Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sister Dora

Sister Dora, the Reverend Mother of SSJD (1916-1945) 

Sister Dora, the Reverend Mother of SSJD (1916-1945) was the niece of Hannah Grier Coome, our Mother Foundress, and of Rose Grier, principal of Bishop Strachan School in Toronto. She joined the Sisterhood in 1900 and in 1905 was appointed the Sister-in-charge of Bishop Bethune College in Oshawa. In 1909 she became the Novice Mistress and soon added the responsibilities of Assistant Superior. When the Mother Foundress resigned in 1916, Sr. Dora was elected as the next Reverend Mother.

Our Sisters who remember Sr. Dora describe her as tall, erect, and very attractive to others. During the twenties and thirties many young women joined the Sisterhood, which enabled Mother Dora to respond to the calls of the church both in the Diocese of Toronto and in other parts of Canada. These calls included opening Qu’Appelle Diocesan School in Regina (1918), taking charge of St. Christina’s School in Cooperstown, N.Y. (1930), Bishop Mountain Hall, an orphanage in Quebec City (1927), and two schools for the mentally handicapped: Shernfold School in Ottawa and Saint-John’s-on-the-Hill in Aurora around the same time.

Then she convinced Mr. Vincent Massey to chair a committee to raise funds for a convalescent hospital (now known as St. John’s Rehab Hospital) which was opened in 1937. He said that as soon as he met her he knew what his answer had to be! “She had all the compelling force of a medieval Abbess.” She was a good friend of Charlotte Whitton, the mayor of Ottawa, who frequently came to the convent to visit Sr. Dora who was particularly fond of chess. Apparently after she retired she had an ongoing chess game with Charlotte by mail. After resigning in 1945 at the recommendation of her heart specialists, she could often be found peeling vegetables in the kitchen.

The Sisters remember her best for her loving interest and advice for everyone. As the Mother she often gave talks to the novices and continued taking an interest in them right up to the end. Sr. Merle remembers being a novice and visiting her on Sunday afternoons in the infirmary. Sr. Dora was full of fun, loved being at the summer cottage, and was known for her friendliness.

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