Creation, Diversity, and Religious Life

The autumn colours are a rich reminder of the gifts of creation, the changing of seasons, and a time of thanksgiving.  I have been blessed these past few weeks to experience this season in two radically different places, Arizona and Toronto. What fascinated me most is how creation adapts to diversity, this tree, the Palo Verde, found in the desert adapts to its context by facilitating photosynthesis in its bark, green due to the chlorophyll that helps it hold water and sugar in the absence of large leaves.  While hardly autumn weather as we would know it in Canada, the cooler evenings certainly provided a relief to the heat of the day.  

By contrast the cooler autumn weather in Toronto brought the start of the fall colours to the landscape around the city.  In the midst of urban life, skyscrapers, and traffic, you don’t need to look far to find a shot of colour to remind you of the change of season, the coming winter, and miracle of photosynthesis displayed in the brilliant red and gold leaves. 

This diversity displayed in creation is a great metaphor for the times in which we live Religious Life.  The elements of our way of life are the same, rooted in our Baptismal Call, led the Spirit of the Risen Christ, and facilitated through our vows, in the context of  community.   The diversity of our world means that we need to adapt to the contexts in which we find ourselves, fewer in number, less visibility, and a more urgent call to be prophetic voices.

This fall also marks a new term for me on my congregation Leadership Team.  Four of us were re-elected and given the gift of time (up to 6 weeks) for some renewal and rest.  I am grateful to use some of that time to be with with family in Toronto, especially my Mom, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  

I also plan to spend some time in retreat, and creating opportunities to discover the movement of the Spirit and the ways in which we are called to live out the Charism of Religious Life in particular, and my own congregation’s Charism specifically.  I am grateful to each of you as we continue to journey together in support and solidarity as we strive to make life giving choices in our personal lives, our communities, and our ministries. 

Written by:  Sr. Joanne O’Regan, CSM – Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish

We, Sisters of St. Martha, inspired by God’s graciousness, hear, embrace and respond to the cry for Gospel Hospitality. (Mission Statement, Chapter 2004)

We Are Missionaries

Dear friends,

I do remember that our last General Chapter held on 2015 in Rome, came out with a chapter document titled « we are missionaries” (Missionarii Sumus). It called us to be an authentic witness of the Joy of the Gospel by living out a prophetic commitment and a fraternal communion. Yes, the month of October is very special for all the baptised in the Church because we are celebrating the extraordinary missionary month named by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. The theme is “Baptized and sent.”

It is always a huge challenge to live out our identity as missionary disciple in this secularized part of the world. However, the Spirit of God impels us to go forward with joy and humility. We are not messiahs, rather prophets. 

I hail from a beautiful coastal village called Rajakamangalam Thurai, southern part of Tamil Nadu, India. I am a Tamil-Indian. My vocational journey is a mixture of three M: Missionary, Marian & Maternal. Yes, I have been in different part of India for my initial formation, philosophy and novitiate. Later, I completed my theology in Spain. I have been journeying with the Claretian Missionaries almost twenty years. What a blessing!

After my theology I was sent Canada to live out my missionary commitments. I have been accompanying the youth and immigrants in Canada for the past years. What a joy to walk with them. Right now, I am working as pastor in a multicultural parish in Sherbrooke, Quebec. There are people from 25 different countries, French and Spanish are our main languages.

I do remember that one day a lady from my parish told me “we need foreign priest like you in order to fulfil our sacramental needs”

Another lady, once told me “Thanks for walking with us as a missionary” 

I think, you can see the difference in those two interventions. Two different mindsets. The world is full of polarization and as a Missionary I would like to contribute to building bridges between cultures as Jesus did. We are not foreigners in Canada, rather we are missionaries.  And wherever we go as baptized followers of Christ we go as Missionaries.

Today I thank the Lord for my vocation as Claretian Missionary as we celebrate the month of October.  It is a special month dedicated to our Founder St. Anthony Mary Claret whose feast will be celebrated on 24th October.  A great missionary preacher, founder, Archbishop and confessor. All of these responsibilities he carried out with great zeal and enthusiasm. 

The other day one young man said to me: “Father, it is really very hard to be a Christian and missionary in Quebec.” I told him: “Welcome to the gang.  We know that there is nothing impossible and with God everything is possible.”

We have a God who is a missionary in nature because he was sent by his Father to this broken world and to this mess in order to make it beautiful, fraternal and interesting. So as baptized followers of Christ we are called to continue the good work of our Master in our religious life through our particular religious charism.  So that we can help build the kingdom of God without losing sight of our eternal home, which is Heaven. We are not foreigners, we are Missionaries!

Written by: Père Reegan Soosai CMF

(Missionnaire Clarétains)

Sorrows Lead to New Life

Much of the beginnings and continuity of the Sisters of Providence of Montreal can be attributed to Our Mother of Sorrows whose feast we celebrate this September 15th. When our foundress, Blessed Emilie Tavernier Gamelin, lost all three of her young sons, one after another, and her husband Jean Baptiste Gamelin, she found refuge and consolation in the mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross. Widowed at the age of 27, Mother Gamelin’s last straw of happiness disappeared when her last surviving son died.  She found herself alone at the age of 28.

Mourning the loss of her loved ones, she received from Father Breguier St-Pierre, curate at Notre Dame Church, an image of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows (also known as Our Mother of Sorrows). From then on, Mother Gamelin began a deep devotion to Mary. Mother Gamelin understood the pain of Mary as a mother who lost her Son. They shared the same pain and in many ways Mother Gamelin drew strength from the strength of Mary as she stood courageously at the foot of the Cross. Our Mother of Sorrows wasn't just a spiritual figure represented in an image that Mother Gamelin received from her spiritual director. She was as real as Mother Gamelin’s companion and protectress. So much so that when the Congregation was established, Mother Gamelin asked that her daughters cultivate and observe devotion to Our Mother of Sorrows by invoking her help when they go to their ministries and especially in fostering their spiritual growth. During the time of typhus fever and cholera epidemic in Montreal around the 1840s, the Sisters sought the help and protection of our Blessed Mother fir the Sisters and for the people they ministered to.

During a retreat this past July with Fr. Ron Rolheiser, he beautifully made connection between how Mary “pondered” when the angel appeared to her and announced her conception of Jesus and when she was standing at the foot of the Cross. Two important accounts in the Bible on the life of Mother Mary. Fr. Rolheiser said that in Hebrew, pondering means “to hold, carry, and transform tension so as not to give it back in kind.” Mary’s pondering was absorbing what was happening at the time and transcending that experience within so that it is given back positively to others around her. Hence, it is important to note that Our Mother of Sorrows was “standing” at the foot of the Cross (Stabat Mater) despite her heart being pierced with a sword. Her Son was tortured and killed on the Cross but instead of her harboring hatred and negatively reacting to everyone and everything that was happening around her at the time, she understood that God was in charge and she stood resolutely there, taking it all in and calmly accepting that Jesus’ suffering is part of an overarching plan of salvation for all mankind. This experience of Mary resonated with Mother Gamelin. Upon contemplating Our Blessed Mother’s sorrows, she found the strength and faith she needed to transform her mourning into charitable acts and eventually into a Congregation that would perpetuate the mission and devotion of our Mother of Sorrows.  Today, may we learn to ponder as Mary did so that we can also experience its transforming power from sorrows to new life.

Written by Rezebeth Noceja, SP
With inspiration from Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Spirit Filled Beginnings

September always feels like a special time in schools.  As a junior high school teacher, I especially enjoy accompanying the Grade 7 students who are younger, smaller and almost baby-faced next to the older grades who are returning for another year.  They get lost in the hallways, struggle to negotiate the complexities of combination locks for their lockers, and are bewildered by all of the many classrooms they have to rush to throughout the day.  They forget teacher names and don’t bring the books they need.  In short, they view junior high school with new eyes, and I take real pleasure in seeing the building and routines that I’m returning to with their fresh perspective.

A palpable sense of excitement permeates the atmosphere for these first few weeks.  The possibilities about how the year will unfold seem endless.  Any goal seems reachable.  Everyone is on their best behaviour, absolutely buying into the hope inherent in these early stages.

I often feel a sense of connection with the Holy Spirit in these school year beginnings and in many of the other beginnings of my life.   Certainly our Scriptures celebrate the Spirit’s role in various important beginnings:  the conception of Jesus, the start of His ministry after His Baptism, and in the foundations of our Church at Pentecost.  It may seem to some like the many beginnings that happen around us in our daily lives don’t rise to the level of these auspicious events and so might not merit the presence of the Spirit, but our Catholic Catechism teaches us that the Spirit dwells among us and wants to be known by us.

Now, I don’t pretend that I have any more idea than the next person of what or who the Holy Spirit is.  When we talk about God, we know that we are always talking about Mystery.  Having said that, I like what Richard Rohr, OFM writes:  “Mystery is not something you can’t know. Mystery is endless knowability.”  To me, this speaks to the possibility that we can recognize and even experience the Holy Spirit at some level and in some instances, without ever fully and completely knowing Her.  In fact, having had conversations with other Religious about the role of the Spirit in their Vocation stories and ministries, many can point to moments where the Spirit played a pivotal role in their lives.  Those same Religious will often struggle, though, to put into words who exactly the Holy Spirit is for them.

I, too, may have difficulty finding the right words to say what exactly the Spirit means to me in my life, but I do believe that I can sense the gentle guidance of the Spirit walking with my Grade 7 students as they screw up their courage to enter unfamiliar classrooms and engage in conversation with the strangers that will become part of their everyday lives for the upcoming year.  I believe that She is whispering words of encouragement to them as they tackle higher level academic topics and join extracurricular teams and groups.  It is under Her care that new relationships are inspired, new knowledge is learned and new possibilities are dreamed.  As students and staff settle into a new school year, let us pray that they will feel richly blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in all of their beginnings.

Michelle Langlois, fcJ

Michelle has been a Faithful Companion of Jesus for three years in Temporary Profession. 

Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption

For many members of the Basilian Community, today’s Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary carries a special significance. For many of us, myself included, this day marks the Anniversary of our Profession of Vows- our entrance into Consecrated Life.  I have to admit that until this point, I haven’t really thought much about the connection between our vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and the life of the Virgin Mary. The connection is there, however- and it is a very powerful one! Mary gives us a model of perfect chastity, perfect obedience to God’s will, and exemplifies poverty by her detachment from worldly goods, power, and prestige. Mary’s concern is always for others. We see this in a powerful way in the Gospel that we read for this Feast, which recounts Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth. Even in the Magnificat, which the Church prays each evening in her evening prayer, exemplifies Mary’s humility. Mary’s focus is on what God has done for her, not what she has done for herself!
Within Mary’s prayer lies a powerful reminder for me as a Religious, and as a Priest. That its not my job to worry about what people think of me, or what my reputation is. My only job as a Priest and as a Religious is to do the will of God, through my ministry to his people, and to give glory to God for the great works that He is accomplishing through my ministry. May each of us who have consecrated our lives in service to God learn to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as we live out our vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience in service to the Lord.

Blog posting by: Fr. Steven Huber, CSB
Fr. Steven is a member of the Congregation of St. Basil, who is currently serving at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Windsor, Ontario. Fr. Steven also serves as Chaplain of Campus Ministry at the University of Windsor.

 

 

 

Stories as Unique as We Are

July 2019 marked the third summer retreat for Religious 55 ish and under in Canada. These experiences have proven to be a gift and blessing for those attending and for our communities. Habits of the Heart, the theme for this summer, guided our thoughts, prayers and conversations. Fr. Ron Rolheiser, omi, invited us to spend time during our retreat reflecting on What’s your faith story – what’s your call? Why are you sitting here this week?
I appreciated the time to reflect on that question. We also had an opportunity to share our story with others during the retreat. Our calls are as unique as we are and there is no one way that God calls us to our vocation. Some of us have been called through significant experiences or invitations from people. Others have found themselves attentive to God’s call from the “fire or the fog” (Fr. DeBona, OSB).
After the retreat, followed by a few more days in Canada, I left for our retreat house in Santa Cruz, CA. In addition to this being one of the most beautiful places, it also holds a significant place in my heart on my journey as a religious.
In the spring of 2009, I was sent to a gathering /retreat here in Santa Cruz to deepen my understanding of our foundress. At the time I was the Campus Minister for our SNJM school and was passively considering religious life. The experience during that week exposed me to many new dimensions of our foundress, the charism, the congregation and how my story also fit into it.
All of this was days before my 39th Birthday and I was absorbing this information about our foundress, Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, like a sponge. I felt a closeness to her that I had never experienced before. As I reflected on her life; gifts and challenges, she became real to me. Her deep love and trust in Jesus and Mary, while she faithfully forged ahead to meet the needs of her time, even though she died at age 39, was radical discipleship.
During that week, I recall walking along the beach, looking out to the ocean and listening to music on my mp3 (yes, you read correctly). A song came on by one of my favourite groups, who happen to be Canadian, Great Big Sea. I heard the lyrics to the song like never before. The song was, Walk on the Moon. And the refrains says, “Now, I’m alive. I got one shot and I’m taking this on you”. It was as though I knew at that moment, God was calling me with my unique gifts and strengths to do something that no one else can do. And I was being called to do it as religious. I just knew that, “this is my one small step. This was my walk on the moon.” 
Each time I return to this place, I walk the beach and listen to that song. Even though living as a religious is challenging and I’m not always happy, my life has meaning. I know this is still my walk on the moon.
Here’s the link to the song.

Article by: Sr. Michelle Garlinski, SNJM (below)

 

Another Great Retreat!

Another great retreat for younger and new religious comes to a close at Queen of the Apostles Retreat Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.  Thank you to Sisters Céline Belliveau, NDSC, Michelle Langlois, FCJ, and Michelle Garlinski, SNJM for organizing things so well, to Fr Chris for the amazing food, and to Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI for leading us through his talks on the theme: “Habits of the Heart.”  It was truly a time of renewal for us all as we laughed, prayed, played, ate, talked, and enjoyed some silence and sharing our stores as we live out this beautiful vocation to religious life.  If only for 5 days.  May God continue to bless new and younger religious everywhere with the vibrancy that continues to grow whenever 2 or 3 (or even 37 of us!) gather together.  Even more blog updates to come right up until next year’s retreat.  How exciting is that!?  Safe trip home everyone!

Your dedicated editor of aroundthewell.ca,

Toby Collins, CR

 

Pentecôte

“Donne-moi la Sagesse, assise près de toi.”  Sagesse 9, 4

Il y a quelques années, je me promenais sur le terrain de notre chalet communautaire, déambulant un peu n’importe où quand je me suis retrouvée devant une balançoire accrochée entre deux arbres.  C’était en soirée et la rivière par derrière était calme. J’ai pris une photo, ne sachant pas ce qu’elle ressemblerait (car c’était avant l’ère des caméras digitales)! Une fois développée, la photo était très belle!

La vie est un peu comme une vieille caméra.  On se promène un peu partout, on prend des décisions au sujet de ceci ou de cela, sans savoir précisément comment les choses vont tourner.  Et parfois, sinon toujours, c’est mieux ainsi. Si l’on savait à l’avance ce qui allait nous arriver, nous céderions probablement à la panique en figeant sur place ou en nous sauvant en courant; en tout cas, ce serait probablement l’une de mes réactions…

C’est correct de ne pas savoir ce qui va nous arriver parce que l’Esprit saint nous a été donné.  La fête de la Pentecôte nous rappelle que nous ne sommes pas seuls. Parfois, j’essaye de m’imaginer ce que les disciples de Jésus ont dû vivre.  Ils ont partagés trois ans de leur vie avec Jésus. Ils ont bénéficié de sa sagesse et de tous ses autres dons de Dieu. Ils pensaient avoir tout perdu lorsque Jésus est mort sur la croix, mais voilà qu’il leur est apparu ressuscité.  Mais cela ne s’arrêtait pas là; voilà qu’il allait leur être enlevé de nouveau. La pensée de cette deuxième séparation a dû être difficile à accepter. Mais Jésus leur fit une promesse qu’il ne les laisserait pas seuls, que Dieu leur enverrait l’Esprit saint.  Ils ne pouvaient pas comprendre ce que ceci voulait dire avant de le recevoir, mais quelle allégresse ils ont dû ressentir lorsque l’Esprit saint leur fut effectivement envoyé. Ils ont alors reçu tous les dons de l’Esprit saint et ils ont compris que Jésus, Dieu et l’Esprit saint seraient toujours présents dans leurs cœurs et parmi eux.

Et c’est ainsi pour nous.  Nous ne sommes pas seuls et nous n’avons pas à avoir peur de ce qui va se passer si nous croyons réellement que l’Esprit saint nous donnera ce dont nous avons besoin, quand nous en aurons besoin.

L’image de la balançoire vide n’en est pas une de tristesse.  Plusieurs religieuses y ont passé du temps à prier Dieu. Quand je vois cette balançoire vide, je vois la présence de Dieu dans la vie de mes consoeurs, dans ma propre vie et dans le monde.  Que Dieu nous accorde sa sagesse et tous ses autres dons à travers l’Esprit saint afin de nous aider à consentir à ce qui est à venir.

Joyeuse Pentecôte!

éline Belliveau, NDSC

Religieuse de Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur

“Give me the wisdom that sits by your throne.”  Wisdom 9, 4

A few years back, I was at our sisters’ cottage, wandering around the grounds with my camera, and I fell upon this swing hung between two trees.  It was evening, and the river behind it was calm. I took a picture, not knowing how it was going to turn out (because it was before the era of digital photos)!  And it turned out beautifully!

Life is a little like a roll-film camera.  You wander around, you make decisions to do this or that, but you never quite know how things are going to turn out.  And sometimes, if not all the time, this is okay. If we knew in advance all that was going to happen to us, we would probably panic and either freeze or run away; anyways, I know I would…

It’s okay not knowing what is going to happen because the Holy Spirit has been given to us.  The feast of Pentecost reminds us that we are not alone on our journey. Sometimes, I try to put myself in the shoes of Jesus’ disciples.  They had been with him for three years. They had benefitted from Jesus’ wisdom and other great gifts of God. They thought they had lost everything when Jesus died on the cross, but then he was with them again, resurrected, only to be taken a second time from them.  The thought of this second separation must have been so difficult to bear. But Jesus made them a promise that he would not leave them alone, that God would send them the Holy Spirit. They couldn’t understand beforehand what this meant, but what elation they must have felt when the Holy Spirit did come upon them.  They then received all the gifts of the Spirit and they understood that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit would always be present in their hearts and among them.

And so it is for us.  We are not alone and we need not fear what is to come if we truly believe that the Holy Spirit will give us what we need, when we need it.

The image of the empty swing is not one of sadness.  Many sisters have spent time in it, praying to God. When I see this empty swing, I see God’s presence in my sisters’ life, in my own, and in the world.  May God give us his wisdom and all his other gifts through his Holy Spirit to help consent to what is to come.

May you all have a blessed feast of Pentecost.

Céline Belliveau, NDSC

Religieuse de Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur

 

 

 

He Has Risen!

A mother of 5 spoke to me this past week about the need for everyone to be more in touch with the reality of God’s love and spending less time online.  She talked about her and her children’s constant battle with distractions of all sorts and put her finger on technology as making it more difficult to stay in touch with what is real and healthier.

As a younger religious I’m grateful for 2 things this Easter.  One, that I have the privilege of being able to relate and enter into the emptiness of upcoming generations.  And, two, that Christ has risen in a way that calls us all to get excited about facing a new reality of health, healing and hope.  Perhaps it is the hunger for these very things that drive us all to distractions that ultimately leave us isolated, empty and broken? In any case, I, like Mary Magdalene and the other disciples choose to run to the emptiness of any tomb in my restless heart that has death and despair in it so that I can be in touch with my own reality and invite Christ risen from the dead into it.  I always seem to feel more free when I do this and more in touch with my responsibility to deal with what I lack and what Jesus’ resurrected presence means for us all.  May God bless us this Easter with the courage to model what it means to live in the reality of our brokenness so that in the face of despair the narrative that begins with an empty tomb may become more real and transformative for everyone.

Photo and reflection by:  Toby Collins, CR – a Resurrectionist who ministers with two other Resurrectionists at St. Mary’s Parish in downtown Kitchener, Ontario.

A Lenten Meditation

4th Sunday of Lent 

As you begin, take a moment of silence be attentive to God’s presence. Invite your body, mind and spirit to slow down. Be aware of any distractions around you or within you…

pause

What grace or gift do you ask God for as you begin this prayer time?

 Reading

Luke (15:1-3,11-32)

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” 

Reflection

This parable, which happens to be the longest of all the parables that Jesus shares, is a familiar one for most of us. The wisdom of the Church to place these readings of reconciliation and celebration in Lent is a sure sign that it is food for our journey to Easter. Compassion is the key that unlocks the way of the heart. The father in the parable gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. There are several  examples of this and the two I wish to note are when the younger son returns and when the older son will not join the party. The father does not wait, in either circumstance, to judge or condemn the sons. Rather, he meets them where they are; one on the road coming home and the other in the field. By meeting them where they are, the father never says, I told you so. The father’s compassion is an active waiting. He never forces either of them to come into the house. His generosity and compassion embraces their repentant and angry hearts.  Our God waits for us in active ways. When we choose to sin and distance ourselves from God, God waits for us in the people and events that surround us. Then when we experience God’s compassion  through the words or actions of others or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are again reminded that God’s heart is much larger than we can ever imagine or comprehend.  

Meditation

Take time to reread the passage. 

What word or phrase remains with you?  

As you think about your life, What ways do I actively wait and meet people where they are at?Do I place a greater value on being right rather than being compassionate? Are there times when I make choices that prevent me from accepting God’s compassion?

Take a moment to ask God to journey with you through the fourth week of Lent. Be mindful of the Lenten promises you have made. 

Closing Prayer

Pause and share with God the needs and prayers that rest on your heart this day.  Amen.

Written by: Michelle Garlinski, SNJM