Memories of the Sister’s Cabin at St. Boniface Hospital

28 March, 2024 | Initiatives and Projects, St. Boniface Hospital

If you’ve ever taken a walk along the river behind St. Boniface Hospital, you might have stumbled upon a small A-frame cabin tucked among the trees. This was a home away from home for the Grey Nuns for many decades, and a small group of Sisters recently came together to reminisce about the cabin and all it meant to them.

These are some of the collective memories of Sisters Anita Douville, Jean Ell, Céline Vermette, Yvette Bouchard and Rolande Bissonnette, who each had special memories of what the cabin meant to her.

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The cottage that stands on the grounds was built in the 1960s and includes three small bedrooms with single beds and everything required for a restful stay.

One of the defining characteristics of the Grey Nuns, who founded and operated St. Boniface Hospital into the late 1990s, is that they’ll do whatever it takes to support their community and each other. Creativity and hard work have often gone a long way.

With that in mind, the Sisters listed off all the ways the cabin has been used: candle-making shop, vacation property, family reunions, reading nook, spiritual retreat, meeting space and more. Most of all, it was a space where they could take a break from their communal living arrangements at the hospital.

The cabin, as it stands in the winter of 2024.

Sister Bissonnette thinks fondly of her two-week holidays at the cabin, and how she relished the change of scenery. “It makes you feel great, to have something different to see and a new place to spend time in nature,” she shares. “I’d invite family or friends to have meals with me, or sometimes one of the other Sisters stayed with me. It was truly a holiday away.”

Sister Ell adds, “When we were first serving the hospital, we worked seven days a week, 12 months a year. We occasionally had a day off and this is a place where we could go. It was a retreat for us.”

The Sisters were not the only inhabitants of the cabin. They shared the space with mice, squirrels and bees, despite everyone’s best efforts to keep them out. “We had so many wonderful times in that cabin,” recollects Sister Bouchard. “But eventually, the four-legged animals took over!”

Sister Ell remembers once opening the front door to find an entire swarm of bees on the kitchen table. “That was the limit for me!” she says, laughing at the memory. “I closed the door and called the maintenance team from the hospital to deal with it.”

As a space for contemplation, rest, and prayer, the cabin holds a special place in the hearts of the Grey Nuns. The cabin has been transferred to the hospital, who are deciding how best it can be adapted for future use. “It was a beautiful place for us, a place of solace for the staff and the Sisters at the hospital. We’re so grateful to have had it,” concludes Sister Jean.