Sr. Mary Leonilla

Perpetua Martin

Born::  Lampman, Saskatchewan, 18/11/1916
Postulancy::Regina, Saskatchewan, 22/08/1938
Novitiate:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 25/07/1939
1st Profession:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 27/07/1941
Final Vows::Regina, Saskatchewan, 27/07/1947
Died:: Winnipeg, Manitoba, 07/03/2009

Born in the farming community of Lampman, Saskatchewan in the early part of the last century, Perpetua was the sixth in a family of ten children - five girls and five boys. Her parents, Jacob and Leocadia (Steier) Martin and her older siblings welcomed Perpetua to this world, and were her initial experience of a loving faith community.

Growing up on a Saskatchewan farm in any era meant working very hard in the fields, and with the animals, as well as attending to life in the house and garden. Particularly during the Great Depression in the 1930's, life on the land was hard and the Martin family struggled with poverty and knew what it meant to do without. With all her family members, Perpetua worked hard to eke out a living from the fatigued and dust-blown soil.

Perpetua joined the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions in 1938 and, upon becoming a novice the following year, received the name of Mary Leonilla. This new name seemed to be a happy fit, as her mother's name was Leocadia.

As a religious, much of Leonilla's life was spent in the service of her community as cook, seamstress, portress, laundress and gardener. She was skilled at these tasks, and made their complexities seem easy. In addition, she found great joy in discovering opportunities to minister with those who were sick, as a Sister-visitor at the Grey Nuns' (now named Pasqua) Hospital in Regina. Here her compassion for those who suffered shone through and nothing was too much where the sick were concerned. As one Sister who experienced Leonilla's aptitude for visiting the sick recalled: "One would have thought that she was bringing home a million dollar cheque, so happy was she to minister to the sick." This same Sister spoke also of the great kindness Leonilla showed to her at the time of her father's death - not only in the hospital but in the days that followed.

In speaking of her work as a hospital visitor, Leonilla described her task as staying with the sick, listening, consoling, praying, and just "being" at the bedside. She was grateful for how she was enriched by what she received from the sick and dying. One such gift was a new awareness of the presence of God at the bedside of the dying. She wrote, "I can only say He seems so close! Death no longer holds any fears for me."

Other ministries that Leonilla was involved in over the years were: work with the physically/mentally challenged in Regina, the "Youths for Christ" in Fort Frances and, in her later years, the incidental kind of ministering she did in her walks in the neighbourhood where she engaged in conversations with people she met. As one Sister expressed it, "She was an extravert and had a wonderful way of relating."

Those who knew and loved Leonilla remember her general "joie de vivre" even when times or situations were difficult, and how she could remember a joke forever. She laughed easily, and took delight in even the smallest of wonders. She also wept easily, and was moved by sufferings large and small. She was a faithful and kind Sister, loyal to her religious Congregation and to its members. She taught her religious Sisters many lessons about life through her words and deeds: that everything ends sooner or later, no matter how tough; that a laugh eases most situations; and that generosity never goes unrewarded. Leonilla herself was generous to a fault and is now enjoying God's gracious gratitude on behalf of us all.

Leonilla loved singing, especially "Country and Western" songs, and in the past few years as frailty became her daily lot, there were still times when she wanted to dance and sing. When Sisters went to see her, the visit would often turn to singing together.

It seemed fitting then, that as she was meeting death, she was surrounded by her Sisters, who sang and prayed with her as she made her passage. On the other side, surely the choirs of angels and that "great cloud of witnesses" sang to her in welcome. Now she is with them and our God, singing her eternal song.

<--Sr. Mary Marguerite | Called to Eternal Life | Sr. Roberta Morrissey -->