When Reverend Mother Sister Elizabeth Ann Eckert was awarded a Diamond Jubilee medal Monday, she became the third nun of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine since 1885 to be honoured for pioneering contributions to health care in Ontario and Canada.
"A little overwhelmed," she said when asked how she felt to receive the honour.
"Very excited for the sisterhood for the recognition of the work we do. We're sort of a hidden ministry in the community at times."
In 1937, the Anglican sisters opened North York's renowned St. John's Rehab Hospital with a vision of concentrating on patients' physical, mental and spiritual needs rather than their diagnoses.
When Eckert was presented with her medal Monday by Willowdale MPP David Zimmer at St. John's annual garden party and annual general meeting, she accepted it in recognition of the sisterhood's contribution to health care.
The medal marks Queen Elizabeth's 60th anniversary on the throne and is being presented to about 60,000 for significant achievements and contributions.
Eckert noted her medal is the latest in a list of honours for the sisterhood dating back 127 years.
In 1885, Reverend Mother Hannah Grier Coome received the silver North-West Canada Medal after she, three sisters and three nurses travelled to the primitive town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to turn an empty wooden building into a functioning hospital where wounded soldiers were treated.
They returned to Toronto and opened the city's first women's surgical hospital on Euclid Avenue, the earliest ancestor of today's St. John's, Eckert said.
In 2002, Sister Constance Joanna Gefvert, then the interim chief executive officer of St. John's, was awarded the Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee Medal for the sisterhood's many years of service to health care in Canada.