Soeurs de Sainte-Croix






Norma McDonald grew up in North Vancouver. She joined the Sisters of Holy Cross at the age of twenty-one during her undergraduate degree in Education at the University of British Columbia. After graduation, she taught in northern Alberta, in McLennan, for two years. Until the age of twenty-six, she did not speak French. She then went through a total immersion experience in Mont-Laurier, Québec. A sportswoman, she supervised, among other things, volleyball and badminton at Saint-Joseph school. She went on to study theology in Ottawa and to teach in Sherwood Park, Alberta, before settling for good in Manitoba, where she worked first at Lagimodière School in Lorette and then at Louis-Riel College in Saint-Boniface.


In 1993, Father Robert Campeau approached Sister Norma suggesting that she offer pastoral animation at the University. He recognized in her a quality of leadership that would inspire youth to engage in faith-related activities. "Each activity," says Sr. Norma, "has fostered personal growth and the training of all in view of a common project.” During her long career with us, Sister Norma organized exciting activities, including the popular canoeing retreat.


Sr. Norma received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her gift of self and dedication to the community. "For its part, it is obvious that Sister Norma McDonald has received this medal for all that wisdom she brings to wherever she goes," says Raymonde Gagné.


But Sister Norma's life mission is not limited to the borders of Saint-Boniface... For students, she has organized numerous awareness-raising trips outside the country, particularly in Peru, Mali and Haiti, amassing thousands of dollars for the poorest of our society. She was able to share her sense of social justice and her love for life on the other side of the world and come back to share her new experiences of life here at the University of St. Boniface.

Each trip was also the stage of a journey that, curiously, brought back Sister Norma to her country. "I thought there were injustices to repair at home," she says. “I thought back to those young aboriginals from my childhood in British Columbia... children who had introduced me to the beauty of their culture and who had been my friends.” From this came the project reconciliACTION. Students and staff have developed relationships with the Aboriginal community in Hollow Water, Manitoba, and with three Aboriginal nations in Tofino on Vancouver Island. "Culture and spirituality were given a place of honor. Everyone has been deeply touched.”


Initially, Sister Norma's students are more often than not Franco-Manitoban Catholics. But an important change took place over time with the arrival of international students. She is proud to have followed this change, and to have integrated various Christians, Muslims, agnostics or non-believers into her activities. Her Congregation allows a Catholic sister this kind of approach? "Yes, perfectly. Our message invites understanding and openness, like that of Pope Francis." According to her, all students, all humans can gather around a universal value, that of helping the poor. This is how social justice has often been at the heart of her projects.


The search for an atmosphere where prejudice, fears and the feeling of being threatened that could give way to respect, inclusion and fraternity marked Sister Norma's entire career.


Robin Rooke-Hanke is responsible for the University's International Office, which provides services to students from abroad. She worked nine years with Sister Norma. In fact, the intercultural services of her department and the services of Sister Norma sometimes complemented each other perfectly. According to her, Sister Norma is lively, joyous and brilliant. "She's an original person filled with beautiful intentions!" she summarizes. "She accepts people as they are... and we move on. Fifteen years ago, she opened our chapel to everyone." Robin points out that Sister Norma had an immense privilege: she could evolve "deeply" with the students. With the nature of her work, unlike other employees, she never had to hurry.

"Everyone recognized her enthusiasm and authenticity. It is surely thanks to this authenticity that the Manitoba Francophone Community welcomed her with open arms when she arrived, an anglophone from British Columbia, in 1987. For my part, says Robin, I will always remember the day when I introduced my husband to her. She told him, ‘Ah! Congratulations! Can you help me move this table?’ It was good Sister Norma: full of energy, inclusive, determined to make things happen and to get help to make it happen together. I dare say it... all of a good sister!"


Soeurs de Sainte-Croix