Sister Margie Taylor is proud to collaborate with the Stella Burry Community Services Association over the past couple of years. She feels that the vision and charism of Stella Burry, the namesake of this association, have so much in common with the vision and charism of Catherine McAuley. They were two pioneer women who were passionate in their goal to assist the poor and did not stop even when they faced considerable obstacles. Both were women who sought to “walk with the people.”
From 2001 Margie worked for six years with women in the correctional centre in Clarenville, Newfoundland. In her presence and ministry there she presided at ecumenical prayer services, facilitated the Twelve Step Program and other personal development and social programs meant to enhance the quality of the life of these women. Through her ministry at the correctional centre she was first introduced to the Stella Burry Association and learned of their support system, especially in the area of education and housing. Margie was impressed with the mission of this group: Stella Burry Community Services provides support and opportunities for renewal and self-discovery through programs that affirm every individual’s strength and abilities, restoring their sense of self-worth and capacity for change.”
Stella Burry was born on August 11, 1897, in Greenspond, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and is remembered in the history of the United Church of Newfoundland as “one who has made an outstanding contribution to church and community.” Stella Burry began teaching at the age of 17, but the overwhelming poverty she encountered in rural Newfoundland led her to reconsider her career and in 1922, she moved to Toronto to pursue studies in social work. After graduating in 1924, she stayed in Toronto for the next decade. She returned to Newfoundland in 1938 and began a life of work that characterized her as a “pioneer social worker” in her native province.
She believed people needed a “hand up” and not a “hand out” so she secured the funds necessary to create Emmanuel House as a safe haven and community centre for young women coming to St. John’s. She lobbied for changes in policy that would help women find suitable employment.
The vision of Stella Burry is “to provide supportive affordable housing in an inclusive community that provides opportunities for real work and citizen participation.” Stella Burry initiated many programs and her achievements during her lifetime were numerous. She died in 1991 at the age of 93 but her legacy of outstanding advocacy and concern for people lives on in the organization that bears her name today, The Stella Burry Community Services.
The Stella Burry Community Services, established in 1995, is an incorporated body of the United Church of Canada. It is governed by a volunteer community-based Board of Directors and an Executive Director. SBCS oversees the programs and services offered through Emmanuel House, Naomi Centre, Carew Lodge, New Beginnings, a Community Support Project, a long-Term Housing Project and an Employment /Education Program. SBCS is recognized as a leader in this province for the development of supportive housing for people with complex mental health needs and for employment programs that offer real work experience.
The Stella Burry Association is very supportive of women and men who have been incarcerated. Sister Margie is presently volunteering in a support group which meets every Tuesday evening at the Hungry Heart Cafe (another enterprise of Stella Burry Community Services). The goal of this group is to assist women in re-entering society after their time in prison. The group is presently working on a DVD that will depict how women become involved in the prison system, a description of the supports or lack of supports and programs offered by the system, and the assistance which is available once they are no longer incarcerated. Sister Margie says, “The ministry with these women and the staff of Stella Burry is a real blessing in my life. Many times there is much hurt and pain when one of the women goes back on drugs/alcohol, returns to an abusive relationship or tries to commit suicide. But that is when the supports and encouragement are most needed. The Stella Burry Community Services is there to help women help themselves and to re-gain their life.”
For more information about Stella Burry check website: