After 30 years as Chaplain, Sister Alice Greer will say goodbye to Lakehead University at the end of June.
When she started at the University in June of 1990, Sister Alice decided the best way to introduce herself to faculty, staff, and students was by doing “walkabouts.”
“I had many casual conversations during my daily walkabouts. I also dropped by offices, the cafeteria, the Faculty Lounge, the library and the Agora to engage in conversations and participate in activities,” she said.
“I was fortunate that I knew a few of the university professors because I received my undergrad degree (in Psychology) at Lakehead.”
Sister Alice also earned a Master in Education (Curriculum) from Central Michigan University and a Doctor of Education (Administration) at the University of Toronto.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed her to get “wonderfully creative” to end her Lakehead University career in a similar fashion to the way it started – with a different version of “walkabouts.”
“Telephone conversations have been one-to-one as well as some group connections, Zoom and FaceTime calls have also taken place, and a number of emails have been sent and have arrived,” she said.
“I believe it’s important to do what we can with the resources we have. In many ways, that has been my life experience – thanks to a solid teaching from my parents.”
Sister Alice remembers attending mass in the Avila Chapel on Sunday nights when she was a teenager, long before she worked at Lakehead University.
“The Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious congregation that I am now a member of, had a coffeehouse after mass – where a large group of us enjoyed staying around and chatting,” she said.
“I recall thinking that I would like to be part of all that sort of activity; little did I know at age 17 or 18 that one day I would be the Chaplain at the University and be the person who organized the mass and gatherings after mass.”
Sister Alice said students were usually eager to find ways to help those who did not have as much as they did.
“As a result, we started a special cash collection to buy socks for the people who went for meals at St. Andrew’s Dew Drop Inn. For years, we were able to collect enough to buy 200 pairs of socks yearly.
“As well, over the years we have bought hundreds of cans of coffee for the Dew Drop Inn.”
Sister Alice also started a program called Keep a Friend Warm, inspired by a student who needed assistance.
“Years ago, on a cold and snowy winter morning, a student came to mass at Avila Chapel; he was cold because he did not have a hat or mitts,” she said.
Sister Alice sent out a notice to the university community asking for winter mitts, hats and scarves.
“The response was phenomenal,” she said. Staff, faculty, and students dropped off new along with gently used and homemade knitted items.
“These were all placed on a table in the Agora and those who needed them were welcome to take whatever they required,” Sister Alice said.
She found that it was sometimes challenging to pull resources together to help students when she first started at Lakehead University.
“Usually it was just a matter of making the right connection, timing and energy in order to overcome the challenge,” she said. “As years went by and resources developed, we met challenges with teamwork.”
Sister Alice has served the University as spiritual, personal and grief mentor, companion and guide.
Each memorial service that she organized on campus, usually at Avila Chapel, brought the University community together to remember the heart and soul of individuals who had passed away. Sister Alice also organized the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies.
“When I planned our yearly Remembrance Day service, I did so with a view to remind each of us that today’s freedoms and privileges are as a result of many courageous people, some who went before us and others who continue to serve,” she said.
Over the past 20 years, students in Lakehead’s Faculty of Education who wished to teach in Catholic schools have attended a Pastoral Letter Program that Sister Alice developed. Students who completed the program received a pastoral letter that would become their first step in applying for employment.
For convocation, Sister Alice wrote a different invocation for each of the 30 years of convocations that she attended, because she realized that each student and graduating class was unique.
She was also on the negotiating team when her congregation – The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie – sold Avila to the University in 1993.
The Sisters donated the Chapel and its entrance to the University. A plaque outside the front door recognizes the donation, stating the desire for the Chapel to remain as a place of worship.
“During times in our lives when things may seem unsettled, when we need a quiet spot or want to pray and be assured of peace, then Avila Chapel is such a place,” Sister Alice said.
Once she leaves Thunder Bay, Sister Alice knows she will miss seeing her colleagues and Lakehead’s students.
“I will also miss those times when I have been called to be with someone when life is close to ending or death has already occurred,” she said.
“These have been the times that I know that I am on ‘holy ground.’ I am especially grateful for the honour of being with others when they or their loved ones are at the threshold between earth and Heaven.”
She will also miss Thunder Bay, her scenic hometown. This is also where her brother and two sisters live.
“I wish to thank all those who have supported and encouraged me over the past 30 years,” she said.
“There are just too many to name. Being the Chaplain at Lakehead University has brought many blessings, without measure, into my life and I hope the same applies to those whose lives I encountered. May God’s gentle and compassionate care be a daily visitor for all. Abundant Blessings.”
In place of a farewell gathering, Sister Alice invites you to make a donation to the Dew Drop Inn.