ANTIGONISH: April 3 was a special day at Shannex Parkland as the Sisters of St. Martha celebrated moving to their new home.
“It had been originally suggested that we hold this celebration on March 8, International Women’s Day, in recognition of the Martha example of women as leaders in so many important societal realms,” said Senator Mary Coyle, who served as MC of the celebration.
“That would have been fitting, but in the Martha calendar, there’s a very important date of thanksgiving which is unique to this group of women,” she continued. “It’s today, April 3, the anniversary of the day the congregation’s original constitution was approved in Rome.”
As a part of the celebration, a five-paneled piece of art was unveiled in the foyer of Shannex Parkland. Commissioned by StFX University, St. Martha’s Hospital Regional Foundation, the Town of Antigonish, and the County of Antigonish, the artwork commemorates the journey of the Sisters and honours their past work.
The artist responsible for the work is Anna Syperek, who spoke of her inspiration behind the painting entitled “Journey.”
“When I thought of how I could honour the Marthas, I thought of their story as a journey,” Syperek said. “We are all on a journey, but their journey is a communal one. It’s been very enriching for this area, it’s given us much spiritual depth, and that continues today.”
The artwork depicts the Sisters’ new home in a wonderfully detailed countryside. Syperek said the painting marked a departure for her in terms of how she usually creates her art.
“Normally, I see something that I am moved by and I try to paint it,” she said. “The image is there, and I try to recreate it. This one, I actually created the landscape. You’d never be able to see all these things from just one vantage point.
“The journey is represented by the road that winds its way through the land,” she said.
Also speaking was Sister Brendalee Boivert, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Martha. She said she and her fellow sisters are very happy to have such a work of art grace the walls of their new home.
“It is indeed overwhelming, but thank you for the time you took to explore our history and some of our highlights, and for lovingly depicting our response to God’s call and invitation that we received on our Martha journey,” Sister Boivert said.
“These panels hold for us our Martha story, rich with memories over the past 118 years.”
The event saw a number of other dignitaries offer comments relating to their high regard for the sisters. The honoured guests included P.J. Prosper, Chief of Paqtnkek; Owen McCarron, Antigonish Warden; Diane Roberts, Antigonish Deputy Mayor; Joe MacDonald, Chair of Saint Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation; and Murray Kyte, vice-president advancement at StFX (appearing on behalf of StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald).
“This is a significant transition for the Sisters of St. Martha as they move from one building to another, from one life to a new life,” said Brian Dunn, Bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish. “This has been a difficult move, but they have done it with such grace and real dignity.”
The unveiling of the artwork was followed by a blessing from the sisters.