By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Sister Frances MacDougall says Women Religious are called to love everyone without expecting anything in return.

In the Archdiocese of Edmonton however, that love has been reciprocated.

“She means so much to so many people here,” said Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil, who was a young priest when he first met MacDougall in Antigonish, N.S.

Sister Frances, now 75, left Prince Edward Island in 1973 to establish a Congregation of Notre Dame mission house in Western Canada.

After decades of service to the Catholic community of Edmonton, Sister Frances will be moving to her home province on June 23. She will live with five Congregation of Notre Dame sisters in a small retreat house in Summerside, where she will provide spiritual guidance to the community.

Sister Frances has worn many hats in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. She’s been a teacher, counsellor and spiritual director. She’s worked with elementary school students, lay leaders, seminarians and priests at St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College.

Her guiding principle, passed on to her by her Catholic parents, has proven true: Find God’s plan for your life and you will find happiness.

“I really felt like God took my limited gifts and ran with them,” she said.

Sister Frances’ legacy is her ability to connect people together, said Rev. Sylvain Casavant, who received spiritual guidance from her as a seminarian in 1987.

“She’s the type of personality who’s interested in people. She wants to know about people, it makes a difference to her that you exist.”

In 1993, Archbishop MacNeil appointed Sister Frances as coordinator of the Synod on the Family to make the Church more “user-friendly” toward families.

“It was easy to listen to her because she was so committed to people and she inspired people, especially young people,” MacNeil said.

“She is a great leader and it is a privilege for people to be associated with her. She has helped people become leaders just by her own example.”

MacNeil said Sister Frances has a great sense of humour. At one particular Synod on the Family meeting of 150 people, a man stood up and asked, “Where are all the students? How come they’re not here?”

“She said, ‘They’re where they’re supposed to be, they’re in school.’ She's full of vitality, full of life. Happy, easy to relate to, with a big smile and a nice easy laughter.”

When Sister Frances moves away, she will miss the other Women Religious communities in Edmonton, the wide open spaces of the Prairies, the diversity of cultures and the priests, students and people she has worked with in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. A football fan, she will also miss the Edmonton Eskimos.

As she prepares for her move across Canada, Sister Frances says she’s looking forward to the next chapter of her life.

“Life is a series of new beginnings,” she said. “And the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God will not keep you. So you have to trust the plan of God for you and not take yourself too seriously.”