SISTERS OF CHARITY By Bob Burchill (Article)


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Bob Burchill

A common experience on retirement is the realization that you have far more clothes,at least of a particular kind, than you are likely to need ever again. Those considering excess attire disposal have many options, including donation to Neighborhood Services and The Salvation Army. May I suggest that you give some thought to The Sisters of Charity, an organization that has maintained a fine tradition of benevolence and generosity in Ottawa since that great life force, Elizabeth Bruyere, established the order here many years ago.

The clothing center is located on the north side of the convent itself, with access at 34 Cathcart. Donations are received at any time, but disbursement requires appointments in order to help manage the pressure of demand. A call to (613) 241-2710 # 155 will secure a spot on the schedule. Families are encouraged to come together so that the full context of particular needs is better understood.

The facility is managed by Soeur Jeanine, a lady of impressive grace and industry, and operated by a small number of Sisters and a group of dedicated volunteers. Donations are received, cleaned, sized and stocked. Beneficiaries are welcomed warmly, and treated with courtesy and dignity. First the children are taken to an area where they can be outfitted, then the ladies, then the men. Access to stocks is rationed somewhat, but beneficiaries will leave with clothing and footwear that is clean, appropriate and properly sized. Apart from clothing, the Sisters assemble baby bassinettes for expectant mothers. These contain everything from blankets to talcum powder, 42 items in all in each bassinette. And it is all FREE. It is somewhat startling, in our times, to find a Christian community that is executing deeds of Christian compassion with no strings or prices. No blandishments, no demeaning, no sermons.

In any year the facility will help thousands of people. Many are immigrant refugees, and a map of the world on one of the walls identifies their countries of origin. Many, however, come from half-way houses, hospices and other institutions around the city. When I was there a young man who identified himself as coming from a methadone clinic wanted a snowsuit to be a Christmas present for his six year old son. He could not have received more sympathetic treatment in any of the leading ateliers of Ottawa.

My visit to the facility was to help a refugee family from the Sudan. One of them apologized to Sister Janine for what she perceived to be inadequacies in her English. Sister Jeanine replied “Here we speak only love.” And from everything I saw, she was absolutely right.

Bob Burchill

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