The Ukrainian Catholic religious congregation known as the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (SSMI) had only been in existence for ten years when four of its members left for missionary work in Canada: Sr. Ambrose Marcella Lenkewich, Sr. Taida Elena Wrublewsky, Sr. Emelia Omeliana Klapowska, and Sr. Isidore Pauline Shypowsky. After arriving on November 1, 1902, the Sisters Servants spent eight months in Edmonton (which then had a population of 5500 residents). During this first winter in Canada, the Sisters Servants became acquainted with the Sisters of the Faithful Companion of Jesus, who were associated with St. Joachim’s parish and who conducted an evening school for about 40 young girls, some of whom were the children of Ukrainian immigrants.
When the Sisters Servants reached the Beaver Lake mission on July 7, 1903, Fr. Filas vacated his newly constructed residence for them. Among the Sisters’ first task was to offer an education to the settlers’ children. Until a dedicated structure could be built, the Basilian chapel also served as a school: portable walls were used to separate the sanctuary from the rest of the building.
From their base at the Basilian mission, the Sisters Servants also began their sustained efforts to address the social, cultural, and medical needs of the Ukrainian settlers. They lived within the community, offering support to the women, teaching the girls manual tasks, taking care of the sick, as well as tending to the chapel itself. In 1913, an orphanage was established at the Basilian mission, financed from both the Sisters Servants’ dowries and donations from the settlers. Bishop Nykyta Budka — Canada’s first Ukrainian Catholic bishop — blessed the orphanage on August 19, 1914; and to celebrate the event, the children staged a concert and play.