Sister Joanne became a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Martha of Antigonish 17 years ago. “Heart speaks to heart,” she says, “and when I met the Sisters, I liked how they moved in the world.”

When Sr. Joanne joined, the Sisters of St. Martha had just celebrated their 100th anniversary. Their accomplishments included founding, among many other hospitals they started in Canada, St. Mary’s Hospital in Inverness, Cape Breton, and the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish. Marthas also pioneered in household management, health care, education and social work throughout the country.

Woman with glasses and pink scarf smiles
“Our interconnectedness cannot be overstated at this time” —Sister Joanne

“Our roots as a congregation go back to the Antigonish movement,” Sr. Joanne says. “There is a strong connection to community development. The link is in our DNA. We believe that change often comes out of grassroots movements.”

Collaboration is also a key value for the Sisters, who always make decisions as a group.

Why do the Sisters of St. Martha support Heart-Links? Sr. Joanne says, “Heart-Links speaks to us in our roots in the Antigonish movement and a commitment to the same values of solidarity and collaboration. We recognize the like-mindedness. And as we get smaller, we see the future differently and those connections become more important.”

She adds, “We truly see ourselves as sisters and brothers and want people to be who they are, to learn and for them to be teachers to us.”

The Antigonish Movement combined adult education, cooperatives, and microfinance to improve living standards in rural Maritime communities.

We asked Sr. Joanne for her thoughts on the pandemic and how the Sisters are managing. “We are doing what we can to help each other and to stay connected in meaningful ways,” she says. “We started a weekly Together in Isolation publication that includes poems, reflections, family news and pictures.” It is one small way, she says, to reduce isolation and keep spirits high.

There are 74 Sisters currently in the Congregation. Recently, the Sisters deconstructed their Bethany Motherhouse in an environmentally focused way, and they are now living together in community in small houses and at Parkland Antigonish facility. All have been safe and healthy during the pandemic.

Sr. Joanne had some final thoughts at the end of our call: “Our interconnectedness cannot be overstated at this time,” she says. “If we really believe in collaboration and equal work, we must trust people, give them the freedom to do what is right for them.”

5 sisters of st. martha smile for the camera
Sisters of Saint Martha leadership team

Thank you, Sr. Joanne, for speaking to us. Thank you, Sisters of St. Martha, for your unwavering support of Heart-Links and the people of Peru over all these years. We, too, recognize you as a like-minded partner in creating a more just world.

Have you considered donating to Heart-Links like the Sisters of St. Martha? You can make a gift right here or fill out our printable Donor Form and mail it with your cheque to Heart-Links, 201 King Street, London, ON, N6A 1C9.

This post is part of Heart-Links’ series Spotlight on Our Supporters, which introduces readers to some of the amazing people and organizations who donate to Heart-Links—and why.