Remembering and treasuring

by Sr Diane Willey

The introduction to our founder Théodore Ratisbonne’s Memoirs draws attention to the two principal elements that “forged his personality”: his family and his Christian milieu.

When he dictated the memoirs to Sr. Benedicta, he was over eighty years of age, an old man whose emaciated face still radiated peace and kindness, as he remembered and treasured the events and persons that shaped the very beginnings of the Congregation. At Sion today, on both the congregational and regional levels, archives serve the purpose of holding such memories, and tracing the evolution of Sion’s life and ministry, over the years, in each context. The archives also assure the availability of these resources for research, reflection, and the preparation of celebrations. In their own way, the archives capture and echo the heartbeat of the Congregation.

The archives capture and echo the heartbeat of the Congregation

In Canada-USA, we might see our archives as a precious repository for the North American segment of Sion’s story, since its beginning, in 1892, in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine. Situated in the Saskatoon Diocesan Center, at the Cathedral, our archives are carefully preserved and constantly updated by Sr. Phyllis Kapuscinski (Sion’s Regional Archivist) and myself, with professional guidance from the Center’s Diocesan Archivist, Mrs. Margaret Sanche. We are indebted to the Sion Archivists who came before us for the firm foundation they laid, and highly appreciate the competence, collaboration, and compassion of those who work with us.

In the archives, we collect, categorize, and file documents that tell the story of aspects of the life of Sion in this region at any given time. We endeavour to make some resources more accessible by transcribing documents or transposing information onto excel spreadsheets. Our database includes verbal reports or reflections, publications of the sisters, photos and some artistic work, as well as wooden, ceramic, or metal artifacts. Each item that can enter the archive collection receives a unique file number and eventually finds its place in one of the many file boxes, on one of Sion’s many shelves, in the temperature-controlled (cool!) inner sanctum of the Diocesan Archives office.

The story of aspects of the life of Sion

Another facet of our work entails producing new documentation about the Congregation’s history. This might be a review of all of the North American foundations of the Congregation since the beginning, or a collection of charism biographies of our sisters in Canada-USA. Mrs Dorothy Fortier, a member of our extended Sion team, has completed a photo directory featuring each sister in the region in both “youth and now” perspectives.

A day in the life of our archives team begins with Margaret Sanche’s call at about 8:15 am, announcing that she is about to leave for the office. Margaret picks me up and we proceed to Phyllis’s. Arriving at the Diocesan Center around 8:45, we unpack briefcases, and arrange our documents and computers for the work of the day. We start the day with a short coffee break together, which is an opportunity to tune into whatever information may be relevant for our schedule. Then our work begins in earnest, each of us in her own workspace, processing material or drafting texts as needed. Our time is punctuated with breaks: our mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee breaks with personnel from the other diocesan offices; and at noon when we attend Mass at the Cathedral and still have half an hour for lunch. The day at the archives ends at 4:30 PM when Margaret drives us home.

I am most grateful to be involved in this service

Each day in the archives holds its own challenges, learnings, and sense of accomplishment – all are part of this ministry of remembering and treasuring. I am most grateful to be involved in this service.