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Sister Marilyn von Zuben, CND, in Service of Women and Children

“The spirit of mutual cooperation among people living distressing situations is both surprising and moving. I think this is what God wants for the whole world!”

Marilyn von Zuben

Sister Marilyn act as a “drop-in” volunteer in different organizations: she addresses the needs as they present themselves.

Since 2015, she visits twice a week Chez Doris, a daytime shelter for women facing difficulties. There she offers a sympathetic ear to the women who wish to speak to her. Sister Marilyn considers herself blessed to be able to witness the wonderful cooperation that exists among these women who are all living difficult situations: “Ultimately, I always feel like I receive more than I give!”

Sister Marilyn also visits refugee families and asylum seekers sheltered at the YMCA. Her pleasant conversation and her knowledge of several languages enables her to easily connect with the people she meets.

Even if she is not necessarily looking to speak about God – unless otherwise invited – we can often hear her whisper, “Thank you Lord!” for life’s big and small joys.

Helping children

Born in Toronto, Sister Marilyn von Zuben entered the Congregation in 1953. For seven years, she taught in Ottawa .In 1963, she flew to Japan where she taught English as a second language in Fukushima. Sister Marilyn systematically memorized the names of the 650 girls she saw every week.

Some years later, she taught boys at Meiji Gakuen School in Kitakyūshū. There was such laughter in those classes! In 1976, she returned from her mission with a better appreciation of the importance faith had in her life. Sister Marilyn still has fond memories of her time Japan.

Back in Canada, she became a religious education coordinator for the English-language parishes of the Diocese of Hull. In 1980, she opened Marywood House of Prayer in British Columbia. She later became chaplain of Ottawa’s Saint Paul University; Sister Marilyn was the first woman to occupy this position.

Helping mothers

In 1992, Sister Marilyn travelled to Kumbo, in the northwestern region of Cameroun. People were delighted by her attempts to learn the local language, pidgin. While speaking to the women she met at market, she became aware of particular difficulties some of them were living. She established support groups for widows and single mothers.

She encouraged parents to invest as much in their daughters’ education as in that of their sons’. To help them, she first became involved with and then administered the first Chalice sponsorship site in Cameroon. Thanks to this sponsorship, children and the elderly have access to education and health care. The program currently numbers more than 1,820 beneficiaries.

Sister Marilyn accompanied victims of abuse of power so that they could be heard in court. After years of struggle, the case that was presented was lost from a legal standpoint but was won in the community: Behaviours are changing. People are grateful to Sister Marilyn for helping them assert their rights.

Helping missionaries

When she returned to Canada in 2010, Sister Marilyn realized how missionaries can become disoriented after having spent many years in a foreign country. Again, she addresses the needs as they presented themselves. She established a group for men and women missionaries who were returning to a country where they knew no one. How does one use experience gained on mission to be able to participate in this country’s society and its Church?

Sister Marilyn and Sister Madelyn Brenan, CND; both were missionaries in Japan (CND photo 2017)


Sister Marilyn’s first year in Cameroon: Sister Noreen McDonald, CND, Mr. Joseph, Sister Cécile Buote, CND and Sister Marilyn von Zuben, CND. (CND photo 1993)

Sister Susan Kidd, CND and Sister Marilyn with a Cameroonian family (CND photo 2004)

Sister Marilyn during a campaign to heighten awareness in Montreal's hotel industry about human trafficking during sports events. (CND Photos 2012)

Another function performed by our volunteer is offering hospitality at the mother house.

Photo taken during a visit to Dawson College’s gardens and installations by the mother house’s Green Committee, of which Sister Marilyn is a member.

Sister Marilyn loading the car with winter clothes and blankets for newly arrived immigrants. (CND photo 2016)

Sister Marilyn, Sister Josephine Badali, CND and Sister Cécile Duplain, CND examining with satisfaction the tuques knitted by several Congregation sisters for newcomers to this country. (CND photo 2016)

Tags with the word “Welcome” in Canada’s two official languages on one side and in Arabic on the flip side. (CND photo 2016)

Sister Marilyn attaching tags on mittens that were knitted by the Congrégation de Notre-Dame’s sisters. (CND photo 2016)

Sister Marilyn, heart in hand!

Sister Marilyn’s contribution to the "We can do better 2015" campaign organized by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC). It encouraged citizens to let the government know what issues concerned them.