Josephine Heslenfeld: Timeless Kindness

Josephine Heslenfeld: Timeless Kindness


The devotion of donors to our missionaries knows no bounds. Every day, we see the commitment of friends and benefactors in the donations,

letters and calls that we receive from across our land.

Josephine Heslenfeld was one such friend and donor.

Josephine wrote to us in October 2017—enclosing a donation and letting us know that at age 93 and after nearly 50 years of steadily supporting missionaries and their ministries, she could no longer be a regular donor to Catholic Missions In Canada.

“This almost breaks my heart,” she wrote.

Josephine’s long connection to our missionaries and sincerity of her letter touched our hearts. We even posted her letter on our small bulletin board as an inspiration!

Our own hearts were broken a few days later when we received a call telling us of Josephine’s passing. Her funeral was less than two weeks after she wrote to us.

Josephine immigrated to Canada from Holland in 1951. In making that journey, she was following her fiancé, Anthony, who had arrived the year before.

Now 95, Anthony says, “I was the trailblazer, but when Josephine came over, we trail-blazed together.”

Josephine and Anthony Heslenfeld celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in October 2012.

Married in 1952, the young couple began their married life in Vancouver, before setting up homes in Kamloops, Kemano, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Terrace and Abbotsford. Along the way, five children were born, friends were made, and new homes built. Grandchildren and great grandchildren followed.

Anthony chuckles at the memory of their early days, “Josephine was an excellent saver,” he says. “I didn’t have it, but she did!”

Tragedy hit the young family with the sudden death of their son Paul, at 4 years of age. His loss was a sorrow that Josephine carried for the rest of her life.

Throughout their lives in Canada, Josephine supported a number of charities, but as Anthony says, “Catholic Missions In Canada was her favourite.”

Over the years, Anthony says, Josephine had read about conditions in Indigenous com­munities. “She knew and she felt that the best way she could help native people here in Canada was to donate to Catholic Missions In Canada.”

Josephine concluded that last letter to us by wishing us “many blessings.” Believe me, Josephine, your kindness continues to bless the work of our missionaries!

This is one in a series of columns highlighting the difference that friends and donors make to our missionaries