The Late Reverend Mother Phyllis Marilyn Marsh-Jarvis

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, today I rise to pay tribute to a dear friend who passed away on June 6, 2021. Phyllis Marsh-Jarvis was the Reverend Mother of St. Philip’s African Orthodox Church in Whitney Pier, Sydney, Nova Scotia and their first woman leader. She was a matriarch and a sister. She was a community leader, elder and church leader with a deep commitment to social justice, social change and social work.

Phyllis experienced adversity in her life, and she learned to turn those challenges into victories. She was involved in many community projects and organizations that made positive changes for African Nova Scotians. Phyllis was generous with her time, her talents, her love and her forgiveness. Phyllis was a point of contact in Sydney, and getting Phyllis involved when organizing an event meant your event would surely run smoothly.

She was a gifted writer. Had she been born into a more equitable world, I am sure she would have published more of her writing.

I will share some words from her chapter in the book Still Fighting for Change, which I edited in 2015 to help prepare social workers for culturally responsive practice. In her chapter entitled “My Journey to Health and Becoming Visible,” she wrote a powerful message for social workers:

Had I not gone through what I did, I could not minister hope and survival to other victims. I have risen and changed my scars into tears. I hope that social workers who read my story will find it helpful. Let us rejoice and tell the world we found our voice.

Dear Reverend Mother Phyllis, your voice will continue to be used to help prepare social workers for their careers. Your legacy of social justice will continue to serve your community, and your legacy of kindness and love will always be felt by those of us who were blessed to know you. Asante. Thank you.

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