The Institute of the Sisters of Service of Canada

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Vilna (1925-1970)

Pioneer Sisters Catherine Wymbs, Mary Rodgers and Ann Geraghty arrived to open a hospital in November 1925. This farming community of eastern central Alberta was founded by central European settlers when the railroad reached the area. In 1920, Vilna was named after the city of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Father George Daly purchased a vacant Bank of Commerce building and in less than a month, it was converted into a nine-bed hospital, named Our Lady’s Hospital.

In 1928, a new two-storey 14-bed stucco hospital was built. In the early years, the hospital provided milk and eggs for the patients from its own mini farm. Strong ties united the hospital with the surrounding area, seen through the annual Hospital Days and the hospital’s Ladies Auxiliary, who organized fundraising projects to improve the hospital facilities and to purchase new equipment. An advisory board was formed to assist in dealing with government and the municipalities.

Outside the hospital, the Sisters participated and promoted parish life, taught weekly religion classes and organized religious vacation schools in the area. Foundress Sister Catherine Donnelly taught in the two-room Vilna Public School (1926-1929). Sister Mary Halder (1964-1967) served as a public health nurse with the St. Paul Public Unit of the Northeastern Alberta Health Unit, based in Vilna.

In 1970, the hospital’s ownership was transferred from the Sisters of Service to the municipality of Vilna and the mission was closed. After retiring from teaching in 1984, Sister Barbara Kowalski retired to her hometown as a community volunteer, visiting the sick and seniors as well as giving religious instruction. She died in Vilna in 2005.

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