, Lord. Give me the strength to go on.”
So wrote Sister Adelaide Fortowsky, OSU, in her diary in 2009.
An Ursuline nun of Prelate, Sask., for 65 years, Fortowsky drew on her decades of teaching, clowning, worship, and life experiences to bolster her hopeful perspective on living with Parkinson’s disease before her death in July 2016 at the age of 86.
Her reflections and day-to-day experiences with this debilitating disease have been published in a book entitled My Soul Still Dances: Living with Parkinson’s. The book, produced with assistance from her longtime friend, Sister Rosetta Reiniger, OSU, consists of excerpts from Fortowsky’s diary entries,.
“Sister Adelaide and I were friends for 60 years. I was her caregiver for the many years she lived with Parkinson’s disease,” says Reiniger.
“Her creativity helped her cope with her deteriorating health, but it was her faith in God that kept her living with vitality through the most difficult times, focusing on service to others with her ‘little acts of magic’ and to bring joy to others,” she summarizes.
“She developed a dream that what she called her ‘Parkinson’s Story’ would be printed to assist families and caregivers in grasping what is happening to their loved ones suffering from the disease and to help in finding positive ways of living with Parkinson,” says Reiniger in the foreword.
Fortowsky’s diary entries cover a wide range of emotions, including times of struggle with the disabling effects of the disease. Reiniger notes the prayer: “May the Lord dance with me through it all — at least do a slow waltz.”
Born Bertha Fortowsky, she entered the Ursulines of Prelate in 1951, and became known as Sister Adelaide, making her temporary vows in 1953 and her perpetual vows in 1956. She attended teacher’s college in Saskatoon and taught elementary grades for 29 years in the towns of Barthel, Prelate, Richmound, Macklin, and Quinton, joining the staff at St. Angela’s Academy in Prelate in 1985, and teaching there until 2003.
It was in her persona of Allelu, the clown, that she “stayed young at heart,” creating a prayerful, joyful spirit at the academy and beyond. “She further ministered through her gifts of poetry and creativity by posting notes on her ‘Sunshine Board’ with affirmations to the academy girls and staff, and later to the parishioners in Prelate. She continued these ‘sunshine notes’ when she lived at St. Angela Merici Residence” in Saskatoon, where she spent the last six years of her life, wrote Reiniger.
My Soul Dances can be purchased from Reiniger at (306) 361-8034.