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A Legacy Lady: Sister Doryne Kirby, IBVM

February 25, 2016

Catholic Education in Guelph dates back to January 12, 1854 when the first Catholic school was erected in the Royal City on “Catholic Hill”. Together Catholic clergy, religious and laity established a tradition of providing an education that embraced a high academic standard and a deep commitment to the Gospel. The arrival of the Loretto sisters in 1856 resulted in the expansion of Catholic education. The sisters were instrumental in creating the enduring gift of Catholic Education that is ours today.

This past week on February 19, Sister Doryne Kirby, a Loretto sister who taught in several schools in Ontario including Bishop Macdonell, was called home to God. It was a moving tribute at our most recent board meeting as we opened with prayer to hear each trustee recount with deep respect and affection the story of a teacher, who years later, remained etched in their hearts and minds. It struck me that this is a part of our Catholic story that we need to continue to share. The following is a compilation of memories, woven together…of a woman who clothed herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Sister Doryne was “a great lady before her time with respect to women’s rights in our church and will be deeply missed.” Legend has it that she was a Rockette before becoming a sister. Her flair for dance, “I Love Lucy” red hair and a personality that was just as bright and fiery, along with her passionate commitment to Catholic education, lit up every room she entered. She was known to literally stand on her head for her students, one day doing a handstand at the blackboard to capture their attention.

The tradition of excellence in education was one she took very seriously. One trustee shared, “In grade 13 I took two French courses, regular French and French literature. At the end of the year when it came time for exams and exemptions, the exemption mark was 70%. I had over 90 in the regular French so no issue there. I had 75 in the French literature course but sister called me in and told me I was not being exempted and would have to write the final exam because I had not given my best effort. I was mad at the time but she was right.” And he wasn’t the only one as another of our Trustees shared a similar story of a “heart to heart” in which he was told he was capable of much more than he was showing. Both agreed that this gave them the push to always strive to meet their God-given potential.

Sister cared deeply about her students and their families. As a regular attendee at our Bishop’s Dinner for Community Needs, years after her retirement, she had an uncanny ability to remember faces and names and match them up correctly.

In addition to her work as a teacher, Sister Doryne served the Church faithfully providing spiritual direction and retreats and as a Director for Social Action, NGO representative at the United Nations, and Coordinator for the Sisters at Loretto College. Remarkably she continued her work related to social justice issues until January 20, 2016 when ill health made it necessary for her to move to the Loretto infirmary.

Sister Doryne was a steward of God’s purposes in human lives and in our history. She will always be remembered fondly as an amazing faith-filled woman, joyful in her ministry and a member of our beloved Loretto Sisters…a legacy lady!

De repos dans la paix Soeur.
Sister Doryne
Sister Doryne at the annual Bishop’s Dinner holding a picture of “Catholic Hill” and the Loretto convent presented in recognition of the Loretto sisters service to Catholic Education.

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