For Sister Anne MacDonald, her life as a nun and her years of volunteer work have always gone hand in hand.
“It’s a calling,” she said of the sisterhood. “God is the one that calls.”
It’s that commitment to her vocation that drove her to begin volunteering at Andrews of Stratford, providing church services to residents. Now, after 17 years of weekly visits, she still gets the same satisfaction as when she first started.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “They are so appreciative. They are very grateful.”
She added, for many of the residents at Andrews, their relationship to their church was always an important part of their life, serving both spiritual and social needs. Now, as they’re getting older, it can be even more valuable.
“It’s very important for them,” she said. “(To) have something to help them in their spiritual life, to give them courage, to tell them how wonderful they are.”
Jane Pearce has been a practicing Catholic her entire life and now takes part in the services at Andrews doing readings. She’s experienced first-hand the value Sister Anne brings to Andrews.
“Sister Anne is just a good soul,” she said. “I think she really enjoys being part of the community here. I expect you could talk to her about anything. She’s friendly and she likes to know what’s going on with you.”
She added, even on the days where she’s unable to get to service, Sister Anne stops by her room to visit before leaving.
“She’s just a wonderful, down to earth person,” she said.
For Polly Mullen, Sister Anne’s visits are also an opportunity to catch up with an old friend. Polly first got to know Sister Anne through her son Dan. Dan was a student of Sister Anne’s when he was young and initially Polly and Sister Anne’s relationship was that of parent and teacher. However, as Dan grew up, he kept in contact with Sister Anne, making sure to take her to coffee or lunch every once in a while. Polly reconnected with her when she moved into Andrews. When Dan died suddenly two years ago, Sister Anne was one of the first people the family called.
“Sister Anne is just a wonderful person,” she said. “She’s amazing. That’s all you can say.”
Andrews Senior Living Advisor Amanda Kotlar agrees.
“We’ve had a lot of volunteers at Andrews over the years, but Sister Anne is one of the longest-serving,” she said. “Andrews relies on volunteer clergy at all our church services and we are extremely grateful for the dedication of people like Sister Anne. What she does, what all our volunteer clergy do for our residents, is immeasurable.”
While Andrews is Sister Anne’s most recent volunteer project, it’s not her first. After taking a hairdressing course when she turned 65, Sister Anne spent a number of years volunteering at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital washing patient’s hair, something she continued doing until COVID-19 put an end to it in spring of 2020.
“It’s (about) helping people to feel good about themselves,” she said of her time at the hospital. “They were most grateful.”
At 89 years old, Sister Anne is older than many of the residents living at Andrews. However, she’s not letting that slow her down. She’s committed to helping at Andrews for as long as her health will allow.
“I’ll continue as long as I can drive,” she said, smiling.