MORNESE, N. Italy — The first Canadian national to join the Salesian Sisters is part of the Project Mornese currently on a study tour in Collegio Mornese. Sr Roberte Johnson has vivid memories as a young girl preparing for the great event of the canonization of Blessed Maria Domenica Mazzarello (24 June 1951) in her home parish of St. Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick, Canada.
“I can still see her eyes following me,” recalls Roberte, then age 18 years, describing the gaze of St Maria Mazzarello’s picture carried in her classroom by Father Ettore Carnavale in St. Louis Convent.
Soon after the canonization of St Maria Mazzarello, Roberte entered the Salesian Sisters postulancy in North Haledon, New Jersey (USA) on 1st October 1951. Roberte made her first profession on 5th August 1954 and became the first Canadian Daughter of Mary Help of Christians.
After her first profession, Sr Roberte was sent to Beech Street, New Jersey for her first year experience as a school teacher. Following year, she was sent to Pointe-Verte, New Brunswick, Canada to start teaching in the new school. She stayed three years there and went to Florida, USA.
“Three years ago, I was supposed to have been on this study tour, but the day previous to my departure, I fell and broke my left ankle and I had to cancel my trip,” says Roberte who made her younger nun sister with the FMA lucky when she took her place on the study tour in Italy.
Pointing to another Canadian Sister Lise Parent in the group Sr Roberte says, “I met her as a fifth grader, during my stay at St Claire parish in Montreal.” Sr Lise Parent is currently school principal in Louisiana, USA.
An enthusiastic and sporting member of the Project Mornese English language group, Sr. Roberte’s eyes flare up when she narrates the plight of children today.
“These children,” laments Sr. Roberte, “get no catechism lessons nor religious education in school. We have to do it all in the parish, that is if and when they come to Church.”
The FMA Canadian vice-province today has 28 Sisters (24 of them Canadians) as well as two Salesian Sisters from Hong Kong and one each from the Philippines and U.K. They are spread in the three geographical provinces of Québec, Ontario and New Brunswick in five communities in the Vice-Province of Notre-Dame-du Cap CND, Canada.