Over a century of dedicated service to Catholic education has earned the Sisters of St. Ann – St. Joseph’s Community the prestigious 2020 Justice James Higgins Award.
Throughout their illustrious history, the sisters have worked tirelessly in education, healthcare, pastoral ministry, spiritual accompaniment and social justice across Canada. Established in 1850 to meet the educational needs of poor families, the Sisters of St. Ann St.- Joseph’s Community began in Quebec and soon migrated west to Victoria, British Columbia. Before long, they set up schools and ministries across the Pacific Northwest.
In memory of a distinguished Canadian jurist and Catholic School Trustee, the Honourable Justice James Higgins (1913-1974) of St. John’s, Newfoundland, the Board of Directors of CCSTA annually presents an award to a person or group that has made an outstanding contribution to Catholic education in Canada. The Justice James Higgins Award is the highest honour provided by CCSTA. It reflects recognition of an exceptional contribution to Catholic education in this country.
Sister Marie Zarowny expressed her gratitude for the annual award on behalf of the Order.
“This award recognizes the often hidden and very challenging efforts of hundreds of Sisters throughout 162 years,” explains Sr. Marie Zarowny. “Those who came before us lived with enormous hardship and their faith, trust and commitment has been phenomenal. We were very surprised and at the same time pleased, humbled and grateful.”
The Annie’s, as they are affectionately called by their friends, recognized the power of Catholic education and mobilized to help the underserved before it was mainstream.
“The Annie’s played a pivotal role in the development of education in BC, long before the provincial authorities recognized the liberating power of education to the person and the overall contribution education makes to the common good,” explains Shawn Chisholm, Executive Director of the Federation of Independent School Associations of British Columbia. “There is no question that the Sisters of St. Ann – St. Joseph’s Community made a remarkable contribution to Catholic education in Canada.”
From the beginning, the goal of the Order has always remained the same: to empower marginalized communities through education.
“Our Foundress, Blessed Marie Anne Blondin, was illiterate until her early 20s and knew
first-hand the importance of education. She was also aware that if people were to become agents of their own lives and not pawns of others, they needed an education. She knew the same was true for their spiritual lives,” Sr. Marie elaborates. “Her outreach was to those who were most vulnerable. We have inherited and been formed by these convictions.”
And their nearly 170-year contribution to education in Canada should go noticed.
“They have a long history of faithful service and leadership in Catholic education,” says Paula Scott, CCSTA President. “The many contributions of these outstanding educators deserves the highest recognition.”
The award also comes at a good time.
“As the Sisters of St. Ann St. – Joseph’s Community nears the completion of their ministries here in this region of Canada, it is important to recognize the Sisters,” explains Beverly Pulyk, Chairperson of the Catholic Independent Schools Committee of BC in her nomination letter. “It [is] a wonderful opportunity to say thank you – thank you for their leadership, thank you for their witness to the faith, thank you for their contribution to Catholic education in Canada, thank you for their 162 years of service and breadth of experience.”
The Sisters of St. Ann – St. Joseph’s Community will accept the 2020 Higgins Award this June at the CCSTA AGM in The Blue Mountains, Ontario.