For all sorts and conditions — Remembering Isabel Healy-Morrow

The following tribute was shared with those attending the Funeral for the late Rev Canon Captain Isabel Healy-Morrow held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops on Monday April 3, 2023.

A large congregation gathered to give thanks to God for her life, witness and friendship. Joining family and friends were lay and clergy leaders and other representatives from the Territory of the People, many Canadian military personnel [active and retired], friends and neighbours from Barnhartvale and Kamloops, members of the farming community and many others who shared life and love with her—including barrel-racers, musicians, social workers—and characters of all pursuits and persuasions. Interment will occur on the lower mainland where we are told that horses may also attend.  

Her positive influence on the lives of so many, including myself, are incalculable. She faced her cancer journey with courage, discipline and faithfulness. Thank you Creator for sharing her with us for as long as you did. Rest eternal Isabel; enjoy the company of the Lion of Judah and the Captain of Salvation. The tribute which follows was composed by Isabel’s long time friend and colleague, Bishop Barbara Andrews, retired bishop of the Territory of the People.

Isabel was always a faithful member of the Anglican Church. She was baptized on July 29, 1956 at St Alban’s Anglican church, Burnaby and confirmed December 26, 1969 at St Stephen’s church, Burnaby. 

Isabel felt called to the priesthood by the age of 12 years, and with the support and encouragement of her family and many others, she lived out her dream. On November 28, 1999 at All Saints Anglican Church, Shulus, she was ordained to the priesthood by The Rt. Rev James (Jim) D Cruikshank.

During a Lenten Lecture at St Paul’s Cathedral, Kamloops in March 2013, Isabel spoke on “Walking the Path with God through Nature.” In that lecture, Isabel shared her earliest consciousness of God’s presence – which she found in nature when she was ten years old.

“It was summer, and school was out. I had done my chores in the morning, eaten lunch, and was lying on the top slope of our back yard on the grass, gazing up at the leaves of the four maple trees that provided shade for the yard. I was wearing a red gingham shirt, shorts and – oh bliss of summer – bare feet. The grass was sweet under my back. My head was cradled on my hands as I looked up – wayyyy up.

The maple tree seemed to whisper in the warm summer breeze – sending subtle messages – of God’s love for me. That was first and foremost. Then of God’s mystery. God’s strength. God’s power. I became fascinated by the way the maple leaves moved in a rhythm with the breeze – up and down, up and down. It was as if God was waving a gentle message to me.

I recalled the words of the children’s hymn “All things Bright and Beautiful,” which I had learned in Sunday School, and began to sing them from the depths of my heart, as I watched the maple leaves dance to and fro, and watched the birds flit from branch to branch.

The maple leaves seemed like God’s special messengers, and they seemed to say: You are loved. All is well with the world.”

Isabel experienced her love of The Creator God by observing the world of nature, the life cycle of the animals, the rhythm of the seasons, the flowers blooming and her father’s vegetable garden. These early experiences guided her faith journey and how she interacted with the world. Her love of her hobby farm and all her animals – horses, birds, turkeys and Buddy Holly (A 2000 lb steer! – Isabel took God’s admonition to tend to all creatures, GREAT and small, quite literally) from these early experiences. She brought this love of all creation into her ministry as she encouraged the Blessing of Animal services, as she strived to care for the world around her. In her preaching she took us with her on so many adventures.

Isabel wrote, “In my twenties, I began to practice reading the psalms while spending time out-of-doors – sitting on a rock, on a tree limb or on the grass, I drew inspiration from the words of the Psalmist.

In her thirties, Isabel began to crave something deeper and with the encouragement of her parish priest, the Rev. Helen Hill, she began a journey that would lead to her exploring a vocation to serve God. In her own words, shared at the time of the death of Bishop Jim, Isabel wrote of the first step on her journey to ordination to the transitional diaconate.

“I first met Bishop Jim in the first week of December, 1991. He had recently been elected Bishop of Cariboo, but was still Dean of Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral. I felt called to Holy Orders, but at the time there were no openings for candidates for postulancy in the Diocese of New Westminster. My parish priest said, “You need to have a conversation with Jim Cruickshank; he has just been elected Bishop of Cariboo and he is looking at potential candidates right now.” With her help and encouragement, I was able to attend to the necessary paperwork and secure an appointment with him. I can remember being very nervous, and can recall the day as if it were yesterday.  

I wanted to make a good impression, and wore a two-piece suit – a navy blue blazer and skirt, a white blouse, and a little navy blue and red scarf. (I still have the scarf!)  I took the Sky Train into Vancouver and made my way to the Cathedral with a pounding heart and sweaty palms. 

Jim welcomed me into his office, and made me feel right at home. He interviewed me thoroughly for two hours, and at the end of the interview, he said: “Well, I will sponsor you. You will have to go to school for a long time, and you will need two degrees. You will probably be a worker priest at first. Cariboo needs young people like you. But (strong emphasis) – don’t you ever let me down.” I promised him that I would not, and we shook hands. His handshake was firm, his smile reassuring. 

Those words became my mantra for the next nine years. I went to college at night and worked during the day. Then I resigned my secular employment at an office equipment company, and went to university full time, graduating with a degree in social work in 1996. I decided that I wanted to attend the same seminary as Bishop Jim had, and enrolled at the College of Emmanuel & St. Chad. I think Bishop Jim was a bit disappointed I did not wish to attend the Vancouver School of Theology where he had taught, but I told him I was a country person and wanted to try going to school on the Prairies, and as the Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination (ACPO) had noted, I was suited for rural parish ministry. In the end, he agreed I might go to Saskatoon.

I arrived in Saskatoon in September of 1996. The College was welcoming, and I felt at home right away, although my first prairie winter was a shock! I was not used to -40o C … Thank goodness I had long johns in my suitcase!  As a teenager, I had always wanted to attend “boarding school” after listening to my grandmother’s stories of attending Havergal College in Toronto as a girl. This was my dream come true. Seminary was rigorous and challenging. My fellow students and I laboured together. 

With Bishop Jim’s encouragement and support, I graduated in May of 1999. One of the happiest moments of my life was the day he laid hands on my head in my family’s parish of Christ the Redeemer, (co-incidentally the same parish where Bishop Jim had attended Sunday School as a boy!) and I became a Deacon in the Church of God, on June 29th of 1999.  

Thank you, Bishop Jim, for taking a chance on a shy, nervous student who came to see you in your office on a windy wet day in December all those years ago. The journey has been rich and rewarding, and I am deeply grateful for your mentoring and leadership. 

A keen learner, Isabel excelled at her studies in social work, and at seminary. More recently and through COVID she was one course short of completing her Doctor of Ministry Degree. She attended many educational opportunities during her time in the military, as a padre, and in the church. Isabel always sought to learn with the goal of being a more effective leader. She offered her knowledge and wisdom to many local and national church educational initiatives.

“For God and for Country” was Isabel’s inspiration; serving in the regular forces (RCN) and then taking her knowledge of military life and using it to serve God as a military Chaplain to the Rocky Mountain Rangers, 886 (Overlander) Wings RCAF, and the Royal Canadian Legions in many communities.  

The published tributes in her funeral service booklet attest to how well Isabel was able to integrate her love of God, with service to her country.

Isabel was a hardworking, faithful and inspiring parish priest. From her student placements in the Nicola Valley and Fraser Canyon, to her service as a worker priest in the Merritt area, following her installation as incumbent of St George’s Parish Church in Kamloops, and most recently at St Michael’s Parish Church, Merritt, she was much loved and well appreciated for all she offered to those she served.

Throughout her ministry, Isabel was involved with the community around her: her leadership during the Ashcroft Fire (2019) and the Merritt flood (2021) ensured that those most in need received help from the Territory of the People, from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and through gifts from the wider church. Her remarkable commitment and entrepreneurial spirit led her to leadership in many community outreach programs. With the congregation at St George’s, they developed a unique street school with the local School District and worked with the local Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to create programs held in the parish hall to support their neighbours. Isabel encouraged and supported the food programs at St Michael’s, and worked with them to build a disability accessibility ramp. These are but a few of her many endeavours in the communities she served. Her leadership in the renovation of the Nicola Valley Cemetery was outstanding.  

Isabel was a faithful leader during the demise of the Diocese of Cariboo; she was ever present during the transition into the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior; she participated in the creation of the Territory of the People. She was a compassionate leader in the work of Healing and Reconciliation, and helped to rebuild good relationships with the Indigenous community as a result of our role in St George’s Residential School.

In 2018, the Bishop and people of the Territory honoured Isabel by installing her as a Canon of the Territory for her outstanding ministry and gifted leadership in all her ministry, the councils and committees of the Church.)

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