To Do and to Endure


"In her portrayal of the life of Sister Catherine Donnelly, founder of the Sisters of Service, author Jeanne Beck has succeeded in weaving a tapestry rich in texture, broad in scope and deeply revealing of the character of a memorable Canadian woman." -Brian F. Hogan, C.S.B.

When teacher Catherine Donnelly first arrived in Western Canada from Ontario in 1918, she discovered two things: first, the need for a Catholic presence in the rural public schools of the west, and second, her own calling to be a religious.

Catherine saw that the west was growing rapidly, and that there was a lack of religious guidance for the people of the region, particularly the immigrants coming from other countries. She looked to existing Catholic orders as a means of reaching these people, but found that none of the orders were willing to accept Catherine’s radical ideas, such as her refusal to wear the traditional nun’s habit, and her strong belief in the individuality of members of orders. Catherine founded the Sisters of Service in 1922, and through this new order was able to make an impact on the lives of townspeople and students in prairie schools of the west.

In this biography, Jeanne Beck reconstructs the extraordinary life of Sister Catherine Donnelly. The well-researched account is at once informative and inspiring a fitting tribute to the woman who believed "the spiritual life and the intellectual life have the same root deep in the unity of the intelligence."


I would recommend Becks book for readers of Mission Canada...anyone doing research will find Becks descriptive chapter headings and detailed index helpful.

Mission Canada

Jeanne Beck has taken what could have been the subject of a boring institutional account and made us aware that large issues were involved. The frankness with which she describes and discusses them is a credit both to her and to her informants among the Sisters of Service.

Ontario History

Central casting could not have dreamed up a better script for Catherines life, and Jeanne Beck has done an admirable job of writing a sympathetic yet critical account of this determined but humble servant of the Church...To Do and to Endure is a fitting testament to one of Canadas most remarkable women religious this century.

The Canadian Catholic Historical Association

About the Author

Jeanne R. Beck

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Jeanne R. Beck

Jeanne Ruth Merifield Beck received her B.A. in Honours History from the University of Toronto in 1949, and her Ph.D in 1977 from McMaster University, Hamilton. She taught Canadian history at McMaster from 1975 to 1988. From 1979 to 1993 she was Assistant Editor and Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Historical Studies Series, whose mandate was to commission and publish a collection of thirty-one books on the history of Ontario.