S. Christine Barrière, general superior
and S. Dolores Diez de Revenga, general councillor
from 21 juin to 8 juillet 10
There are 41 sisters in the Region of Canada, spread out in six communities all of which are situated in the city of Montreal.
We own two houses: the residence of Emilie d’Oultremont where 16 sisters live in two separate communities and the house of Ste. Madeleine Sophie with a community of six sisters, including the Regional superior. The sister in charge of animating our infirmary sisters who live with the Congregation of Notre Dame, is also attached to this community.
The locations of other communities are organised as follows: eight sisters live in an intercongregational residence with the Sisters of Providence (rue Fullum); six others are accommodated in the large infirmary of the Congregation Notre Dame and two sisters are in the infirmary of the Mercy Sisters.
A community of two sisters lodge in the presbytery of the parish of Holy Family of Bordeaux-Cartierville. In general it is this community who welcomes those who come from another country for a time to learn French, to retrain or for formation.
Various changes will take place in the coming weeks as the eight sisters living in the building of the Sisters of Providence, rue Fullum, have recently learned that the entire house will be sold to a developer, and each congregation that has a community there must search for a new place to live. Two of our sisters have already moved to a small residence for elderly persons, close to rue Fullam as they have apostolic activities in this area. The Mother House of the same congregation, in another part of the city, is welcoming five sisters and one sister will form part of the community Olympe d’Hooghvorst, in North-Montreal.
Likewise the Notre Dame congregation where six of our sisters are in the infirmary have told S. Lorraine Granger, regional superior, that because of internal restructuring they cannot take any more SMR sisters. It is necessary therefore to search for a new place for those sisters who will need special care in the years to come.
It is with regret that the sisters will leave these two locations each of which had great advantages, on the level of animation, the quality of healthcare and the possibilities of meeting other congregations. We admired the courage and availability of our sisters in face of this upheaval.
The development and theme of the visit.
The visit of the region of Canada was introduced in two reunions which on the one hand, gathered the communities of North Montreal (Residence of Emilie d’Oultremont, of Ste. Sophie and of N.D. de la Visitation) and, on the other hand the community of N.D. de Montreal and S. Rita Couture, the animatrice of the Cenacle.
Then we visited each community to know its reality better, to deepen the theme of the visit and to share news of the congregation.
The general orientation of the visit focused on the apostolic and missionary dimension of our vocation. In the introduction S. Christine presented the evolution of the congregation on the apostolic level, using a design of three trees. Then each sister was invited to reflect on the two following questions to be shared in community:
1/ How have you lived the evolution of the congregation on the apostolic level? Give one or two positive examples.
2/ How do you see the apostolic and missionary spirit of your vocation today?
(C. 37 and C. 14)
In general the evolution of the congregation was lived positively as it brought a greater openness, giving most of the sisters the possibility of meeting more people and working with different organisations and associations. The congregation was preoccupied with providing training for those who needed it and the external apostolate of the community was lived as an enrichment.
These changes in our lifestyle sometimes caused fears, like the fear of losing the contemplative dimension of our life, or the fear of “being invaded” by people coming to the house once the enclosure was suppressed. But in general the changes permitted a better understanding of the fact that true contemplation necessarily includes an apostolic concern, and that all of our life of prayer with God is accomplished by being sent on mission. We became more aware also that our true identity was not in external forms, like the enclosure or habit, but in fidelity to the spirit of our charism and to the needs of the world.
Returning to the evolution of the congregation on the apostolic level was an occasion to remember, in thanksgiving, the ministries that took place over the years: catechetics, Spiritual Exercises in daily life, preparation for baptism, working with youth and with itinerants, visiting the sick, parish ministry, facilitating Gospel sharing, accompanying the associates, working with other organisations….The list is long and shows how the communities were active and involved in the mission.
All that is possible to continue doing today is taking place and different ministries are realised by the sisters with zeal and joy.
Several mentioned that they continue an apostolate of listening and support to people, either by telephone or by correspondence. Several also have a direct apostolate in the line of what is mentioned above: spiritual exercises in daily life, accompaniment of associates and “the friends of Emilie”, ministry in parishes or with different associations.
Another way of continuing to practise the missionary dimension of our vocation is in welcoming sisters from other countries who come to learn French or follow a particular formation. The interest in what is lived in the congregation also helps us to remain open to the universality of our vocation.
Each morning, the participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is an occasion to offer oneself to Christ and to bring to him the entire world and the sorrowful realities experienced by the Church today. Number 14 of our Constitutions is a consoling paragraph, reminding the aged and sick sisters that their lives are fruitful throughout their entire lives and inviting them to live their illness in union with the Passion of Jesus.
Daily life in community is the first place for the apostolate, providing occasions for attentiveness and services towards other sisters, and taking the time to visit those in the infirmary.
To respond to the different needs of the congregation, many of the sisters were missionaries in several countries: a group of eleven sisters went to France to help the communities there to recover after the Second World War; twenty five sisters were present at the same time in the United States; other sisters served in Belgium, England, Uganda, Madagascar and Mauritius Island, in the house of Rome, in Jerusalem, in Egypt…
On 3 July a meeting took place with the thirteen Associate members, in the community of the Visitation. S. Christine presented a reflection on the characteristics of the “God of St. Ignatius” and this presentation gave rise to a profound sharing on the experience of God in the life of each Associate.
There are numerous challenges to note in the society and Church of Quebec. Among the most important we can note the evangelisation of the young who were educated without any Christian reference, and the integration of migrants coming from almost every corner of the world. Just as the Canadian sisters were missionaries in the past, so they are today; they are ready to welcome members from different places in the congregation to work at evangelisation, in this multicultural and multiracial missionary country.
We thank the Canadian sisters very much for their welcome and their attentiveness towards us and we encourage them to continue living their present reality with serenity, in the fervour of their vocation and in solidarity with the ensemble of the congregation. As the Project of the Region indicates, everything in our lives is important and can be lived with a missionary orientation, for the salvation of the world:
“Nurture in yourself a great missionary spirit which will lead you to manifest the tenderness of God which waits to be spread around you like a fire.”
Project of the Region 2007/13