by Tom Maccagno
The Loiselle family was one of the pioneering Francophone families who came to what was then the Northwest Territories at the end of the nineteenth century. Alice Loiselle was the fourth child of Cyprien and Agnes Loiselle. She was born on May 12, 1902 and had a brother, George, and four sisters, Esma, Flora, Marie and Laura. Her parents had moved from Quebec in 1896 to a farm in the St. Albert Settlement.
In 1910, Alice's parents moved to the Lamoureux district near Fort Saskatchewan where they had purchased a farm. She commenced her education at the Lamoureux, Fort Saskatchewan School No. 2, and continued her education in Vegreville and Edmonton. Her parents sold their farm in 1917 and retired to Edmonton. Mrs. Loiselle, who was a skilled seamstress, continued with her sewing, which was much in demand.
In 1919, when she was 17 years of age, Alice joined the Sisters of Charity, the Grey Nuns of Montreal. The Grey Nuns were a teaching and nursing religoius order, which served throughout the Northwest. Alice completed her noviate in 1920 and, then, studied to become a Registered Nurse. Alice served at the Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary, the Edmonton General Hospital, St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon, Blue Quills Residential School and St. Theresa's Hospital in St. Paul. She passed away at St. Paul on August 4, 1971 at the age of 69.
To have the privilege of reading her Journal/Diary, and to ponder upon it is an enriching and humbling experience. It provides a glimpse of a way of life which many young women chose almost a century ago. Every act was guided by faith. It brings to mind the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta - "The work is His work, and to remain so, all of us are but His instruments, who do our little bit and pass by."
Some of Alice's charitable works become evident in her modest Journal/Diary. So does her empathy and compassion for those she encountered who were suffering or in need. Her hope endures, and her faith was her life.
Another Grey Nun, Sister Archange (Jean) Brady, who spent most of her life as a teacher at Fort Chipewyan, once remarked that her life was guided by one word that would fit on the back of a postage stamp, that is to say, "love."
We are indebted to the Heritage Community Foundation for having rescued a page in our history that has been relegated to near oblivion. Alice's spirit lives on and it can provide insight and inspiration for our times in moments of quiet contemplation.