Susan Sylvester


Susan Sylvester
Surname as Student: Sylvester
Education: Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home
Graduation Year: 1917
Designated: 1917
Where: Joggins, Nova Scotia
Denomination: Presbyterian Church of Canada

  • 1916: Summer Field, Trenton, NS
  • 1917-1923: WMS Social Service Ministry, Stellerton, NS
  • 1924: Leave of Absence
  • 1925: WMS Eastern Division (Presbyterian) Appointment, Joggins, NS
  • 1926: Continuing Presbyterian

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Miss Sylvester, deaconess at Stellarton, then told us a little about her work. In the simplest, most interesting way she told us how she taught, mothered and ministered to those foreigners under her care. It is in the home and among the children that her work chiefly lies, but not until a mine explosion brought suffering and bereavement to many of the families did the adults respond. The earnest devotion to duty, the consecrated Christianity of this sweet young woman was a great delight to our W.M.S., making us realize what we are giving to our new Canadians when we send them a deaconess such as this. 

Annual Meeting report, The Presbyterian Message October 1922


The Board is happy to announce the appointment of Miss Susan Sylvester as Hospital Visitor in the city of Halifax. This new work is sorely needed and the W.M.S. (Eastern Division) is to be congratulated on this forward step. 

The Presbyterian Message December 1952

Born in New Glasgow, N.S. in 1887, Susan Sylvester was the oldest child of Walter and Bessie MacDonald Sylvester and was a member of the St. Andrews Kirk. After graduating from the Halifax Conservatory of Music, she taught music in New Glasgow. In 1911 she completed a year of postgraduate work in the Institute of Musical Art in New York.

In 1917, she graduated from the Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home and was designated in Joggins, N.S. in the same year. Her first appointment with the church was in Stellarton where she worked among new Canadians. The mine in Stellarton was under Belgian management and they had brought over a number of workers from Belgium and France. The end of World War I also brought an increase in immigration. Since many of these new Canadians spoke French, it was necessary for Miss Sylvester to learn to speak French in order to minister to them.

After seven years in Stellarton, (1924) she planned to go to British Guiana as a missionary but her health prevented this. Her next appointments were to Joggins and Thorburn when they had no minister. Then she went to the North end of Halifax and her work there marked the beginning of what is now Knox congregation. After that, she spent eight years at Whitney Pier where she worked with children’s and women’s groups, did visitation and various other things. Ill health prevented her from working for the next five years. When she returned to work, she served in several areas including Cape Breton Presbytery, Miramichi Presbytery, Gaspé, Noel Road and Abercrombie.

When the need arose for someone to work among a group of French Catholics in Gaspé who had recently become attached to the Presbyterian Church, Miss Sylvester’s ability to speak French made her a logical choice. In most of the areas where she worked, she would be in a vacant charge looking after the various needs of the congregation until they got a settled minister. Before retirement to New Glasgow in 1958, she worked for about five years as Hospital Visitor in Halifax.

Miss Sylvester passed away suddenly at her home in New Glasgow on February 8, 1968 at the age of 80 – in the early hours of Thursday morning after attending the Wednesday afternoon meeting of St. Andrew’s W.M.S. Auxiliary.

Miss Sylvester’s dedication to the service of her Lord and the many talents she had to offer made her a very valuable and beloved worker in our church. Like other early deaconesses, she was confronted by a great variety of tasks, including work with women, children and youth, visitation, leading worship services and whatever else the hand found to do. An AMS bursary for theological students, honouring Miss Sylvester’s life and work, is presented annually.

Written by Winnifred Bean                  Catherine Mair Collection


This biography is from the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Synod of Atlantic Provinces.