- 1898 - Born, May 10
- 1978 - Died, March 15
Madeleine Bock was born May 10, 1898 near Owen Sound, Ontario to Methodist parents, Allan M. Bock and Frances C. Bock. On the 1901 census they are described as German in origin.
Madeleine was living in Landis, Saskatchewan when she entered the National Methodist Training School in 1924 and graduated in 1926 from the new United Church Training School. She was commissioned as a missionary by the Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS) and served in Victoria, Vancouver, Duncan, Greenwood, Lethbridge, Kamloops and Okanagan Valley Presbytery before retiring.
The focus of Madeleine’s work was with Japanese Canadians. I do not know specifically her work in Vancouver and Victoria, although that could be discovered through examination of the WMS records of the period. The WMS however, had several ministries with “Oriental” people in both cities. In 1941, Madeleine was in Duncan, BC which was home to a small but significant number of Japanese Canadians, working in the logging and mining industry. After Pearl Harbour was bombed and the Canadian government ordered the forced removal of Japanese Canadians from the British Columbia coast, the families in Duncan were sent to internment camps. Many went to Greenwood, British Columbia, near the American border, and east of the evacuation area set at 100 miles from the Pacific Coast. Many other United Church WMS women and Deaconesses, along with Board of World Mission men, who had been missionaries in Japan or worked on the coast accompanied the Japanese during this horrific time in their lives. (For more see the profile on Ella Lediard, for example.) It is likely that Madeleine followed the Japanese Canadians to Greenwood. A large number of Japanese Canadians were also resettled to Lethbridge, Alberta, Madeleine’s next posting, where she did minister among with the displaced as this report from the WMS describes:
The annual conference of the of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the United Church which opened Friday afternoon February 14th  in Southminster Church, [Lethbridge]. …Miss Madeleine Bock stationed at Lethbridge described her work in surrounding schools and with Japanese women and girls. She told how a year and a half ago she required only one helper and reached only 180 pupils. Now she works with a staff of voluntary helpers and reaches most 700. Her helpers are all regular school teachers or persons trained in religious work so the very latest methods are used in Bible instruction.
Lethbridge Herald February 17, 1950
The Canadian government did not provide for high school education for the Japanese Canadians who were in the internment camps and it was the churches, working ecumenically, who organized and provided secondary education to the young people. Madeleine’s work in Lethbridge, five years after the war ended, is still connecting the church with the schools. The training, equipping and coordinating of Christian Education volunteers was obviously a major piece of Madeleine’s time, a pattern to be repeated all over the country for the coming decade of Canada’s baby boom and its effect on church programming.
Madeleine did all the work noted above as a Missionary and Woman Worker. It was only after her retirement that she became a Deaconess, being designated by British Columbia Conference in 1962. When the WMS ended, and their work was merged into that of the United Church, a large number of Women Workers chose to become Deaconesses. She was one of them. It would be interesting to know her motivation. For others a desire to stay part of a recognized community and an anxiety that they would be forgotten lead to a decision to seek designation.
At the time of her death in 1978, Madeleine was living at Albright Gardens, a retirement community in Beamsville, Ontario (near Niagara Falls) exclusively for people on a United Church pension. Maybe she just really liked the church! However, the facility was opened to provide an affordable home for ministry staff whom had lived in manses all their lives and had no home at the time of retirement or, like many Deaconesses, had little in the way of pensions or savings given their meager wages.
Madeleine would be a fine woman to investigate in more detail. Her story is likely an interesting one!
Profile written by Caryn Douglas, January 2, 2013.