Former Ursuline residence becomes Saskatchewan’s first free-standing residential hospice

Sr. Anne Lewans of the Ursulines in front of their building located right next door to the future Hospice at Glengarda in Saskatoon. (Photo by Matt Braden, courtesy of St. Paul's Hospital Foundation)

Courtesy of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation  (Published in Spirit, The Voice of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation)

Amid the noise and dust of the renovations and construction of the former Ursuline Residence next door, Ursuline Sister Anne Lewans smiles because she knows this commotion can only mean progress.

“Noise and dust are good.”

The former Ursuline residence was sold to St. Paul’s Hospital to become the reinvented Hospice at Glengarda—Saskatchewan’s first free-standing hospice.

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The Ursuline Sisters have a long and storied history beginning in 1535, when they were founded by St. Angela Merici of Brescia, Italy, creating a world-wide order.

Several centuries later and very far away, three Ursulines from Germany – Mother Clementia Graffelder, Mother Luitgardis Kratochwill, and Sr. Thekla Bonus – arrived in tiny windswept Prelate, Saskatchewan, in 1919, on the invitation of Fr. Joseph Riedinger, OMI. Those three sisters eventually became the Ursulines of Prelate, who at their peak numbered 157. The order spread across western Canada working within their mission of “Educating for Life.”

The main focus of the founder of the Ursulines, St. Angela Merici, was supporting women in their families and working for the education of women.

“The Ursuline Order is primarily known as a teaching order,” Lewans explains, “but over the years, we have broadened our educational ministry to include a wide variety of pastoral services.”

When the Ursulines first came to Saskatchewan they taught in many small rural schools. The Ursuline Sisters of Prelate arrived in Saskatoon in 1953 and taught at St. Frances School, which had all of three classrooms. Over the years, they expanded their service into eight elementary schools, seven parishes, two hospitals (including St. Paul’s Hospital), the Catholic School Board Office, the Catholic Pastoral Centre, two university residences and numerous other boards, agencies and organizations.

Lewans reminisces about some of her fondest memories of the Glengarda residence. “We had lots of good  times in the summer,” she says. “We had wiener roasts in the back yard.” Ursuline sisters would travel from across the province to attend university in Saskatoon during the summer, upgrading their education to better serve the people of Saskatchewan, and they would lodge at the residence. “Summer school was fairly intense, but we did have the weekends,” recalls Lewans.

As the numbers of their order dwindled due to the passing of time and the demands of a changing world, the Ursulines of Prelate eventually realized it was time to sell their Glengarda residence. While a sale on the open market was one possibility, the sisters were aware of the need for a hospice in Saskatchewan and were thrilled to be able to pass it on to St. Paul’s Hospital for that purpose. “We think it’s the greatest thing,” says Lewans. “More and more we hear how people need this support in their lives.”

St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s Close to Home Campaign for Hospice and End-of-life Care also appeals to the Ursulines because the campaign is raising money for endowments that educate doctors, staff and caregivers on advances in end-of-life care: “This is very special to us as our mission is Educating for Life. We just see it as an extension of our mission.”

Lewans further notes that recently, while reading the local obituaries, she has noticed growing requests that donations named for loved ones be given to the Close to Home Campaign for Hospice and End-of-Life Care. “It’s a wonderful thing,” she says. “I hope the hospice is just the beginning of this kind of ministry for St. Paul’s Hospital.