Selma Doucet may be turning 75, but she’s showing no sign of slowing the whirlwind pace of church activity that takes her all over her native province of Nova Scotia. The Sydney mother of seven, grandmother and great-grandmother is a member of the Anglican Church Women, as well as a lay reader and a eucharistic minister for the Parish of the Resurrection, Church of Christ the King. In this last capacity, she helps to bring holy communion once a month to people in local nursing homes. She is also one of the directors of the Anglican Foundation in the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
“When I became a director, I felt a bit overwhelmed and way out of my league. I felt I didn’t belong here,” says Selma, who was informed of her new role while attending General Synod in Winnipeg in 2007. Despite her initial trepidation, Selma’s tireless efforts have raised the profile of the Foundation and helped to boost membership in the diocese: from 33 in 2006 to about 135 today.
“But when I first started talking to people, 90 per cent had never heard of the Foundation,” she recalls. These days, Selma makes regular visits to church services, giving “sermons” to raise awareness about the Foundation. She has also been a driving force behind a successful fundraising campaign enrolling five-year pledges from Anglicans in her diocese.
But then Selma, born one of eight siblings in Whitney Pier, a stone’s throw from the Sydney Tar Ponds, is no stranger to hard work. “I had seven children and always worked full-time as the office manager in the plumbing company started by my father,” she says. In the days before maternity leave, she worked right up to the births of her babies and was back in the office a week later.
As the mother of a deaf child, Selma was also a passionate advocate for the deaf in her community and province—over and above her heavy home and office workloads. “There are just certain things you have to step up and do,” she says stoically.
Thankful to her Anglican neighbours who took her children to church, Scouts, Cubs and Brownies when she was pregnant or unable to leave the house, Selma decided, when she retired, that “it was time to pay back.” And she’s been unstinting in her efforts in the greater Anglican community ever since.
According to the Rev. Valerian Rhymes, co-rector of The Parish of the Resurrection, Selma, who sits on councils at several levels, is a true connector in the church. “She links people at every level—in the parish, the region, the diocese and the national church,” says Rhymes. “She also connects people of every age, from young children and teens to seniors. Whatever the event, she’s always there.”
One Anglican Foundation-funded undertaking gives Selma particular satisfaction. A few years ago, when Sydney was reeling at the loss of its coal mines, steel mill and fishery, the Foundation enabled her community to stage JOY, a weekend of Christian celebration culminating in a large and merry motorcade to a service in the region’s largest Anglican church.
So how does someone in her mid-70s find the energy to be such a powerhouse? “I’m scared to stop!” she admits. “When you work full-time with seven kids and you have your wash on the line and seven lunch cans ready for school before you leave for the office, you become very good at multi-tasking.” Ω
Diana Swift is editor of Canadian Health magazine and a parishioner at St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto.