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Esther Patkau preaching, 2002.
Photo: Jake Buhler

Esther Patkau: missionary, pastor, chaplain, historian and friend; born 27 August 1927 to Kornelius and Katharina Patkau on a farm near Hanley, Saskatchewan, Canada. Her parents were farmers having just arrived from the Soviet Union. She died in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. on 18 December, 2017 at age 90 and is buried in the Hanley Mennonite Church Cemetery. Following completion of elementary school in Hanley, she attended Rosthern Bible School before matriculating at Rosthern Junior College with a high school diploma in 1947. She pursued more education at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, graduating with a degree in theology in 1950, followed by another bachelor’s degree in education at Bethel College in Kansas in 1951.

Esther Patkau was then ready, she said much later, for her first job. That job, in 1951, was to be a missionary to Japan serving under the Mission Board of the General Conference Mennonite Church. Since she could not be ordained as a minister, she was commissioned as a missionary. Ordination for women, came a dozen years later. For 23 years she served as a missionary learning a difficult language, and worked to establish the Oyodo Christian Church in Miyazaki, Kyushu. She was much loved. Upon her return to Canada in 1974 she was ordained and installed as a minister First Mennonite Church in Saskatoon where she served for seven years. Ever interested in learning, Esther obtained a master’s degree in theology in 1981 from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, majoring in pastoral care and counselling. From 1983 to 2005 she was a hospital chaplain in Saskatoon. Then from 2005 to 2017, she was the Spiritual Care Coordinator at Bethany Manor, a Mennonite Seniors Home in Saskatoon.

Esther remained single all her life. It was no matter to her, but it concerned some. In a session at a Mennonite Church Saskatchewan Conference, held at her church, she requested to speak. She explained that over a number of decades, she had been asked many times why she did not marry, and thereby become a more complete person. In her statement she said completeness comes when there is reconciliation between God and man. She felt complete, she said. Marriage is a matter of choice, she added. The ever-serious Esther ended by saying that in future conversations she would welcome other topics of discussion. There was warm applause.

Esther was scholarly about Mennonite History and wrote a number of books including: J.J. Thiessen Ministry in Saskatoon. (1979); First Mennonite Church in Saskatoon 1923-1982 (1982); The Patkau-Paetkau-Petkau Book 1714-1987 (1987); Ministry of Rosthern Bible School Alumni 1932- 1994. (1994), and; Canadian Women in Mission 1895-1952-2002 (2002). She was the go-to person when it came to transliterating hundreds of old script German documents and then translating them into English. She was a contributor of articles to GAMEO and many periodicals.

She was given awards for service and achievement by Canadian Mennonite University, Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan, Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, and Mennonite Economic Development Associates. After the MEDA award, she quipped that she hoped God would one day, at the end of her life, also give her an award.

The entire Esther Patkau Collection is archived at the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.


Esther Patkau Collection at Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan.

Interview with Esther Patkau in 2015.

Author(s) Jake Buhler
Date Published January 2022

Cite This Article

MLA style

Buhler, Jake. "Patkau, Esther (1927-2017)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2022. Web. 3 Dec 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Patkau,_Esther_(1927-2017)&oldid=172922.

APA style

Buhler, Jake. (January 2022). Patkau, Esther (1927-2017). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 December 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Patkau,_Esther_(1927-2017)&oldid=172922.

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