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A Coady connection for a lifetime

An Ontario couple returns to where it all began

It’s a love story worthy of a movie script.

September 1971 – a young priest from Sri Lanka by the name of Fr. Albert Linus lands in Antigonish for a six-month Coady Institute diploma. In his class he meets a Canadian-born and French-speaking nun, Sr. Beatrice Bilodeau, sent to Coady by her convent in Zambia.

Coady Director June Webber welcomes Beatrice and Albert Linus to the campus where they met 44 years ago.

It’s now September 2015, and the retired couple have returned to Antigonish, Nova Scotia to celebrate the place where they met and kick-started their development careers 44 years ago.

“She was so humble,” says Albert. “Very quiet, but she was the leader of our class, which was 62 people from 32 countries.”

A leader, indeed. Beatrice won the Campbell Medal for Leadership as the outstanding student that year.

After convocation, they left to follow their own careers – Beatrice to Zambia to help women in small villages earn a hard living from agriculture; Albert pursued a master’s degree in the United States, and began a government career in social services in Ontario.

“I have never forgotten the lessons we learned here,” says Albert. “Three things in particular: the value of community, the nature of development, and self-confidence, not just personally, but how a community can also have self-confidence.”

Beatrice has fond memories of the people she met in town and on campus during her eight months in Antigonish.

“I will never forget one day when Mr. Riley (Norman Riley, assistant director] invited the African participants to his home to ask us: ‘What more can we do in your countries?’ Staff would often invite us to their homes like that.”

The couple would likely have never met again, had it not been for the death of Beatrice’s father in Quebec. When she came home to be with her mother, Albert, then working in Ottawa, would come to visit. The friendship blossomed. Two years later, they married.

Beatrice says they drove to Antigonish this September, because it was the month they met on campus, and the month they were married in 1976.

Both credit their Coady educations as strong foundations for their work in social justice.

“Over the years we both have advised many people to come to Coady,” says Albert. “And I know they did.”