Sister Maggie Beaudette celebrated 50 years of religious dedication on June 26 at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church with a few surprises to thank her for her life of service.
Letters and speeches poured in from Bishop Mark Hagemoen, members of the Catholic Women’s League, MLAs Wally Schumann and R.J. Simpson, Mayor Brad Mapes, and people in the church community who have felt the impact of Beaudette’s service.
“You have a ripple effect that expands to other people in the community,” said Mapes to Beaudette. “You’ve inspired me. You’ve done good in the church but you are also a part of the community. You really embrace people.”
And she is not done. Beaudette said she plans to remain in Hay River for another 50 years.
Beaudette was received into the Sisters of Saint Joseph on July 2, 1965 in London, Ont.
She said that she was destined for the religious life after a close call when she was an infant. After a desperate prayer asking God to save her, Beaudette’s mother was able to resuscitate her and dedicated her infant’s life to God. Beaudette has spent the last 50 years fulfilling her passion for teaching in many different ways. Her school-teacher career eventually led her to the North in 1988. She taught in Yellowknife and Lutsel K’e before landing in Hay River five years later at the Chief Sunrise Education Centre.
After her retirement from the profession full time, she continues to teach in other ways.
Having led the choir in the church for 12 years, Beaudette saw a need in the education of young parishioners and decided to lead the children’s programming.
“My passion has always been teaching and right now I’m teaching children about Jesus,” said Beaudette. “I’ve gained so much from them.”
Being the only religious sister in Hay River is not lonely, said Beaudette.
“Oh no, I am always involved,” she said.
Beaudette is actively involved in the parish, leading retreats and prayer groups.
When asked to describe what a sister in the Saint Joseph order does, she said the short answer is to love.
“The love of God flows into love of our neighbour,” she said. “So we go out to our neighbour, who is everyone. Only because of God’s love for me am I able to love others. And by loving others, I love God.”
Beaudette’s loving spirit did not go unnoticed.
Iga Olesinska, one of Beaudette’s young students, presented a letter to the church during the celebration.
“I couldn’t imagine a nicer, warmer, more caring person to be our guide on our path as we learn about God,” said Olesinska. “When you talk about God, everything seems so easy to understand. Thank you for preparing our hearts to meet Him in first communion. Where ever we go in our lives, we will always remember we had an excellent guide and teacher.”
She received a special gift from the parish council.
“Thank you for your bright, joyous spirit that you actively share with us,” said Sheila Ryan-Hachey in the council’s presentation to Beaudette.
“We are eternally grateful for the religious programs you co-ordinate for young people to learn about Jesus and his love for all. Your programs have brought life to our church, and that is our future.”
“You are a treasure, and your spirit brightens our lives,” said Ryan-Hachey.
A monetary gift was presented to Beaudette, which she will use to realize one of her long-term dreams: to meet Joyce Rupp, an American religious sister whose work has been influential to Beaudette.
“I’ve wanted to meet her for years,” said Beaudette. “I think I’m close to making it now.”
Beaudette was surprised to have heard from so many people joining in celebrating her milestone. However, one surprise remained until June 30, when she was presented with an apostolic blessing from his Holiness Pope Francis in a framed plaque, signed by Luigi Bonazzi, who is an ecclesiastical diplomat with the titles of Apostolic Nuncio and ambassador to Canada.
“I had said on Sunday that I have heard from everyone but the Pope,” said Beaudette. “I was not expecting this.”
– Diana Yeager