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Sister Marguerite of Saskatchewan By Kate Baggott
Sister Marguerite of Saskatchewan
By Kate Baggott
The 9 p.m. bus to Buffalo stops in Grimsby and Niagara Falls before it crosses the border. It doesn’t stop in St. Catharines and it never has. I’d always forget when I took the bus home.
I spent a lot of time waiting around the Toronto bus terminal. That was where I met Sister Marguerite of Saskatchewan in her sackcloth habit. She was hobbling from the drinking fountain back to her chair on two canes. She had a piece of gauze taped over one eye and a hand-carved cross on a piece of twine.
“You look tired,” I offered. “Could I buy you a cup of tea?”
“I won’t trouble you,” she said suspiciously.
“It’s no trouble,” I insisted. “My bus doesn’t leave until eleven and there’s a shop downstairs.”
“I suppose coffee’d be nice,” she agreed. “Black with sugar.”
Once I’d returned with coffee the nun told me about herself.
Sister Marguerite was 92 and had travelled from Saskatoon. She’d arrived in Toronto to visit her sister, but thought it too late to show up at the door. She planned to spend the night in the terminal and head over the next morning.
“Oh, I used to stay in a hotel the first night,” Sister Marguerite told me. “But now they want $60 to stay there. Can you imagine? Sixty dollars!”
“You can’t sleep here,” I told her. “It’s not safe.”
I offered to pay for a taxi to her sister’s house, but she rejected that. I considered both sending her to my empty apartment and taking her home to St. Catharines.
“Well, no matter what, I’ll be taken care of,” Sister Marguerite said, her hand on the cross.
“What about a convent?” I offered.
“Isn’t it too late for the sisters?” she asked.
“It’s only 9:30, they’ll be awake,” I assured her.
From a pay phone I called my local convent and woke the sisters up. I explained the Sister Marguerite situation to the bewildered nun on the line. She relayed my story to the others and they all made suggestions.
“Can’t you just put her in a taxi?” the nun asked.
I didn’t know that nuns do their work by time-consuming consensus. I didn’t know how much there was to discuss before performing an act of charity.
Eventually, the Loreto Sisters of the Annex asked for half an hour. They didn’t have room for Sister Marguerite, but they’d call their motherhouse. It was 10 o’clock. I had an hour to find a poor nun a bed.
At 10:30 the Loreto sisters gave me highly-detailed directions to St. Joseph’s College, a building I’d passed every day of my University career.
Sister Marguerite wouldn’t let me carry her backpack as she teetered to a taxi on her canes.
“Well, I didn’t know what to do. So I said a prayer and God said, ‘You sit tight, Marguerite,’ so I did,” she told me. “Then you came right along.”
“Do you have a donation for the convent?” I asked.
“Well, I’ll certainly offer them something,” Sister Marguerite said.
“Give them this,” I sighed, handing her $20.
“Don’t do too much,” she lectured, pocketing the bill. “It’s almost as bad as doing nothing.”
There were 12 minutes until my bus. The cab waited while I ushered Marguerite inside and exchanged business cards with the sister on desk duty.
With four minutes to spare, I joined the bus queue and searched my pockets.
My ticket was gone.
Sister Marguerite was right. I’d done too much.
I ran for the counter.
“I lost my ticket. One way to St.Catharines. Quickly, please,” I panted.
“What?” the ticket agent asked.
“I lost my ticket to St.Catharines. It’s leaving now!” I was frantic. I’d given the cabbie the last of my money.
“Here,” the agent said. “Lost property. Someone turned it in.”
“Oh, thank God,” I said, and ran to catch the bus home.
Travel Information from Kate - The Toronto Coach Terminal: http://torontocoachterminal.com/home.html
Sisterhood of St. John the Divine Guest House: http://www.ssjd.ca/guesthouse.html
Toronto Tourism: http://www.seetorontonow.com/
Kate's local recommendation is for the St. Catharines Folk Arts Festival in Ontario, Canada: http://www.leaplocal.org/locals/view/400/
Bio: Kate Baggott is a fiesty and polite Canadian writer living in Germany. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun and other publications. Her book Love From Planet Wine Cooler was launched for Kindle aps on Valentine's Day as a special comfort to the broken-hearted who haven't lost their senses of humour. Links to previously published pieces can be found at http://www.katebaggott.com .