A Poem to Conclude the Christmas Season

Come Into My Heart

Yes, Christ Child come into my heart,

open me up to see you in the manger

and see that simplicity.

Open me up to see

your gift of trust,

your gift of abandonment,

your gift of hope and joy.

Yes, Christ Child come into my heart,

again this Christmas,

so that with Mary & Joseph

I may prepare a room for you

as small as my heart and as big as the world

so I may ponder all you fill my life with

and embrace you more and more.

Yes, Christ Child come into my heart,

so I may be filled with wonder and awe

like the shepherds and magi,

so I may give praise to you for all your goodness,

so I may be strengthened to build the kingdom,

so I may proclaim:

God is With Us Always until the End of Time!

Yes, Christ Child come into my heart,

Oh Christ Child you have come again… Thank You!

  • Br. Michael Perras, OFM


Christmas: Being Found by Joy

In my community and in my family I have noticed that we can all be stubborn about our need to be in control and independent.  That’s why I find it interesting that God chose to reveal the Messiah laying in a manger.  For me, this revelation can be quite difficult to accept because I didn’t think of it and I certainly would never have thought to be saved through such poverty.  I simply don’t understand.
This past summer I caught my nieces and nephews in a moment of pure joy.  They were all well-fed, playful and reconciled with each other.  It was a beautiful moment! I could see God’s presence in each of their faces.  Perhaps the birth of Jesus simply says that God wants to draw near to us all.  To help us to smile and experience pure joy.  Wanting us to be more and more humble and loving.  Wanting us to be more trusting of a God who made an eternal covenant of love the moment we were baptized. Wanting us to stop trying to manufacture joy and simply be found by it.
In a way, the birth of Jesus can seem like the opposite of joy.  In some ways Christ’s birth marks for Jesus, Mary, Joseph (and many others) the beginnings of  tumultuous times of insecurity wrought with pain and suffering.  But they all eventually found by joy.  Like them we can discover through a baby lying in a manger that God will always find us.  And that there is no place in existence where we cannot be found so long as we are willing to God’s plan usurp our own.  May Christ’s presence in our communities and families this Christmas continue to lay waste to what keeps us from becoming one family.  And may his joy, forgiving heart, and eternal desire to reconcile all things find us wherever we go in 2019!
On behalf of the editors of aroundthewell.ca may you have a blessed Christmas and a happy, and holy new year!
Toby Collins, CR
Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish
Kitchener, Ontario
(below: a picture of my nieces and nephews in ‘perfect joy’)

Advent: A Call for Conversion

“A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Visiting the Nativity Church in Bethlehem- the star marks the place of Jesus’ birth

Each year Advent has a different tone for me. This year from the very beginning of the Advent season, the word ‘Conversion of Heart’ has been present. Initially I was a bit confused as to why there was a call to conversion in my prayer and reflections- turning back to God and repentance of sin seems to be more fitting for the Lenten season. 

Nevertheless, as I ponder on the celebration of Christ’s birth and the invitation to prepare a way for the Lord, I perceive the winding roads and rough ways that are present in my heart. 

Here in Brazil (the Southern Hemisphere) where the closing of the academic year aligns with the end of the civil year, I need to make a heroic effort to not be swept away by the frenzy of yearend activities, closing projects, last minute meetings and endless Christmas parties. 

Truly, the voice crying in the desert needs to be heard in my prayer, each day. Am I making God’s entrance into my life easier, smoother, clearer? How can I raise up and rise above the deep valleys of frustration, impatience and activism?

The voice in the desert draws me towards the empty manger, inviting me to silence and conversion of heart. I want to be ready to welcome the Salvation that is to come and, at the same time, is present among us.

Pictures and Article by: Kate O’Connor.  She is a member of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, a Society of Apostolic Life. Originally from Stratford, Ontario, she currently carries out pastoral ministry with adults in the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Keeping God in Plain Sight

Last year at a Vocations event in Calgary, a habited Religious Sister I know shared an anecdote about a morning which saw her engaging in the routine task of taking out the garbage.  A man happened to be walking by.  He saw her and stopped, staring at her for some moments.  He then approached her to say “I hadn’t thought of God today until I saw you.”  I was deeply touched by this story.  Imagine inspiring another to contemplate God by the simple act of dressing for the day and putting the garbage out!

I’m often moved by these moments that we, as Religious, are so fortunate to witness to just by the gift of being Religious.  I ‘gave testimony’ at a Charismatic event in June, and was approached afterwards by a man who had listened to me speak, in part, about the Ignatian Examen.  He had with him a creased and well-worn book of Ignatian Examens that he used frequently himself.  It struck me that he should have been the one speaking to the group about the value of this particular style of prayer, as he seemed more devoted to it than anyone I’d ever met.  I was touched by his faithfulness to it and by the sense that he wanted to share his love for this particular style of worship with me, who as a Religious Sister in an Ignatian Congregation, he knew would uniquely understand.

When we read in the Gospel of Luke about Mary treasuring the events of the Christmas story and pondering them in her heart, I think that this is an integral part of what we are called to do as Religious:  to see God at work in the ordinary unfolding of our day and to make time to inwardly sit with these moments, letting their joy permeate our very being.  I think it is part of our gift as Religious that we can uniquely witness these moments, for we are called to live the Gospel in a more public, corporate way than others.  People perceive that we will appreciate these ‘God-moments’ in ways that many others may not.  Many recognize us as a safe-haven with whom they can share these precious gems.

I am a teacher/chaplain in a junior high school and was recently walking behind a group of students in the hallway.  I saw one of the students briefly turn his head to catch sight of me in his peripheral vision.  Then, in a strong voice, he said to his friend walking with him, “Don’t you just love God?  I just love God!”  With a mischievous glint in his eyes, he suddenly turned around to greet me with pretend surprise and a big grin:  “Oh, hey Sister Michelle!”  

For me, this was a moment to cherish, not unlike that of the story of the Sister taking out the garbage.  Here was a young person who had thought of God at the sight of me that day, albeit probably in a less reverent way than the anecdote above.  Nevertheless, what a place of privilege to witness these small, ordinary God-moments that unfold before us!  Let us try to make time to ponder them as we travel this Advent journey together.

Article and pictures by:  Sr. Michelle Langlois, fcJ 

Sr. Michelle has now professed 2 years of temporary vows with the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (fcJ).  She lives in Edmonton, AB and was born in Winnipeg, MB.


How are Your Relationships?

For any human being relationships are a significant part of who we are and how we come to discover a bit more of how we want to be.  Relationships are fundamental to our development. How often do we reflection on our relationships? How often do we look at the relationships we have beyond our comfort zone? How often do we consider the dignity of our relationships?

“To recognize the Other is to recognize a hunger. To recognize the Other is to give. …I can recognize the gaze of the stranger, the widow, and the orphan only in giving or in refusing.”   – Emmanuel Levinas

Where in our lives do we allow this hunger to feed our heart and soul?Where are the stranger, widows, and orphans in our lives as religious?How are we giving of ourselves? Where are we refusing? Looking for an Advent tune up with these thoughts?

I recommend seeing the film Green Book in theatres now. It offers much for reflection on relationship, human dignity, family dynamics and friendship as we head into the Advent Season. Can we see Jesus our Emmanuel – God with us – in our every day? In our relationships?

“Every person, from the first moment of life in the womb, has an inviolable dignity, because from all eternity God willed, loved, created, and redeemed that person and destined that person for eternal happiness. “ – CCC 1699-1715

           Written by: Br. Michael Perras, OFM

Walking with Teen Solidifies Vocation

The question used to be why do you want to be a nun (a religious).  The answer was easy – because I love Jesus… Then it became why do you choose to say yes everyday to being a nun (religious)?  The answer still seemed easy – because I still love Jesus and I can do good work with Him and my sisters.

Then the work required a teenager living with us for 4 long years, and the question from the teenager became, what makes you different than anyone else who goes to church?  Then answer became: Because, you live here!!

Who would have ever imagined that a teenager would be the one to solidify my vocation!?  Not me!

Rebecca came to live with us 4 years ago.  As a 14-year-old in need of stability, rules, and some uncomplicated love.  She sure did make my prayer life an active one.  From someone who was once described as uncontrollable- hiding under desks, doing whatever she wanted, not being up to speed academically, to a well composed, almost poised, academically strong first year university student.  And we (Sr. Lise & I) were witness, punching bag, mother, father, teacher, and partner to her success.  

So, why I am telling you this?  Because as crazy as she made me (and it was a daily crazy) she solidified my vocation.  Without Rebecca in my life I would not be able to say with conviction that I AM A SISTER OF THE HOLY NAMES OF JESUS & MARY.  Without my community Rebecca would not be where she is today- The University of Carleton in Ottawa.

 Rebecca at her High School Grad

When I brought Rebecca home Sr. Lise said yes- sight unseen.  People asked, “Why”? and the only answer I have is, “It’s what we do”.  We serve, we help, we love unconditionally – which I have come to learn doesn’t mean it is without frustration.

So, if you are ever looking for a way to re-commit to your vocation, I recommend taking in a teenager or consider making the summer retreat with the younger-“ish” Canadian Religious.  Stay Tuned for details about the retreat… not getting a teenager – you have to get your own!

Article and photo by: Sr. Connie Harrington, SNJM

New Religious Life: Perseverance Pays Off


Recently, Ed Sikora (right) professed his first vows and Raphael Ma (left) renewed his vows at Resurrection College in Waterloo, Ontario.  I have been part of a team of Resurrectionists and lay people that have supported them and offered suggestions along the way to help them discern their fit potential fit with our community.

4 years ago I remember the knock on the door as a vocation director with nobody in formation.  It was Raphael, or “Raph” as we now call him.  He came across the question “Why not religious life?” in his discernment and knew some Resurrectionists whom he admired that could perhaps help him find out more about this path.  I was just just happy to have someone knock on the door.  He looked a little heavier with serious decisions to make.  He had to leave a lot behind, his parents perception of their son’s future was challenged, and the less than robust formation plan in religious communities these days made things more than a little confusing for him and for us all.  We had many questions like: Where was God leading this young man?  What would it mean for his future and the future of the community?  How can we all “get out of the way” and let the Holy Spirit do what she does best?  When he renewed his vows that day I simply admired his perseverance, his family’s perseverance, and God’s perseverance in them and in our religious community.  The ceremony lead to many moments of pure joy and continues to give us all hope for the present and future of religious life.

Ed was a different story.  He was a photocopy repair person in Bermuda visiting the various parishes that our community ministered at.  Over a 10 year period he was quietly deepening his prayer life and feeling drawn ever closer to these priests whom he served as customers.  I think he was spying on us – in a good way!  It wasn’t until one of our men was installed as the next Bishop of Bermuda that he decided to take a leap and apply to begin as a postulant.  He has since completed a one-year novitiate in Chicago and his radiant face in the photo above reveals the happiness he continues to experience discerning with us.

All of this is to simply express some gratitude to God for being with our community, all those discerning religious life, and those for whom the discernment affects the most.  I have noticed over the years that discernment can be a bit of a grind for candidates and those walking with them at times, but perseverance really does pay off.  I think our constant efforts to embrace this beautiful vocation for today let God know that we are serious about the future of religious life and that we see it as a partnership with God where we both promise to never give up.  Perhaps that’s why nobody can really say that God desires a community to grow or go out of existence.  Perhaps it more of a relational thing where we all get to have a say in whether or not our community lives or dies.

Written by: Fr. Toby Collins, CR

Vows ceremony video

Bishop’s ordination in Bermuda video

La petite fille au radar pour les religieuses

Je suis invitée pour un souper de fête surprise chez une nouvelle amie. Parmi les personnes présentes, je ne connais presque personne. Il y a seulement un enfant, une petite fille de 18 mois. Louise-Marie est enjouée, avec sa belle binette et ses cheveux blonds bouclés. Tous les invités veulent lui parler, mais elle n’a d’yeux que pour son père et sa mère. Mais, tranquillement, elle est venue à moi et, finalement, elle se jetait dans mes bras et je la soulevais dans les airs… Alors, les autres invités voulaient encore plus la prendre… Rien à faire…à part ses parents chéris, elle n’allait voir personne d’autres, sauf moi.

Quelques jours plus tard, mon amie parle à son neveu, le père de la petite. Ce dernier lui dit combien il fut surpris que sa fille se laisse prendre par moi. Il ajoute qu’elle ne va pas vers les gens, sauf vers les religieuses âgées où sa conjointe travaille comme archiviste pour la congrégation.

Alors, mon amie rit et lui dit que je suis une religieuse!

Je ne sais pas trop ce que Louise-Marie perçoit. Est-ce la paix, le cœur ouvert ou mieux, la présence du Christ … Mais clairement cette petite enfant sait reconnaître les traits de la vie religieuse chez une personne, sans attacher d’attention à la croix ou à un vêtement typiquement religieux.

Cette rencontre m’a interpelée sur Celui à qui nous avons consacré notre vie entière. À tout moment, Jésus peut faire sentir sa présence aimante à travers nous.

Nous portons le Parfum de Christ partout où nous allons, 

par notre comportement paisible, 

ainsi que par nos paroles de sagesse et d’amour.

cf: 2 Corinthiens 2, 14 – 17  et 4, 13 


English Version:

Little girl with a radar for the nuns!

I’m invited for a surprise party dinner for a new friend. I almost do not know anyone present. There is only one little girl present. She is 18 months old. Louise-Marie is playful and with her beautiful hoe and her beautiful blond curly hair, all the guests want to talk to her, but she only has eyes for her father and her mother. But slowly, she came to me, started jumping into my arms and I was raising in the air … Then the other guests wanted even more to take her … Nothing to do … apart from her beloved parents, she was not going toward anyone except me.

A few days later, my friend talks to her nephew, the little girl’s father. He told her how surprised he was that his daughter lets herself be taken by me. He added that she does not go easily to people except the elderly nuns where her spouse works as an archivist for a congregation. They go visit them on occasion.

So my friend laughs and tells her that I am a nun!

I do not know what the child perceives, is it peace, the open heart or better the presence of Christ or what else, but clearly this little child knows how to recognize the features of religious life in a person, without recognizing my cross and without clothing typically religious.

This encounter challenged me on The One to whom we have dedicated our whole life troughs consecrated life, in a way that at any moment, Jesus can make know his loving presence through us.

We carry the fragrance of Christ wherever we go, by our peaceful behavior, as well as by our words of wisdom and love.

2 Corinthians 2, 14-17 and 4, 13

Article and Photo by Sr. IsaBelle Couillard, s.g.m.

Religious Life as a Brother


Fraternity beckons me beyond myself

it requires compassion and presence.

Minority beckons me beyond myself

it requires simplicity and trust.


Obedience beckons me beyond myself

it requires listening and openness.

Chastity beckons me beyond myself

it requires love and respect.

Poverty beckons me beyond myself

it requires awareness and honesty.


Community beckons me beyond myself

it requires awareness and collaboration.

Religious Life beckons me beyond myself

it requires enthusiasm and generosity.

Faith beckons me beyond myself

it requires prayer and service.

Hope beckons me beyond myself

it requires freedom and joy.

Love beckons me beyond myself

it requires kinship and sacrifice.

When I am called Brother

it beckons me beyond myself

it requires me to embrace Christ and live the Gospel.


Poem composed by:  Br. Michael Perras, OFM

Photos by:  Br. Carlos Ona, OFM and Br. Michael Perras, OFM                                     (Br. Michael is below on the left with Br. Michael Okwegba, OFM on the right)

Can Anything Good Come From…a Laz-y-Boy Chair?

Spring 2016, I returned to the Novitiate house after attending a NAVFD (National Association of Vocation Formators and Directors) conference in my home town of Winnipeg. While I was at the conference, I had a good look around the room and it prompted my wonderings and question, “who I am going to grow old with as a Religious in Canada?”  This question accompanied me in my prayer. I loved to pray in my room, which had a comfortable tan colored Laz-y-boy chair that faced the windows. It offered me a prime view of God’s handiwork as I gazed out.  So I sat with this question and allowed it to just rest in me. One day I recall concluding that we have to gather Religious who are younger / newer in formation together. The question then became, how? With our communities stretched in all ways with resources, planning a conference or a workshops was highly unlikely. Then the thought that all religious do make annual retreats and perhaps that is something we could share in together. This possibility led me to imagining when? Where? Who could lead this? What was most important or non-negotiable for this experience to be authentic? 

As I would journal and reflect on these questions, it seemed obvious, to me anyways, that whomever we get to lead this must have Canadian roots or be in Canada; should be a Religious and be a respected voice in their field. As I continued to dream…Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s name was coming to mind. I knew how busy he was and that his schedule is quite booked. I also remembered that that he visits his home diocese of Saskatoon each summer and offers a retreat at the local retreat house.  Then the, “I wonder if’s…” began. So I called the retreat house in Saskatoon asked about the following summer retreat dates, and if there was availability following the retreat. Then I made a call to Fr. Ron’s assistant. Explained to her what it was, that I knew him and if he would be interested. While all of this was happening, I was sharing this dream with my Novice Director and another younger religious from Canada, Ken Thorson, omi who knows Fr. Ron well. The responses were positive so I thought,” let’s see where this goes”. I heard back from his assistant and she indicated he was interested but the schedule was not finalized for the  summer 2017. She said she would let me know. This was June 2016. That summer I returned to Winnipeg to begin my Missionary Novice year. While on retreat that summer, I consciously asked for God’s grace to be free about this dream. If it moves forward, it does and if not, it is not meant to be at this time. I prayed that I might have the grace to not hold on to something or force something that was not spirit-led. 

October came, and I still had not heard back. I made a call to follow up (sometimes things fall off the radar). No, it was not known yet. She told me she would let me know. As Advent approached, I found myself truly entering the time of waiting. I also knew that time was going by and if we wanted to launch this for the summer, time was of the essence. Again, I thought, ok God, this is on your watch, not mine. 

It was December 22. I called his assistant and left a message. I knew this was highly unlikely to happen for the summer and I was ok with that. It was a good dream but the time was not right. So my message thanked her for her assistance and since I had not heard, maybe this needs to be put to rest for another time.  The next day I had a call back from her. She indicated that she and Fr. Ron had met the day before and were reviewing the request and schedule for the 2017 year. She informed me that it was a go and to contact him directly to discuss the details.  I was stunned. Overwhelmed with joy and some disbelief. It was still a long journey before it could be realized, but the doors had been opened to proceed to the next level of planning. I remember being at Christmas Eve mass and truly feeling like Christ WAS born for me that year. 

And so after further conversations with my community, and with their encouragement and prayers, more planning followed. The assistance that NAVFD provided in publicizing the retreat was invaluable. They have been wonderful companions to us on this journey. 

Our Retreat in the summer of 2017 gathered 23 participants from various parts of Canada. Male and female we gathered to pray, build community, share in silence and conversation and learn from our facilitator. It was surreal. It was from God.  

Following the summer retreat in 2017, I received a call from Fr. Ron and he asked about the next retreat and doing it again. I know the evaluations /summary of reflections indicated that we should be doing it again.  He was willing to lead us with another topic. Queens House had availability and it seemed that the call was clear – do it again. This time, I had others to invite to share in the promotion, and tasks of the retreat. We had 20 participants in 2018 with nearly three-quarters of the group being new. We were also reaching different communities and clearly the word was spreading. 

So here we are, the fall after our 2018 retreat. The group clearly felt that we needed to continue with the retreats. However, the new “shoot” that sprouted was the need to keep the spark burring between retreats. Thus with the idea, vision and commitment of Toby Collins CR and a small group of others to develop the idea of the blog site. 

And God said, “let there be a blog site!” The hope is to share a posting each week with our viewers. Though our targeted audience is Religious under 55 or newer in formation, here in Canada or abroad with Canadian roots, all are welcome to visit it. The focus is celebrating the joy, challenges and life that being a Religious, at this age or stage offers to one another and the world. 

Fr. Ron’s words in our initial conversation in January 2017, about the retreat, echo in my heart. I said, “I have no idea how many to expect or if we should be doing this” and he responded, “It is too important not to do.”

So welcome to our dream! It is too important not to follow!  

Something good CAN come from a Laz-y-boy.

Written by: Michelle Garlinski, SNJM – Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary


2017 Retreat (above), and 2018 Retreat (below)

Click here for Video of 2018 Retreat