Sr. Julia Onhaiser

January 1, 1916 – March 30, 2007

On March 30, 2007, at 9:00 p.m., Sr. Julia Onhaiser (Sr. Anne Dolores) left us in as quiet and gentle a manner as she had lived in our midst. Sr. Julia was born on January 1, 1916, in Narol, Manitoba. Her parents, John and Rose, had immigrated to Canada from Poland. Third child in a family of nine, she was preceded in death by Walter, Frances, Mary, Anne (Jeanne Rosalia, SNJM) and Tony. Three brothers, Pat, Stanley and Michael, remain to grieve the loss of a most caring older sister. Julia spoke of the effects of being third eldest: “I had to learn the lesson of taking responsibility early in life when the need was there. It fell to my lot to look after the younger children when my mother fell ill.” Julia left home at 17 and went to work with the Franciscan Sisters. There she learned embroidery and hand sewing, skills she would use all her life.

In 1937, Julia entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names in Longueuil, and returned to Manitoba as Sister Anne Dolores in 1940. Sr. Anne Dolores spent most of her teaching years with primary school children. She taught at many parochial schools: St. Ignatius, Immaculate Conception, St. Mary’s Cathedral School, Christ the King, and St. Gerard’s, as well as St. Mary’s Academy, and Kenora. She had a whimsical sense of humour and enjoyed relating classroom experiences. The children Sr. Anne Dolores taught loved entering into the orderly and peaceful classroom environment she created. She was always in great demand as Sacristan. Quietly and meticulously she prepared altar linens, sewed lace, repaired albs, and with utmost reverence, readied the Sanctuary for Sacred Services.

Upon retiring from teaching, Sr. Julia offered her services as a Volunteer at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Winnipeg where she became librarian and receptionist. When St. Ignatius Convent was converted for a brief time into a refugee centre she delighted in taking care of the children while their parents hunted through clothing and furniture. She spent much of her time creating lovely cards for children. When the Sisters’ Résidence at St. Mary’s Academy closed in 1999, she moved to Résidence Jesus-Marie, and when the latter closed in 2005, she packed up and moved once again, this time to Supportive Housing at Résidence Despins.

Ever self-effacing, Sr. Julia enjoyed reading the newspaper each day, and the challenge a jigsaw puzzle presented. When severe back pain suddenly prevented her from walking in February, she was brought to St. Boniface Hospital. Her overall health rapidly deteriorated. She had once written in her journal, the most important thing for me is to follow Christ in Love. Sr. Julia’s moment to follow Christ into Gethsemane came in the midst of much pain and personal fear. Her chance to follow Jesus in Love in His journey from death to Resurrection finally came.