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Retired minister recognized with honourary degree


Rev. Joyce Sasse with an original Annora Brown oil painting titled ‘January Thaw.’ Workmen found this painting when demolishing a studio that had been owned by Annora’s photographer friend Gordon Creighton. Photo by Brenda Shenton

Joyce Sasse has been serving in ministry around the world for decades and has now been recognized with an honourary doctor of divinity degree from St. Andrew’s College in Saskatchewan.

“I’d never thought of myself as much of an academic person . . . so to realize from those letters (nominations) that I was considered also to be kind of a scholar in that way was something that I hadn’t really thought about, but was really honoured by,” Rev. Sasse said.

Ordained in 1965 and earning her bachelor of divinity degree in 1968 and master of divinity degree in 1987, Rev. Sasse is a retired minister in the United Church of Canada.

Over the years, she has served congregations in many locations across the nation, and even overseas with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea from 1967 to 1972.

During her five-year stint overseas, Rev. Sasse was the community development worker at the YMCA, as well as a chaplain and English teacher at Saigwong Boys’ High School in Cheongju.

Upon arriving back in Canada, she became the executive director of the Saskatoon YWCA.

Come 1974, Rev. Sasse served as the saddlebag minister with small Saskatchewan communities such as Lake Valley, Tuxford, Keeler, and Marquis.

Her last posting in the Prairie province was Tugaske, after which she moved back home to Alberta.

“Rural church and rural community are really important,” Rev. Sasse said.

Originally from Milk River, the retired minister always had a soft spot for Pincher Creek. During a trip to the Himalayas, she had an epiphany.

“I’m halfway around the world and what I really want is (this) spot about at Twin Butte that I would call the center of my life and that’s where I’d like to be. That’s what I call home,” she recollects, adding it was a privilege to become the minister here and be able to stay here.

After retiring in 1996, Rev. Sasse dedicated herself to writing, speaking, teaching and leading workshops in support of rural ministry across Canada.

“I gradually started to write again, so life is carrying on now,” she said.

Rev. Sasse has a special interest in pioneer Macleod artist Annora Brown and said this area was “very much her turf.” It was as a student in Waterton that Rev. Sasse learned about Annora’s art.

“(I) kept saying, that’s about us, that’s what we are. I still really feel the same way and I’m so glad to have people recognizing Annora Brown for the work she did in having people recognize southern Alberta,” she said, adding the artist was a big mentor in her life.

The well-travelled Rev. Sasse has gathered quite the list of accolades in the past 50 years. It is a testament to her passionate and hard-working nature that such awards are still coming her way, even in retirement.

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