Involvement from the Congregations of Notre Dame & Sisters of St. Martha
Notre Dame & St. Martha Sisters
The history of St. Francis of Assisi Church cannot be told without recounting the contributions of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame (CND) and the Sisters of St. Martha (CSM). It was during the fall of 1978 that Sisters Phyllis Gallant, Geraldine Handrahan, Helen Hughes and Catherine Smith, all CND opened a small convent on the York Point Road. They took up teaching positions at Bluefield High School and became actively involved with the moral and spiritual well-being of the parishioners. In 1981, one year after St. Francis of Assisi Church had opened, the CND Sisters moved their small convent to John street, almost adjacent to the church. Their new home was named St. Marguerite Convent.8
Sr. Catherine Smith played an especially active role in the church. After retiring from teaching she continued to tutor any student who needed the extra help. She also became the parish associate in 1987 and took on many tasks in her 18 years of service. Sister Pat Smith, who is sister to Sister Catherine, also took on an active role in the parish: she became secretary to Fr. Eric Dunn in 1994 and continued helping with various parish needs.9 To quote Alfreda MacDonald who compiled the history of St. Francis of Assisi church, “Although St. Marguerite Convent is no longer open and Sisters Catherine and Pat have moved to Notre Dame Convent in Charlottetown, the presence of this religious order has added a richness to the spiritual life of St. Francis.”10
There were also several Sisters of the Congregation of St. Martha who were actively involved with the creation and well-being of St. Francis of Assisi Church. In the early years, before St. Francis of Assisi church was built, when the priests from St. Dunstan’s Basilica would come to Cornwall for weekly celebration, the faithful Sisters would accompany them and provide music for the Mass. The Sisters would not only contribute to the weekly celebrations but ensured that the priests were present. Many original parishioners remember when Fr. Adrian, who never drove, would say Mass in Cornwall. It was up to Sr. Gemma Dunn to chauffeur Fr. Adrian to Mass in her Volkswagen every week.11
CMS Sister Winnifred McIver became the first pastor associate of the parish in 1979. She worked on a part time basis and brought her expertise in music and liturgy. Sr. Gemma Dunn who had been an instrumental part of the formation of the church in the 1970’s is the current associate.12 She is an enthusiastic addition to parish life, her wide smile and boisterous laugh is a wonderful and welcoming attribute to the parish community. The CND & CSM Sisters have added great warmth to the parish over the years; their generous and giving nature is an inspiration to the parishioners.
From Left to Right: Fr. Floyd Gallant, Sr. Pat, Sr. Catherine, unknown - Photo Courtesy of Ginny Grant