Sr. Marion McGuigan

Sr. M. Bertrand

Born::  Regina, Saskatchewan, 9/6/1924
Postulancy::Regina, Saskatchewan, 8/9/1942
Novitiate:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 25/7/1943
1st Profession:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 26/7/1945
Final Vows::Regina, Saskatchewan, 26/7/1951
Died:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 21/2/2012

Sister Marion was the second child born to her parents, Louis and Ruth (Tittemore) McGuigan, with an older brother, Roland, and a younger, Douglas.   The McGuigan family was close-knit and devoted to the parish of Holy Rosary Cathedral.  Marion studied music from an early age and daily Mass saw her in the Cathedral choir loft, playing the pipe organ before her feet reached the pedals, having risen early to get there for 7:30, then rushing home for breakfast before getting off to school.  Religion and education were important to the McGuigan's and all three children had their elementary education at Holy Rosary School, where several of our Sisters taught, following which Marion attended our Sacred Heart Academy and her brothers went to the Jesuits at Campion College.

As may be expected, bonds of friendship were formed with classmates, especially those who helped with the singing at daily Mass.  Though Marion was considered to be rather frail she was athletic enough to skate and play softball.  World War II was in progress and times were hard.  The first year she was  at Sacred Heart Academy the girls in grade nine (mostly 14 year olds) chipped in to buy a bat and a ball, laid out a ball diamond and were able to play softball for all four years at the Academy.  At that time also Marion's brother Roland joined the Canadian Navy, which became a great matter of concern for his family until his safe return.  During her high school years Marion began to take art lessons, enriching a talent she continued to exercise and improve for the rest of her active life.

In September after her graduation from high school Marion, together with her friend Eleanor O'Brien (M. Rita), entered the novitiate at Sacred Heart College, where Cecile Granger joined them from Manitoba, followed the next year by Eleanor Legault (M. Bernard), Aileen Gleason (M. Gerald), and Margaret O'Flanagan (M. Paula) - the two latter also being S.H. Academy graduates.  What a powerhouse that must have been!

Here too Marion was happy to accompany the Sisters' singing for Mass and the Office, even mastering the full organ accompaniment for the ceremonies of Clothing and Profession. After Profession Marion and Eleanor went to board with the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis in Moose Jaw, SK while they took their teacher training at the "Normal School". Because of a severe shortage of teachers at the time they spent four months of that year actually teaching in school, Marion in Regina and Eleanor in Lebret.  After receiving their teachers' certificates they went back to teaching at Sacred Heart School in Regina, along with Sister Mary Roberta Morrissey.  
They were the first RNDMs to teach there, and were chosen to teach in that school because the Morrisseys lived in the parish and the Superintendent, Mr. Gleason, (Aileen's father) wanted Sisters to teach in their home parishes.

So began Marion's thirty-three year teaching career, all spent in primary education. Later she would go to Lebret and then to Saskatoon before finally returning to Regina where she taught at St. Pius X School.  Here again Sister's musical talents were in great demand both for teaching the rudiments of music to her own classes and in leading and accompanying various choral groups.  One of these was called the "Melody Lads" whom, in 1969-70, she took on a singing tour in Europe.  

It was at this same time that Marion became aware of the great need for an educational plan for cognitively challenged children, both for their own sakes and to give some aid and respite to their parents.  Accordingly, space was set aside on the top (fourth) floor of Sacred Heart College, in what was formerly the Novitiate, for a small private school to be opened.  The climb to the top floor was long and hard for the children who could make it on their own (some learned there for the first time how to climb stairs), and even more arduous for teachers and volunteers who carried those with physical handicaps.  The Sisters, the families of the children, and some close friends supported this effort by sharing in the teaching as well as with encouragement and finance.  After about two years the Catholic School Board agreed to take responsibility for this work, the school was moved to a more suitable location and given the name of Jean Vanier.  Here the Sisters, Marion, Isabel Rabnett, and Agnes Fillion continued to teach.

Living accommodations for the handicapped became Marion's next preoccupation.  As parents aged it was increasingly difficult for them to cope with the physical and emotional needs of these children.  In time Garrity Home was opened for mentally challenged youth and adults under the care of these same three Sisters.  This first home was named after Bernard Garrity, a former school principal and continuing supporter and mentor of Marion and her companions.

In 1981 Marion withdrew from this work and went to Italy where for seven years she helped Sister Marie Therese Ryder run and maintain the RNDM renewal centre on Via dei Laghi near Castelgondolfo.  On her return to Regina a second house was found and Kramer Home opened with the help of Don Kramer, a good friend and kind benefactor.  Here Marion and Isabel continued their work with cognitively challenged young adults while "Aggie" stayed on with her beloved "kids" at Garritty Home.  During all these years many of our Sisters came to help in one or both of these homes: from Canada Irene Oliver, Bertha Chartier, Cecile Delorme, Jeannine Fillion, Germaine Zentner, Euphrasie Nguyen, Hilda Gelowitz... from British Isles and Ireland: Myriam Molony... from New Zealand Carmel Cassin, Verena Watts... from Samoa Peta Mua and Jessie Burke... from Myanmar Debrosa Daw Htwe Yee... from Bangladesh Michelle Reed...

Isabel and Aggie both withdrew from this work in 1999 and in 2005 Marion retired to Cathedral Courts (formerly her alma mater Sacred Heart Academy).  In 2007 she suffered a stroke and came to Santa Maria Senior Citizens' Home for nursing care.  With the withdrawal of the Sisters, Garrity and Kramer Homes passed into the care of other agencies and finally that of a United Church group, the Clare Parker Homes.  On January 24, 2012 this group opened another Home for cognitively challenged adult women and gave it the name McGuigan Home, a worthy tribute to a woman who devoted her life to the care of God's little ones.  In the 1970's a new Catholic High School in the city was named McGuigan High School but poor enrolment forced the closing of that school.  The re-furbished pipe organ at Holy Rosary Cathedral also bears her name, recognizing her love for and good work in providing music for the world.

Marion's four and a half years in Santa Maria Home were not easy for her.  At the beginning she had no recollection of having had a stroke but tried desperately to regain her ability to write, attended all the musical entertainments provided by the recreation staff, and received with grace-filled pleasure every visitor who came.  For the last two years we have noticed a decline, first in that she was confined to a "Broda chair" because an ordinary wheel chair did not provide support for her head, then her speech began to fail and in the end it was very difficult for her to swallow.  Finally, early in the morning of February 21, she passed quietly home to God where family, friends and "bands of angels" must surely have given her a warm welcome.  

A vigil service led by Sister Imelda Grimes was held for Marion in the chapel at Santa Maria on the evening of Monday, February 27.  The following morning a funeral Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral was celebrated by Marion's friend and spiritual director, Father Glenn Zimmer, OMI assisted by Father Lorne Crozon, Rector of the Cathedral, and Father Don McNeil, long time friend of the McGuigan family.  There was private interment on Tuesday, the 28th, presided over by Marion's brother Doug.  Reflection on the life and personality of this "good and faithful servant" brings an image of calm self-control, gentle caring, strong determination and perseverance.  Somewhere, hidden under all that, there was a quiet joy, a radiant light, a heart lifted to God.  Perhaps the hymns which she herself chose for her final obsequies say it best:  "I want to sing, I want to shout your praise, O Lord"; "Praise to the Lord", "The Lord's my shepherd", "Tell out, my soul, the praises of the Lord!"

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