On December 9, 1980, Sister Mary Bridget died in the hospital at Shawville, Que. Sister had been taken in August by her family for a vacation at the home of her sister, Mrs. Nora Kelly, at Vinton, Que. On September 17, as she was preparing to return to the Motherhouse, she suffered a stroke and was admitted to the nearest hospital at Shawville. Although her condition improved somewhat and it was hoped that she could be brought back to Heathfield, further strokes prevented her being moved, and for almost three months she lingered in unconscious or semi-conscious state.
Our Superior General, Sister Muriel Gallagher, with Sister M. Teresa Cole, a relative, and other Sisters visited her and her niece, Sister Monica Shea, remained with her a good part of the time and was with her when she passed peacefully to God.
Sister Mary Bridget, known in the world as Helena Sloan, was born on April 20, 1893, a daughter of William Sloan and Ellen Hearty, at Vinton, Que. From this rural Irish settlement on the north-western shore of the Ottawa River, our Community received five of its members; besides Sister M. Bridget and Monica Shea, there was Sister M. Marcella Ferrigan and her nieces Sr. M. Priscilla and Sr. M. Matthia Cavanagh.
Sister M. Bridget was just nineteen when she entered the novitiate at St. Mary’s of the Lake, a new building to serve as an orphanage as well as a House of Formation. In her letter to the Superior General two years later asking to be admitted to profession she wrote: “I know that I shall ever be happy serving the poor, and I will do all I can to render myself serviceable to the Institute and a true spouse of Christ.” No one who knew Sister M Bridget will doubt that in her long active life of over 50 years, she kept that resolution.
Her special aptitude was for cooking and she served in the dietary departments of St. Mary’s of the Lake and St. Vincent de Paul Hospital, Brockville, and as housekeeper and cook on the teaching missions of Arnprior, Trenton and Batawa. As Monsignor Hanley said in his homily at the funeral Mass, she made possible by her hidden labour the achievements of the professional nurses, teachers, social workers, etc. which received recognition from the communities in which they were performed.
One section of society, however, (apart from her religious community) appreciated Sister M. Bridget’s services—the children. She had the Christ-like quality of a special love for the little ones. While at St. Mary’s Orphanage, she was deeply sympathetic with the lonely children. One woman, now over 70, living in California, who spent some years of her childhood at St. Mary’s and sends a donation four times a year to the Motherhouse, asks for her “cookie Sister”, Sister M. Bridget. In her last letter in November, 1980, she said, “I can still taste her cookies. They melted in my mouth.” A veteran of World War II, now unfortunately not practicing his religion, had kept an affectionate remembrance of Sister M. Bridget, who was especially kind to him while he was at the orphanage. Sister remembered him too and when told about him, said, “I felt sorry for him, he was such a lonely little fellow.” Children in the schools, too, were happy to be sent on a message to the convent where Sister M. Bridget was never too busy to receive them kindly and reward them with a cookie.
When she retired to the Marian Infirmary in 1966, she went occasionally to the diet kitchen and made buns for her companions on the floor.
She suffered much in these later years from impairment of hearing and sight, a hearing aid proved of no help, but removal of cataracts restored her vision enough that she was able to enjoy reading—particularly the Canadian Register—and to do creditable work in knitting. Most of the knitting went to the local St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Time did not hang heavily on her hands, for she devoted many hours to prayer. Until a few weeks before she left for her last vacation, she assisted, in a wheelchair, at two Masses daily.
In the absence of His Grace, Archbishop Wilhelm, Msgr. J.G. Hanley, Vicar General, offered the funeral Mass with Father Paul McAvoy, Chaplain, as concelebrant, Father D. Clement was also in attendance.
Of a family of ten, only two sisters survive – Mrs. Theresa Stewart of Hamilton and Mrs. Kelly of Vinton. Mrs. Stewart and several nieces and nephews attended the funeral in the chapel of the Motherhouse. Four nephews acted as pallbearers – Emmett Stuart, Dillon Kelly, Erin Franey and Edward Hunt in addition to the four Sister pallbearers as is our custom
We have every confidence that Jesus, Father of the Poor, who blessed the little children, met Sister M. Bridget with a mild and gracious countenance and will give her a place among those who are to be in His presence forever.