A Path Forward in Canada as Partners in Mission

Article by Wade Johnston, Partner in Mission,
Province of New York - Toronto.


In June 1998, on the final morning of a National Gathering of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (OLCGS) agencies held in the USA, a small group of Canadian participants, so inspired by the experiences over the course of the gathering, joined together for breakfast, broke bread and pondered on the possibility of replicating the gathering for programs in Canada. Little did they know that the mustard seeds planted at breakfast that day would grow to become the Good Shepherd Mission Integration CORE Group in Canada.

The OLCGS first arrived in Canada in 1844 when the Bishop of Montreal requested that Saint Mary Euphrasia mission a small group of sisters to assist young women in his diocese. Over time, responding to the needs across Canada, the sisters also established programs in Halifax, St. John, Winnipeg, Windsor, Sudbury, Burnaby, Ottawa, and Toronto.

Throughout the history of the Congregation, the involvement of partners and professional staff in programs made significant contributions to extending the mission as a means of care and service that was filled with compassion, zeal, individual worth, and reconciliation.

In 1998, Sister Elise Rasch, Provincial for the Province of English-Speaking Canada, recognized the need to connect Good Shepherd people and agencies across Canada as a means of helping to sustain the sisters’ mission in the programs they founded. To this end, she gathered a committee of agency representatives to help develop the first Canadian Gathering in 2000, “The Art of Shepherding… A Lasting Legacy”.

To further the goals of the gathering, the Office for Mission Integration was established in 2002 with Bob Interbartolo in the role of Mission Integration Coordinator. Supporting this role, and with representation from across Canada, the Good Shepherd Mission Integration CORE Group (CORE Group) was created with the purpose of:

  • Informing the work of Mission Integration.
  • Maintaining connections with Canadian agencies.
  • Identifying learning needs and creating opportunities to gather with other Good Shepherd agencies.

During the course of the CORE Group’s history, several small leadership gatherings were organized as well as two additional Canadian Gatherings in 2004 and 2007. Along with these events, the CORE Group and members from their respective agencies continued to participate in Annual North American Gatherings hosted by the USA provinces, and pilgrimages to Angers, France, all with a focus on sustaining the Good Shepherd Mission in each agency.

A meeting of the CORE Group in June 2019.

Over the years, the CORE Group collectively supported each other as the number of apostolic and contemplative sisters in Canada became fewer in numbers, and the ability to be involved in leadership roles diminished. With the sisters’ foresight and the agency’s desire to continue the services established in Canada, the OLCGS passed sole ownership and leadership to community-based Boards of Directors.

During this transition period, the sisters relocated from their respective communities to a provincial convent in Toronto: contemplative sisters moved from Maryvale in Windsor in 2007; apostolic sisters from Chisholm Services for Children in Halifax in 2010, and from Marymound in Winnipeg in 2014.

In 2018, the CORE Group was also faced with the closure of the Canadian Mission Integration Office. In responding to this new reality, the CORE Group persevered, established a collaborative leadership approach, and redefined its terms of reference to include the following objectives:

  • To advocate for social justice issues both within our organizations and our communities with a consideration of issues such as, but not limited to diversity, racial equity, inclusion, poverty, immigration, domestic violence, mental wellbeing, and human trafficking.
  • To ensure our agencies recognize the Core Group as collectively leading and fostering belonging and connectedness with our global OLCGS mission with a focus on deepening the commitment and sustainability of that goal throughout all levels in each organization.
  • To collaborate and support one another to enhance our shared mission.
  • To identify learning needs and create opportunities to gather with other OLCGS organizations through the development of smaller gatherings.

Today, membership of the CORE Group includes representation from Marymound (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Maryvale (Windsor, Ontario), Rose of Sharon (New Market, Ontario), and Chisholm Services for Children (Halifax, Nova Scotia).

The path forward for the CORE Group in Canada is rooted in OLCGS’s values. The CORE Group activities are informed by the changing world around us with respect to social justice and the needs of those served in their respective communities. With a sense of belonging and commitment between the CORE Group agencies as partners in mission, the important services founded by the sisters continue on this path forward in Canada.

*Wade Johnston, MSW RSW (right), is the Executive Director of Chisholm Services for Children in Halifax and is one of the founding members of the Good Shepherd Mission Integration CORE Group. This article is a compilation of source documents, including the History of the CORE Group, written by Bob Interbartolo, former Mission Integration Coordinator, and the CORE Group Terms of Reference.