Answering a higher calling

She’s raised a family, lived alone after her marriage failed and now Yvonne Roberts is spending nine months incubating the possibility of a Christian vocation.

Yvonne Roberts sits between Grey Nuns Jo-Ann Duggan and Elaine Baete.

Yvonne Roberts sits between Grey Nuns Jo-Ann Duggan and Elaine Baete.

WINNIPEG — She’s raised a family, lived alone after her marriage failed and now Yvonne Roberts is spending nine months incubating the possibility of a Christian vocation.

“I’m discerning my place in life, the kind of people I want to be around and the kind of life I want to live,” explains the substitute teacher and grandmother, of the journey she began in September.

Until next May, Roberts of Lac du Bonnet, northeast of Winnipeg, will live with two Catholic nuns, members of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, more commonly known as the Grey Nuns, who have opened up their lives and their modest Winnipeg bungalow to her as she contemplates her next step in life.

“They’re like sisters to me,” Roberts, 58, says of her life with Jo-Ann Duggan and Elaine Baete, who were novice nuns together nearly 40 years ago.

“I feel that I’m living with two of my sisters. They take care of me.”

Recently designated as a place of discernment, the house can accommodate up to two women at a time looking for direction on whether to become a Grey Nun, join another religious order, or take another path entirely, explains Duggan, 59.

“There were a few inquiries asking about where to go to discern their vocation,” explains Duggan, a former administrator and spiritual care provider now recuperating from foot surgery.

“As we meet unmet needs in society, it was decided (that) we open our residence to (women) to seek their vocation.”

“It means a time to set oneself apart, to pray, to be still and just to listen to the prompting of God and spirit calling you forth to respond,” adds Baete, 54, who works as a campus minister at the University of Manitoba.

“It’s through prayer, through Scripture, through silent meditation and spiritual direction.”

As part of the discernment process, Roberts volunteers in the community, pays room and board and helps with household chores. She also is expected to spend time alone in daily prayer and join the sisters in their evening prayers, as well as participating in regular community outings, like attending a play or concert.

“It gives them a nine-month period to allow them to enter the inward journey,” explains Duggan of the transition to religious life. “It’s difficult because people are coming from an active lifestyle to a more inner lifestyle.”

With a history of more than 270 years in Canada, the Grey Nuns have a long record of helping the community. Founded in Montreal in 1737 by Marguerite d’Youville, who was declared a saint in 1959, it was the first order to come to Western Canada, where it established several helping institutions, such as the St. Boniface General Hospital, Tache Centre and St. Mary’s Academy. Their former headquarters adjacent to the St. Boniface Cathedral is now a museum, and most of the remaining sisters live at the Tache Centre or Residence Despins.

Once a thriving Christian order with thousands of members, the Grey Nuns have dwindled to a few dozen in Manitoba, most of them elderly. Including Duggan and Baete, only three nuns are under 65, and the Grey Nuns are facing difficult decisions about their future viability.

At their upcoming general chapter meeting in 2011, members will discuss what’s next for their group, which has an average age of 79, says sister general Jacqueline St.-Yves.

“I’m a firm believer in living fully in the present moment,” she says from her office in Montreal. “We can’t look back too much to the past and the future is not clear. We have to be open to whatever the future holds for us.”

That’s advice Roberts is taking to heart. Not content to continue her life the way it was, she’s taking solace in her daily rituals and not rushing a decision to join a religious community.

“I’m taking it slow and I’m enjoying the time of silence and the time of community sharing,” she says.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was in Red Deer Wednesday and addressed a number of different political topics affecting central Alberta. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Notley talks RDC, UCP draft K-6 curriculum in visit to Red Deer

Rachel Notley had only proposed a solution hours before she arrived in… Continue reading

Photo by RANDY FIEDLER/Advocate staff BUDGET RURAL MEDICINE 2 - Dr. Fred Janke in his Sylvan Lake practice Wednesday. for story
Sylvan Lake doctor formerly accused of child sex crimes can practise again

Crown prosecutors dropped all charges against Dr. Fred Janke last November

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

(Image from Facebook)
UPDATED: Rocky Mountain House store bars vaccinated customers

‘No proof the vax works and no proof it does not shed’

Red Deer community builder and Korean War veteran Don Holloway (shown here with his wife, Sylvia), died at the age of 88. (Photo courtesy of the City of Red Deer)
One of Red Deer’s last known Korean War veterans has died

Don Holloway, who died at age 88, was the city’s Honorary Senior Citizen in 2020

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

Letisha Reimer is shown in a photo, part of a memorial to her outside Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov.7, 2016. A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to deliver her decision today over whether a man who stabbed two high school students is not criminally responsible because he had a mental disorder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geordon Omand
Judge to rule on criminal responsibility of man who stabbed two B.C. students

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge is expected… Continue reading

File photo
Expert says Saskatchewan should consider more targeted vaccine plan as variants surge

SASKATOON — Nazeem Muhajarine says he feels a sense of relief after… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising Canada will slash its… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the country needs a boost… Continue reading

Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre in Toronto on Thursday January 15, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

One of the world’s largest insurers says Canadians will be more than… Continue reading

A Blanding’s turtle (Gabrielle Fortin/Contributed)
Earth Day: Finding hope in an old sweater

During the pandemic, many of us have spent several months at home.… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says 1.7 million reusable masks have been ordered at a cost of $4.2 million.” (Advocate file photo).
Alberta teachers and education minister swap accusations of politicizing curriculum

EDMONTON — Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the group representing Alberta teachers… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people take pictures of the Olympic rings installed by the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
Olympic bodies launch competitive series in virtual sports

Olympic body hopes to reach more young people

Most Read