Sister St. Edwin

With all of the information I have shared recently about my maternal Irish Catholic ancestors, I realized one gap was apparent. Where was the call to a religious life?

It can be found in Kathleen Marie O’Neill, a younger sister of my maternal grandfather, J. (John) Graham O’Neill. Kathleen was born May 12, 1896 to William Emmett and Margaret (nee Graham) O’Neill. Not much is known of Kathleen’s early life other than the few tidbits offered by the 1901 ans 1911 Canadian Census returns.

On July 1, 1920, Kathleen entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. According to the records provided by the Congregation’s archivist, Kathleen was 24.8 years of age when she entered the order. She received her habit and her religious name, Sister St. Edwin, on January 5, 1921. She made her first profession of vows on January 5, 1923 and Kathleen made her final vows on January 5, 1926.

After completing her novitiate, Kathleen was assigned to Sacred Heart Orphanage, which was located originally in the Sunnyside area of Toronto and then in Scarborough, an eastern suburb of Toronto, where she spent some years, until forced by ill health to relinquish her charge. Following a long illness, she died on March 22, 1953 and was buried in the Sisters’ plot at Mount Hope Cemetery, Toronto. Kathleen was only 56 years of age when she passed away.

Sacred Heart Orphanage no longer exists but I remember donating a large ‘slot’ car track to the orphanage when I was young. I can remember taking the track into the orphanage and all of the boys asking me which cottage I was in and why I was so special that I got the track. A number of years later, when orphanages were no longer in existence, the facility was used for the residential treatment of emotionally disturbed children. I spent a summer there in the early 1970’s completing a study on the residential program’s success. I never knew through those times that my grandaunt Kathleen had given so much of herself in the same halls.

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