Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate
In 1902, four Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate accepted the challenge to leave their homeland, present-day Ukraine, to join the growing number of Ukrainian immigrants in Canada, serving their needs, while adjusting themselves to a new language and culture in pioneer days. In 1905, two of them came to Winnipeg. A daughter of the immigrants joined them upon their arrival, receiving her formation as a Sister Servant as they began their mission. Soon they were teaching in a primary/elementary school in the St. Nicholas Church basement. In 1911 St. Nicholas School was built and flourished to the early 1960s. During the Spanish flu, the Sisters cared for many in their homes.
By 1960, St. Nicholas School in Winnipeg needed to be replaced. Immaculate Heart of Mary School was opened in September 1963. The school, 110 years later, continues to fulfill the mission of the 1905 trailblazers.
In 1910, Sisters Servants came to Sifton, and they began teaching in 1912. They counselled the new settlers, cared for the sick and welcomed orphans. After fire destroyed their home in 1924, they left but returned in 1935 to offer home care for the sick and teach, conducting choirs and teaching handicrafts and culinary arts. From 1941 to 1955 they accepted elderly into their home.
In 1928, the SSMI came to Dauphin to serve in the parish, teaching children and youth and even some adults English. For nearly two decades the Sisters visited patients in the hospital, often acting as interpreters and ministering to the dying. They also gave home care as requested by the sick, infirm and elderly in rural areas.
In 1947 the Sisters purchased RCAF units, which were relocated to Dauphin and transformed into a personal care home for this region. Despite a fire, their work continued. At the end of 2015, the Sisters bade farewell to the home as changing times made it necessary to transfer ownership to Prairie Mountain Health. The SSMI mission in Dauphin and area was celebrated by the unveiling of a bronze sculpture of two pioneer Sisters Servants opposite St. Paul’s Home Chapel July 31, 2016.
At their fourth SSMI mission to Portage la Prairie (1936-1943), the Sisters conducted a fruitful and varied parish apostolate. They conducted a day nursery school, taught children and youth. In the summer they taught over 900 children and youth in rural parishes and they visited the sick and elderly.
In 1956 the SSMI purchased the former Children’s Hospital and the Nurses’ Residence. By 1957, the hospital was converted to a personal care home Holy Family Home. It continues to welcome the infirm and elderly to this day.
The nurses’ residence was converted to a home of the Sisters. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy (1957-1963) for high school girls, church vestry, School of Music, Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre (1977-1988) were also located there. This Centre was moved to the Archeparchial Chancery and continued to serve local and rural parishes in Winnipeg until 2003.