CALLED TO SERVE
in religious life brings hope: sister
Roma De Robertis, SCIC
Positive change in church and religious life is needed to reach more people in life-giving ways, Sister Irene Buechler said in a recent interview.
Originally from Denzil, Sask.,
she entered 55 years ago in Saint John, N.B. and taught in three elementary
schools there. For the next 40 years she ministered in education, music
and faith formation for children, youth and adults in all four western
Canadian provinces as well as New Brunswick. From 1994-99 she was director
of religious education for the Diocese of Kamloops, B.C.
Returning to Saint John in
2000, Buechler was director of faith formation at two parishes before
becoming a local leader at her community’s retirement residence.
Her role includes pastoral care, liturgical music and retreat facilitation.
She hopes to start a book
club and animate entertainment “to make life a little more cheerful.”
She also leads weekly line dancing for those in and beyond the residence.
“In my next life I’m going to be a ballroom dancer,”
Buechler grew up the youngest
of nine children with parents of German Catholic descent. She recalled
that her family prayed the rosary daily and sang hymns in German. Her
parents also played active roles in their rural parish.
“It wasn’t easy
to get to (Sunday) mass,” travelling 10 km via sleigh or closed
caboose in often frigid temperatures. “Yet we never missed mass,”
On the Prairie, “there
seemed to be something of nature all the time that was so beautiful.”
The family farm included fruit trees, a vegetable garden and the meadowlark’s
lilting spring song, she recalled.
“We always had community
events” — weddings, anniversaries, concerts, dances and
feast day celebrations, she remembered. Buechler traced her love of
music to her parents.
Her father learned to play
violin through correspondence courses, while her mother often sang as
she worked. Although her mother longed to play the piano, the family
couldn’t afford one.
At age 65, Buechler began
taking piano lessons in Saint John from another Saskatchewanian, Sister
Barbara Schatz. The music student continues to enjoy playing today.
“I’m doing it for my mother,” she said.
In Grades 11 and 12 she attended
a boarding school in Leipzig, Sask. operated by School Sisters of Notre
Dame (SSND). Unable to afford the full tuition, her family supplemented
payment with produce from the farm. One of her sisters entered the SSND,
while another became a contemplative Sister Adorer of the Precious Blood.
Buechler said she also began
to consider religious life in high school. After graduation, she visited
three of her sisters who were working in Holdfast near Regina. They
liked the SCIC who were teaching there, she recalled.
With three other young women
she did not know, Buechler set out by train for Saint John to enter
the SCIC on Sept. 8. One was Sister Monica Plante, now SCIC archivist.
(The others later chose different vocations.) In 1955 with 21 members,
theirs was the largest ever SCIC novitiate.
Buechler said she went on
to enjoy teaching and parish ministry in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan,
British Columbia and New Brunswick. Locations included Holdfast, Sask.;
Winnipeg; Edmonton and Wetaskiwin, Alta., as well as Kamloops, B.C.
In Surrey, B.C., while teaching and offering parish ministry, she also
served as Catholic school principal from 1983-93.
During a 2009 sabbatical,
she explored the “new cosmology” at Sophia Centre at Holy
Names University in Oakland, Calif. She describes this field as “an
appreciation of the universe and God’s work in the universe and
how we’re all connected.”
We need “to have left
an imprint on the universe — something for the good of future
generations,” she added. Becoming a person like us, “Jesus
is part of this great universe (and) part of the connection” to
God and all creation, she noted.
Buechler said “religious
life as it was lived (in the past) will not come back.” She noted
that in new ways, SCIC cherish their original purpose of caring for
those who are vulnerable and “don’t have a voice of their
She emphasized the need to
support young people and adults in their spiritual growth and human
development. Today religious life “needs to evolve into something
that’s alive and life-giving, not only for the religious themselves,
but for others,” she said.
The Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception were founded by honouria Conway and companions in Saint John, N.B. in 1854 at the invitation of Bishop Thomas Louis Connolly. In 1906, they established their first western mission in Prince Albert, Sask. To learn more, go to www.sistersofcharityic.com Questions and comments can be submitted under “Contact Us,” or call 506-847-2065.