Spiritual Message

Spiritual Message – February 2023

Personal and Community Transformation

God . . . as a potter

During the provincial gathering on October 8, 2022, the symbol of a tree was used for the presentation of the theme for the year, Embracing the Newness of the Spirit. To broaden and deepen our reflection, let us now refer to the beautiful story of the potter which features the figure of the prophet Jeremiah who, in popular thought, is often remembered mainly as the author of the book of Lamentations.


Word of God

Jeremiah recounted his experience of God speaking to him: “The Lord spoke to me, ‘Get up and make your way down to the potter’s house; there I shall let you hear what I have to say.’ So, I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. And whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as happens with the clay handled by potters, he would start afresh and work it into another vessel, as potters do.” (Jer. 18: 1-4)

In the potter’s house

Let us note that it is God who sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house. He wanted to instruct him about his plans for him and prepare him for his mission as a prophet. With a discerning eye, Jeremiah watched over every step of the work. The potter had an idea in mind. He knew what he was going to do. He chose the appropriate clay himself. When he tried to give it a shape, the clay resisted. The potter patiently re-started his work many times until he was satisfied with the result.

Why does God need to instruct Jeremiah?

The Bible presents Jeremiah as a gentle man with none of the fire of John the Baptist. His whole life would be marked by ambiguities: fears, recriminations, bursts of confidence, audacity, etc. God entrusted him with a mission that seemed to go beyond his ability, that of presenting himself to the people of Israel in order to exhort them to change their lives! In his confusion, Jeremiah resisted: “I don’t know how to speak, I am only a child.”

Would he forget God’s choice? God had said, “Before you were born I consecrated you. I appointed you as prophet to the nations, I will be with you.” (Jer. 1: 5, 8) Would he forget what he himself had already acknowledged? He had said, “You have seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced. . . Then there seemed like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me. You have overpowered me, you were stronger.” (Jer. 20: 7, 9)


Do we, as individuals or as a community, sometimes resemble Jeremiah in the face of calls for change and transformation?

The Divine Potter at work in our lives

Each person is created unique, distinct. God has a dream for each of us. God knows what each of us can become if we accept to be shaped by God’s hands, at times to be broken by suffering. But God does nothing without our cooperation. Because Mary consented to God’s desire for her, she was able to exclaim, “The Lord has done marvels for me!” We are not always as available as Mary was. Yet God will never abandon his work; he will even take what we reject or disregard (1 Cor. 1: 28) in order to sanctify our vessels of clay and make them useful for every good work. (2 Tim 2: 21). God will always sustain us with his Word, his Bread, and his Forgiveness.

Moment for reflection

The Potter’s Song (Internet text)

Like clay in the hands of the potter,

O my people, I have been fashioning you for a long time.

Even before you were, I could already see you.

I alone envision what you can become.

And if, as happens with clay, the result is not as it should be,

I will always reshape you, never giving up.


Our fragility, a blessing?

“We are all, to one degree or another, fragile vessels . . . We are human beings in the process of becoming, therefore incomplete and always evolving, living the complementarity of gifts and talents . . . The experience of fragility benefits us, because it reveals our need to be in relationship, the need for solidarity in order to move forward together in life, and the existence of unsuspected resources within ourselves and in our surroundings.”

          La fragilité. Faiblesse ou richesse ? (Fragility. Weakness or richness?) – Bernard Ugeux                                                

Our ever-present mission

The song Signs of the Times, by Robert Lebel, reminds us that, “at any point in our life, we are given enough time . . . to live each day to the full . . . to journey towards Love. . . and to realize the importance of living in the present.” Our Constitutions support this affirmation by telling us that “we are on mission until the end of our days.”  

What, then, is this mission that, without a doubt, “gently follows its course”?

Is it a mission of “closeness” or “kinship” that keeps us in solidarity with our world, an offering of humble daily services or acts of kindness, a mission of mutual collaboration, a state of self-denial or abandonment? In short, is it a call to witness to a serene life in which we know in whom we have placed our hope?


How do the two preceding paragraphs relate to my personal and community experience?

              God, continue in us the work of your hands.

              May our journey on earth leave traces of your glory.

 A text for further reflection

As the body withers, the soul flourishes. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recognized our ultimate fulfillment in God:

“When the erosions of age begin to leave their mark on my body, and still more on my mind; . . .  when I reach that painful moment at which I suddenly realize that I am a sick [person] or that I am growing old; above all at that final moment when I feel I am losing hold on myself . . .  grant me, Lord, to understand that it is you (provided my faith is strong enough) who are painfully separating the fibers of my being so as to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and draw me into yourself.”     Hymn of the Universe, # 30

                                                                   Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. (Trans. Gerald Vann, O.P.)


A Short Allegory

The Great Potter

From his heavenly workshop, the Great Potter

Proudly contemplated the collection of his works.

There was pottery of all shapes and forms,

Of all sizes and colors.


He desired each of these works

As a mother awaiting the birth of her child.

With care, love, and patience,

He had created each one unique and beautiful.


However the clay in his hands had often resisted.

Then he would begin again, softening it and remolding it

Until his design emerged

As an object of service or of art.

Simone Perras, SNJM

Spiritual Message - October 2022

Let us embrace the newness of the Spirit!

Awake? Aware? Attuned?

“It is so strange to be on the earth. In a certain way, nobody ever really recovers from the surprise of being here. It is surprising how we manage our lives so powerfully externally as to forget the incredible mystery we are involved in.” (John O’Donohue) The ancient longing that lives within us moves us to a life-long keeping a vigil of mystery, with hearts open to discovery, to newness, to delight, to transformation.

In Ecclesiastes, the author proclaims, “there is nothing new under the sun,” while in Lamentations we hear that “the mercies of God are new every morning.” We can ask ourselves what is our outlook in the world in which we live today. A stance with attitudes characterized more by routine than expectation? Blandness more than delight? Anxiety more than trust? As we reflect on this outlook, what call to embrace the newness of the Spirit do we hear?

Why must we be attentive to the call to awaken? Why must we follow the eternal questions of our soul? Because routine and unreflective living causes us to lose our sense of wonder, wonder that opens us to God who is “Beauty ever ancient and Beauty ever new.” (St. Augustine)

Yet fear of the unknown holds us back; we cling to the known. All nature changes daily; as humans, we can refuse to grow. We are afraid of the unknown because it lies beyond our vision and our control. Sometimes it takes deep suffering or loss to awaken us; at other times, it is an experience of profound joy. Change is very difficult; it requires our accepting with open arms and a trusting heart that our loving God who was with us yesterday will still be here tomorrow. Once we start to awaken anew, attuned to the God of Love, we become willing to put ourselves in the way of change. It is then that transformation can happen, for fundamentally, change comes about through love; love is life’s deepest wellspring, the place of God’s abiding.

Could it be that we need to recover the childhood innocence with which we were born, in order to glimpse the presence of the Spirit in all of creation? Do we need to recapture an innate childlike way of seeing and living that may have become hidden by neglect throughout our lives, dulled by lack of use? A kind of blindness or spiritual insensitivity? Maybe we can figuratively try to stand on our tiptoes like a child, delighting in nature and in one another. In childlike simplicity, as we wake each morning, we could smile and greet the day, embracing the newness the day will bring. We could respond to Jesus’ words resounding in our hearts, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never know the reign of God.”

As we seek to embrace the newness of the Spirit, and reflect on our spiritual quest in light of discoveries in space, our hearts and minds may well be astonished and stretched by the photos of our expansive universe, dating back 13.6 billion light years, captured by the James Webb telescope. What do these images evoke in us, of God, of ourselves, of Earth?

Standing in wonder and radical amazement, we might be moved to become psalmists, composing and singing together: “All you thousands of galaxies, bless our God! All you stars coming to birth, praise and exalt God forever! God of the universe, all of creation is resplendent with your presence!”

Artist: Mary Southard

Grounded in the present moment, we will always find our points of contact with God. As we discover more and more about the universe, we need creative religious imagination to respond to our ever-creating God who dwells at the heart of all that exists and has existed. “To insist on a spiritual path that served you in the past is to carry the raft on your back after you have crossed the river.” (Buddha)

In seeking to be more aware, we need to foster a looking and a listening in the midst of every situation and at every moment of life. A stance such as this is the foundation of love, peace and justice in the world. And we dare to say to God, “Ours are the eyes with which you, O God, in the mystery of life, look out in compassion on the world.” (Norman MacLeod) May we discover newness in our relationships as we recognize God in every person we encounter. “Behind every face there is something eternal going on.” (John O’Donohue) We ask ourselves: “What is going on behind the face of the person next to me? Behind the faces of the millions of people I see on our screens, ravaged by war, prejudice, climate crises? What is the eternal that is going on behind my own face, the eternal that I allow others to find in me?”

As we face major change in our lives, personally, congregationally and as a worldwide community of people, let us pray that the Spirit who makes all things new will ever be our breath of life as we continue to embrace the incredible mystery of our life here on Earth, alert, aware, attuned!


Which question or idea in the text leads me to reflection, deeper prayer, action? What stays with me from this reflection? How am I moved to try to embrace the newness of the Spirit?

 Call to Silence

Our words have been spoken, our wisdom exchanged;

And questions arise that cannot be tamed.

We inhabit a mys’try that’s deep and profound.

The arc of creation rests on holy ground.


So rest now the words while the echoes endure

And come home to the silence where wisdom is pure.

And wait in the shadows with light seeping through.

Yes, wait on the Spirit, the source of the new!


In silence, the chaos can be held afresh;

Even in those times when the Spirit is crushed.

And the flickering wick can be fanned into flame.

While the Spirit of silence re-echoes our name. Amen.

Diarmuid O’Murchu

Inspiration: Selected works of John O’Donohue, J. Phillip Newell, Joan Chittister, OSB

Lorna Cooney, SNJM


Spiritual Message - May 2022

Encountering One’s Own Vulnerability and the Needs of Others

Welcoming my vulnerability

If we looked closely at our fragility, if we dared to welcome it and even reveal it to others, we might discover that it is a source of life. What if our weaknesses invited us to become more, to develop more creativity and more solidarity, to become better connected to others, more willing to talk with others,,, Doesn’t the thinness of the eggshell allow a chick to hatch?

Changing my way of looking at things

The first recommendation of the Acts of the 2021 General Chapter invites us to adopt new attitudes towards a diversity of people. What fears rise up in me when I encounter people with “different” opinions, behaviors, or lifestyles? What if, in my vulnerability, I really need these people?

From strength to weakness (Mt. 8: 5-13)

Let us listen to the centurion, the Gentile Roman soldier in a position of power, who dares to confess his powerlessness and fragility to Jesus, a Jewish man from Nazareth. It must have cost the centurion a lot to stoop to begging Jesus to heal his servant, especially since, according to some exegetes, Jesus’ first reaction was one of reluctance. But the centurion insisted and argued his point. This verse marks a turning point in the Gospel. Jesus prepares to go to the home of a Gentile and is ready to transgress a precept of Judaism. The centurion did not ask Jesus to do this; he would have been satisfied with a single word: “Say but the word and my servant will be healed.”

Let us recall that these very words of request from a Gentile officer are on our lips in the Eucharistic liturgy. To assert that a foreigner or stranger can be considered as having the greatest faith in Israel is a paradoxical and scandalous statement. Yet the only two people in the Gospels who are declared to have great faith are two foreigners, the centurion and the Canaanite woman.

The courage to be vulnerable

Daring to be vulnerable requires courage because, due to the uncertainty of the other’s reaction, it entails an openness to being touched or even wounded. It is possible that I am drawn to another person’s vulnerability, that I choose a position of caregiver while my own vulnerability scares me. Being authentic, acknowledging that I am imperfect, requires courage. Am I called to change some of my attitudes towards diversity, towards difference? Am I strong enough interiorly to dare to allow some of my weaknesses to be exposed and to ask for help, even from someone I regard as different?

Our experiences

Can I remember an encounter in which I was in a vulnerable situation? Did this experience of fragility become a blessing for me in any way?

A few years ago, I chose to encounter homeless people at Maison du Père (The Father’s House) in Montreal and to serve them soup at the various tables. However, I felt very uncomfortable. In fact I was shaking so much that I could not serve them without risking burning them! Then a homeless man, smiling at me, offered to help me and served himself… Phew! I had intended to help him and it was I who needed his help!

I learned that being inadequate, incomplete, not knowing everything, and not controlling everything are good news for relationships. Flaws can generate life!

Let us say with Robert Lebel:

We carry a treasure in our clay vessels: the clay of our bodies, Gospel treasure.

Questions for Sharing:

  1. What is my greatest fear?
  2. What relationship do I have with my vulnerability? my courage? my faith?
  3. Do I feel like sharing an experience of fragility when I dared to ask for help?

 Message composed by Jacqueline Boudreau, SNJM

Spiritual Message - November 2021

“In the encounter, I experience who I really am. I discover hidden aspects of myself.

What could not yet be realized now takes shape. I awaken to a new life.” [1]

Veronica: an empathetic encounter

In its first orientation, the 2021 General Chapter invites us “to adopt new worldviews, attitudes and ways of being through ENCOUNTERS with a diversity of peoples, cultures, faith traditions and collaborators in mission.” In the light of this challenge, let us be inspired by A WOMAN named Veronica, who has been revealed to us through centuries of oral tradition.

St. Luke wrote in his Gospel that “a great crowd of people followed Jesus and among them were many women.” (Luke 23: 27)

More recently Joan Chittister, in her book “The Friendship of Women”[2] has brilliantly expanded this biblical account, from which we have drawn inspiration. According to oral tradition, Veronica saw the swollen and bloody body of Jesus as he painfully walked alone towards Golgotha. Unable to bear the pain she was witnessing, she quickly freed herself from the crowd, pushed the guards aside and, in a gesture of pure compassion, wiped the sweat and blood from Jesus’ face with her veil.

Veronica, says Chittister, represents all the unnamed Christians who realize that women who desire “face-to-face” encounters do not turn their eyes away from suffering. The quality of Veronica’s friendship is such that women can look to her and to other Veronicas to find the understanding, empathetic presence they need when facing heart-breaking situations which are too important and vital to be ignored.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Veronica, the friend, removes her own veil and exposes herself to the eyes of society in order to offer comfort where there is only suffering. She does not claim to be able to solve the problem but she refuses to ignore it. She becomes a visible and contradictory presence, facing the oppressive power structures that surround her. She is a guardian of secrets and an anchor against the wind.

And Chittister continues. Women who receive the same call as Veronica, the call to nurture relationships, pay a lot of attention to other people without desiring to possess or take advantage of them. Maude Preston describes such friendships: “There’s not much I can do, but I can sit with you, joke with you, or share some difficulty with you as we pause on our journey.”

According to Chittister, with “Veronicas of friendship” it is the strength to resist that counts, the intuitive consciousness that allows these women to move on from one difficult hour to another, with arms outstretched and an open heart . . .  With a Veronica at one’s side, one can continue to walk, continue to carry the weight of the day that, a moment earlier, seemed unbearable . . .  Veronica does not make the pain disappear. She can only relieve it with her supportive presence and her message of comfort: Don’t give up, I am with you.

“On May 25, 2020, we watched a man die, ‘face down on the pavement . . . and above him another man, a man in uniform’ . . . These 8 minutes and 46 seconds galvanized millions of people to take to the streets . . . They represent people of every age, gender, ethnicity, race, and religion united in solidarity . . . We are being called to articulate and live the

Gospel values and attitudes that are needed in today’s world. These include empathy, openness to the other, mutual sharing and enrichment, hospitality, encouraging and welcoming the stranger, inclusion, respect for the other, . . . celebrating difference, and developing deep connectedness across everything that divides and separates.”  (Pat Murray, Rome, July, 2021)

Sœur Jacqueline Aubry et sœur Jeanne Dagenais

Questions for Reflection and/or Sharing

1- a)  What is new for me in this text?

1- b) Looking back on my personal history, I recall an encounter where a person different from me approached me with empathy. I let rise within me any feelings that still remain with me today.2- I remember the last time I took a step towards a suffering person.

2- I remember the last time I took a step towards a suffering person.


[1] La joie de la rencontre (The joy of the encounter), Grün, Anselm, Médiaspaul, 2007.
[2] The Friendship of Women, Chittister, Joan, Bellarmin, 2007.

The Call of Our Lives - THE CALL TO LIFE! - April 2021

Last March I received a phone call from a young Lebanese sister whom I had accompanied during her studies at the Pastoral Institute of Quebec.

It was a call from a person in distress!

The young sister had just witnessed the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, near her residence. The radio announced that the tragedy had caused 160 deaths, more than 5,000 wounded and hundreds of thousands of homeless people who wandered the streets littered with scrap metal and bricks. In tears, the young sister feared that her older sister and her niece, who worked in the boutiques in the Old Port, had been injured, been hit by a projectile or had died on the spot. As a backdrop to all their thoughts, she and her four companions from the same community wondered how they would be able to help the young families in the neighborhood who were already knocking on their door, begging for food for their children. The sisters prepared several meals for them, meals that the parents and children greatly appreciated. In Beirut, lacking flour signifies a famine! With a muffled sound, one of the sisters repeated what the port watchman had said out loud, “Bread is the only thing that can satisfy the poor here.” The sisters were now wondering what they could do since the flour and grain silos had been shattered in the explosion. They knew that the poor would not have the money to buy flour because it would be too expensive at the public market.

The call of my life!

How could I respond to this call full of pain, restrained sadness, and hope for a miracle? I received the call in the midst of my daily routine, without any warning. I entered into a “dynamic of the provisional”, as Fr. Roger Schult of Taizé used to say. Only the present moment counted and prompted me to react. With a seven-hour time difference, the present moment took on added meaning. Like the Good Samaritan, I drew close to the person overwhelmed by tragedy. I listened to each concern she expressed, each halting breath, each stammered uncertainty.

I realized that I was powerless to immediately resolve the situation. I became a “listener”, adopting the language of the heart, of closeness, of compassion. I risked speaking a few words of consolation that might have an impact on the faith life of these sisters. They know from experience that suffering is not simply a word but a reality that has been part of their daily lives since childhood. With their families, they have lived through times of exile in the mountains, abandoning their homes in the village to avoid being rounded up by the enemy; they know the many strategies used to escape the bombings of schools and hospitals.

The call of my life, in these precise circumstances, consisted of welcoming questions without immediate answers, uncertainties with no perceived horizon, fragilities offering little hope. The call was lived in humility by being a “listener” in the spirit of Eulalie Durocher rather than by relying on knowledge.

Two days after the bombing, several University students gathered with appointed facilitators to pray and reflect on the tragedy they had experienced. They were asked, “Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, what did you see in your neighborhood and what do you want to do?”

The young people found it difficult to hide their despair at the indifference of their country’s leaders, their dismay at the sight of the ruins in the city, their intense anger at the destruction of their school. As they walked through the neighborhood, the young people met various wise neighbors who invited them to stand tall, to rise up in order to build a more just world. Faced with this “wisdom”, the young people and their facilitators decided to affirm the omnipotence of God’s vulnerability by placing a Monstrance in the middle of the debris. They recollected themselves and meditated on the call to Micah:

“What is good has been explained to you. This is what God asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”   (Micah 6:8) 

At the same time, in almost every window in Quebec, we could see the sign of the rainbow which signifies, “It’s going to be okay”. If we look at this sign with God’s eyes, as described in Genesis 9: 9-17, we see that the rainbow is above all a sign of covenant, communication, and relationship. It symbolizes Christ who invites us to hear the calls of all our brothers and sisters, united by a common humanity throughout the whole world.


I experience my powerlessness in the face of so much misery.

Teach me, Lord, to be a loving presence, serving those who suffer.

Without you, I can do nothing. Inspire me to do what you would do

to bring back to life those who are without hope.

Prier la Parole (Praying the Word), March 2021, p. 4


Questions for reflection

  1. What is your reaction to this story?
  2. How are you an expression of the sign of the rainbow as seen through God’s eyes?


Yolande Frappier, SNJM

The Call of Simon Peter - November 2020

“Follow me.” (John 21)

I have recalled these words often – like a splinter piercing my heart, at almost any moment. They were among the first words I heard from him. They were also the last and have remained with me. . .  It happened at the end of a personal meeting with him. He imagined me getting old, dependent on others, and he spoke to me about it. I inquired about John whom he loved so much, but he quickly answered, “What is that to you? You are to follow me!” It was as if he were saying, “Stop going in circles. Just follow me.” Follow him!  But how far?

Then I remembered his first call. (Luke 5) I had been fishing all night! I, Simon, an expert on everything about the sea, the tides, the time and place where fish abound, came back empty-handed that morning – with absolutely nothing! And he was there on the shore. . . He climbed into my boat to talk to the crowds. . .  Then he told us to put out into the deep water and let down our nets for a catch. I hesitated momentarily, then did as he said and dropped the nets. . . What a catch! The nets overflowed with fish.

Once I noticed Jesus on the shore, I felt overwhelmed and fell to my knees, sensing my unworthiness! But he told me not to be afraid, because from now on I would be fishing for human beings. . .  A little naïve perhaps, we left everything, nets, boats, and followed him. . .  He had just given me a new name, Peter, but I didn’t know why.

We followed him enthusiastically! Without always understanding, we travelled with    him. . . one day at a time. . . with our questions, our resistances, our dreams – until the day when everything fell apart. . . After all the good he had done, he was put to death. And we ran away. . . I’m ashamed to confess that I even told a servant girl that I did not know him. . . Then I heard a rooster crow and saw Jesus looking directly at me. . .          I cried bitter tears. . .   But, unfortunately, I did not climb with him up the hill to where he was crucified. Like everyone else, even he had to die! Would I have to climb that hill one day as I followed him?

Some women said he was alive! But how could I believe them? Alive! How? Where?

One evening, I decided to go back fishing with some of my companions as I had done so many times before (John 21). It was a long night at sea . . . with no results! How can I forget the embarrassing question from someone I didn’t recognize: “Hey, children! Do you have any fish?” Deeply hurt and disappointed, I answered sharply, “NO!” The stranger said: “Cast the net to the right and you’ll find some.” We did that and what a catch! What abundance! John, whom Jesus loved, quickly recognized that it was Jesus. As for me, Simon, feeling naked, I wrapped my “Peter” cloak around me and jumped into the water to join him. . .

Enlightened by the Resurrection

Surprised, we saw a charcoal fire, fish, and bread on the beach. He had provided everything. . . But he had the sensitivity to ask us to bring some more fish, fish also definitely provided by God but which we ourselves had caught. No one dared ask him who he was… We all knew that he was Jesus…  especially when he took and offered us the bread and the fish, both ours and his, which tasted so different…

In light of a mission

For me, what happened following the breakfast was the highlight of the meal at which we had sensed his presence! Taking me aside, me Simon, son of John, he asked three times if I loved him. . . It hurt. . . The “Peter” in me ached. . . Far from reproaching me for my denials, he repeated that, if I loved him, I must take care of his people. . .  It took some time for me to understand what he wanted to tell me. . . Peter was a name that referred to my mission. Having always been a fisherman, I would now be called to free his people, who had become my people, from their nets!

I am happy that I have moved from a pursuit of success based on my own strengths to the experience of bearing fruit because of his help, despite my fragility. I am happy that I recognized his presence during the shared meal on the beach in the context of our everyday lives, and that I was able to contribute to that meal some fish that represented the world he loves so much. I am pleased to have eaten together with him and then to have listened to his three questions, “Do you love me?” and his three declarations, “Take care of my people.” And I am especially grateful that, when I asked about John, I heard his undeniable, “You, follow me,” the call to walk, one day at a time, along the path of love with Him – until the end!

Rita Gagné, OSU[1]

Questions :

  1. How does the story of Simon Peter’s call touch you? Which part of his journey challenges you or speaks most strongly to you?
  2. Called as you are to walk with Jesus, to follow him, what urgent call do you hear today as you journey with him?
[1]    Rita Gagné: Born in 1938 in Grande-Vallée, Gaspésie, Sr. Rita entered the Ursulines in Rimouski in August of 1955 and made her religious profession in 1958. She taught and followed studies in philosophy and theology. She then worked in pastoral ministry in the Gaspé diocese for 20 years. For 40 years, she has animated retreats for various groups throughout Quebec. She is presently ending a five-year mandate as a General Councillor for her community.


Encountering others in their diversity: My father’s friends - March 2020

There was Dave and there was Walter. They were Jews, friends and colleagues of my father. As a child, I did not understand the language they spoke, English.  But, many times when I was hospitalized, I felt their interest in me, their affection and their many acts of kindness towards me. It was my first contact with “the stranger”, “the other” who is different. The memory of their thoughtful regard for me left me questioning and perplexed when faced with these people, so different from me, yet so close.

Long before my father welcomed these men to our table, there was a nomad, himself a stranger in the land in which he wandered, who welcomed visitors into his tent.  They revealed to him the Face of universal fellowship. This man’s name was Abraham.  Following his example, how many other human beings have opened themselves to recognizing this Face in the course of their daily lives!

As a student of religious studies, I got to know Carmen. A convert to Islam in her adult years, Carmen’s remarkable generosity, more than her observance of the five pillars of the Muslim religion, testifies to what is, in her own words, her desire “to become a better person”. She goes on to say, “Religious practice is a real commitment to better our lives and change the world through our personal, political, economic and ecological actions.” And how should I introduce you to Samir, another Muslim, who is a respectful teacher whose informal but meaningful conversations have enriched my work as director of a French language learning centre for immigrants? This father of a large family witnesses to an integrated faith which is the source of his unconditional love for his family and of his loyalty as an employee.  These two friends of mine have widened and enriched that first childhood awareness of the Other whose name we so often seek.

And then Miki comes to mind, a young Malaysian woman to whom I am teaching French. Although she is known for being understanding and charitable, she adheres to no particular religion. Timid and reserved by nature, her kindness and attention to others often replace what we would express through words. Where did she learn her grateful sensitivity? She has lived in various countries across the globe and immigrated here alone, without any family.  So what is the source of her gift of self to the little children in the daycare at which she works?

In closing the pages of this very personal album, I open the pages of my own personal search because all these encounters sharpen my desire for knowledge and my desire to walk the paths of which other human beings have shared the meaning and the horizon that lies ahead. I find it is important to take seriously all these people who do their best to make the world more human. Without these people, without reference to the human meaning of life, we might doubt the religious meaning that naturally superimposes itself upon the human meaning. How many passages in the Gospels show us Jesus answering the demands that solicit only his mercy, his compassion, his caring for the suffering members of humanity! It would seem that a deeply human experience needs to precede any reference to God, any revelation of God, any offer of salvation. “If the salt loses its flavour, of what use is it?” The great theologian Edward Schillebeeckx in his comprehensive work, L’Histoire des Hommes, récit de Dieu, affirms that what is truly human is the undeniable medium for the presence and action of the Divine.

By bringing to light the religious or spiritual sources that motivate action, we find a common intuition that nourishes us: no affirmation about God can be definitive because all are transmitted and received by limited human beings. From wherever those seeking the Divine come, following different paths, they discover common ground: that of a humanity that finds its fulfillment in the practice of the golden rule.

The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, in his book The Way of Man, writes: “In every human being, there is a treasure that is not found in any other.” The sharing of each one’s treasure has woven our stories from age to age, as the psalmist says, from continent to continent, just as the news is broadcast on screens throughout the world. As for me, the way I choose to incarnate my human solidarity takes me back to the examples I learned as a child, to these friends of my father who were invited to our family table.


  1. What person or event led you to question your faith? Recall the circumstances.
  2. Have you had the experience of feeling close to a person of another faith, of another religious practice than your own? What were the circumstances?

Lise Bluteau, s.n.j.m.

Encountering Mother Earth - January 2020

“The destiny of humans cannot be

separated from the destiny of earth.” (Thomas Berry)

This year we have been invited to reflect on our mission of encounter. For this reflection, the emphasis is on encounter as a meeting aimed at fostering a mutually-enriching relationship.  Unfortunately, biblical translations of Genesis 1:28 have given us words like “subdue”, “have dominion over”, and “conquer” to describe humanity’s relationship to our common home which St. Francis recognized as our sister, Mother Earth. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’ notes that our relationship to this common home has often been one of abuse, exploitation or simply apathy.  Indeed, as a result, our Mother Earth, a living being, is in crisis.

Thomas Berry, a 21st century ecotheologian, often reminded us: “As humans we are born of the Earth, nourished by the Earth, healed by the Earth.” He followed the lead of indigenous peoples throughout the world who have a tradition of living in right relationship with Mother Earth. As such they have much to teach us about caring for our Mother.

“We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.”  (Chief Seattle)

Among the resources for Development and Peace’s 2019 fall campaign focusing on the Amazon, there is a video interview with two Peruvians, Yesica and Hector. Yesica states that indigenous peoples have always lived in harmony with nature: “Our vision of the world recognizes the rivers as our brothers and all animals as part of us.” She adds, “If the Amazon disappears, it’s very probable that all of humanity will disappear since it’s here that the forests, which are a source of life, are preserved.” This couple leave us with several questions.

  1. Which do you prefer: resources such as oil, gas, and gold or the preservation of creation, including human life?
  2. What will we leave behind for future generations?
  3. What changes might we need to make in our lifestyle? (Refer to the text Zero Waste, a Lifestyle? sent out in the November 13 Wednesday Mailing)

“God saw all that God had made, and indeed it was very good.”  (Gen. 1:31)

Scripture, too, invites us to a creation-centered spirituality, to a better knowledge and experience of our beloved Mother Earth so that we may better love her and care for all of creation.

Up to the present, the whole created universe groans as if in the pangs of childbirth. [However God’s purpose is] that the whole creation might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God. (Rom. 8: 21-22)

We recognize that God created human beings to live in mutuality and reciprocity with all of creation, to sense the life within it, the presence of the fire of God’s love within it. Our 2001 General Chapter Acts state that, as “[people] of the earth, we participate in renewing the earth by recognizing our interdependence with all creation.”  As SNJM Sisters and Affiliates, we want to be instruments of love, compassion and healing, restoring our Mother Earth.

“God of fire, speaking out of the fire (Deut. 4:36),

casting fire on earth (Luke 12:49)

and on Jesus’ disciples (Acts 2:1-3),

enflame our hearts with love for all your creation:

enkindle in us care for the cosmos and our Earth,

give us care for all living beings,

especially those who suffer (Mt 25:31-46).

Prayer Card – 31st General Chapter

We are well aware that our prayers and actions must be aligned, that we need to take concrete actions for the environment, actions which often involve an element of sacrifice. In 2008 we took a corporate stand on Water as a Human Right and Public Good. We pledged ourselves to protecting freshwater and to supporting actions and policies that ensure universal access to safe water for all people. In our prayers we remember all those suffering from floods or from drought and a lack of safe drinking water, especially the people of Lesotho. We draw hope from the words of Thomas Berry:

“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future.

We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension.”

Questions for Reflection and Sharing

  1. Which of God’s creations most rouse your sense of wonder and awe?
  2. What concrete actions have you taken, or can you take, to renew the earth?

As privileged participants in Mother Earth’s life, we are called to love, to care for and to celebrate all of God’s creation. Let us celebrate in the words of St. Francis:

Be praised O God, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

Be praised for our Sister, Mother Earth,
who nourishes and sustains us,
bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.Be praised, O God, for all of your creation!

Dorothy Guha, Associate, in collaboration with the Quebec Leadership Team

Mission – a fire that never goes out – Spring 2019

It is said that Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, saw himself as the messenger of the gods. By his teaching and his witness, he would reignite the divine spark already present in others.

Jesus, too, describes himself as a messenger, the Father’s messenger sent to bring humanity abundant life through his word and his works.

To be on mission, to have a mission, is to be chosen and called by Someone greater than oneself, to be sent out for a specific task, to bring others a message.

“If the Father calls you to love as he loves you

in the fire of his Spirit, blessed are you! “[1]

 “It is I who have chosen you. . . ” (John 15: 16)

At one time or another, many people discover a passion for art, science, gardening, a specific sport, or even for human rights, education, justice. An inner fire gives them life, pushes them to talk about the happiness they find in their commitments. Their enthusiasm can often be contagious, leading others to imitate them. Even after retirement, their passion continues to move them.

Let us recall Moses at the burning bush; Isaiah purified by a burning firebrand; the disciples seized by the fire of the Spirit; Marie-Rose Durocher’s guiding Scripture: “I have come to cast fire.” (Luke 12: 49)  A burning fire enabled each of them to answer: “Here I am, send me.” (Isaiah 6: 8)

When Jesus tells us: “I have chosen you,” he too communicates to us a passion for the Kingdom, a devouring fire that consumes all of life.

We have been chosen and called, but what message are we to deliver? Following John the Baptist, who directed others to Jesus, we too are called to point out and reveal Jesus to others: “Behold the Father’s messenger, the one who liberates and saves, the one who heals. This is he.” We too have a unique mission.

When and how has each of us, in our personal history, been seized by this passion for the Kingdom, by this thirst to reveal Jesus? Is the flame still burning within us?

“If the world calls you to give it hope,

to offer it salvation, blessed are you! “1

“and appointed you to go. . . ” (John 15: 16)

Jesus does not specify where, how and to whom we are to go. He leaves that up to us to discern. In order to bring hope to the world, Pope Francis invites us to return to being a Church on the move, on the periphery. But will it be necessary to cross the ocean? Or will we find the periphery nearby, perhaps even at home or in the people we encounter daily in our various family, intergenerational, cultural or spiritual settings?

To move beyond our self-centeredness; not to close ourselves off in our comfortable enclaves but to take care of those who are not from the sheepfold, those waiting for a sign of hope; to pray for these people; to be an open, welcoming community, accepting to be challenged and ready to engage in dialogue – these are responses to the invitation of Francis.

In 2019, what door must we open in order to communicate our compassion, our hope, and especially our joy to our continually searching and changing world?

To whom does God send us each morning and whom has God sent us today in order that we may be evangelized?

“If the Church calls you to toil for the Kingdom,

to work at the harvesting, blessed are you!”1

“and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15: 16)

What fruit will our words and our attitudes have produced in others? Will we have made a difference wherever we have been? That is difficult to say; it is God’s secret. Perhaps the apparent failures have been more fruitful than the successes Jesus knows something about that! As for us, because the mission in his Name will have pruned and molded us, it will have fashioned us into transformed people, humbler, more compassionate, freer, more lovingWhat beautiful fruits!

Indeed, we are like artists crafting a tapestry but seeing only the reverse side of the work of art, seeing only entangled threads. Yet, at the same time, unbeknownst to us, Jesus is working on the right side of the tapestry, accomplishing his mission in usWhat a surprise when we will finally see our true face, a reflection of his light, a reflection of his love! What a sense of “mission accomplished” we will then experience!

A Prayer for Mission

Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher,

woman in the heart of fire,

come and reinvigorate the apostolic meaning of our lives.

By our attitudes, our words, and our actions,

may Jesus be loved and revealed

as Son and Savior in the Spirit. Amen.

Jocelyne Latreille, SNJM

in collaboration with the Provincial Leadership Team

[1] Si le Père vous appelle, T. : Didier Rimaud, Mus. : Jacques Berthier

A future full of hope - January 2019

Does the theme A future full of hope, chosen by the province this year, cause us some doubt?  Are we afraid of being swept into realms beyond any realistic possibility? Yet the apostle Peter (1 Peter 3: 15) encourages us to account for the hope that is in usLet us take a look at the foundations of our hope. What is our hope today? What does it mean to be a witness to hope? How does hope transcend time?

Biblical and theological foundations for our hope

Hope is like an anchor for our lives.                                                   Heb. 6: 19

Various biblical texts show us the hope of people such as Abraham, Moses, and Mary who, called and led by God, set out on a journey. Committing themselves to the unknown, they placed their trust in a God of justice and tenderness. For the Jewish people, the emotions expressed in the psalms (e.g. Psalms 62, 80, 126) reveal the great depth of human experience and of the hope that the Jewish people place in God. With the coming of Christ, our Christian hope took shape. Without freeing us from our sometimes chaotic existence, hope opens up for us new passageways, new horizons. It makes us heirs of the promise for a future full of life. It leads us to believe that God acts through the Spirit (Heb. 6: 11-12) who gives our hope an incredible dynamism, a strength that surpasses us completely.

R/ You are our hope, Lord. May our lives be rooted in You.

Our hope today

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

These words of wisdom by singer Leonard Cohen could apply to our present situation.Hope means believing in the light despite the pessimistic images that haunt our screens; trusting in the future despite our feelings of loss and our uncertainties. Hope makes us confident that our relationship of intimacy with God can illuminate our darkness and hope lead us to anticipate all that is good for ourselves and for our world. Hope encourages us to share with others our life experience and our vision of the world. Hope is a gift that is lived in the here and now, in the risen Jesus. It is meant to keep us alive, on mission, to the end of our lives and into eternity.

R/ You are our hope, Lord. Enlighten our decisions.

Strong witnesses to hope

You are a letter that has come from Christ, given to us to deliver: a letter written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God … on the pages of the human heart.                                                               2 Cor. 3: 3

Our Constitutions “challenge us to become signs and prophets of the kingdom, in a world which, today as yesterday, is searching and ever hopeful for the future.” (No. 7). How can we do this?

Without a doubt, by our quality of being and our attitudes of authenticity, compassion, solidarity, openness, prayer, acceptance of reality. Through community discernment, we seek to actualize our charism, to share it; to express our spirituality “by our words and by our manner of life” (Constitution 10); to denounce injustice, to show concern for the most vulnerable. Thus, we seek to be witnesses of God’s presence wherever we are.

R/ You are our hope, Lord. Make us witnesses of your love.

Hope endures forever

May God enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope God’s call holds for you and how rich is the glory of the heritage he offers among his holy people. Eph. 1, 18

Our present, rooted in the past, has a long history, but remains open to the future. Throughout 2018, we recalled and commemorated our 175 years of existence and of commitment to the Church. We became more aware of the fact that the transmission of our values has taken place throughout all of our history. Whether we are aware of it or not, we transmit a little of who we are in every one of our interactions. That is a reason for hope! And, turning to the hope revealed by Christ, religious life has always been able to renew itself, seeking to respond to the needs of the men and women of each age, and to offer to the world one of the most beautiful gifts of all, HOPE.

R/ You are our hope, Lord. Help us to live and share our inherited legacy.

Reflection and Sharing

  • Where do you see places of hope in our lives and in the world?
  • You are invited to compose a personal act of hope.


Simone Perras, SNJM

in collaboration with the Provincial Leadership Team



Temps de crise. Temps d’espérance? Élaine Champagne. Médiaspaul, 2011.

Transmettre. Ce que nous nous apportons les uns aux autres. Gallimard, Édito 2017, p. 197.

Open to transformation - April 2018

Transformations at the Heart of Events in Society

…a landowner went out early in the morning

to hire labourers for his vineyard. (Mt. 20: 1)

The decree on religious life, Perfectae Caritatis, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, recommended taking into account the characteristics of the world of that time (1965). And what, in Quebec, came to be called the Quiet Revolution, a time of turmoil and of social, ecclesiastical and religious unrest, provided us with more than we needed as background.

A great upheaval

The Quiet Revolution with its slogan “Things have to change!” affected the world of education as never before. With little or no regard for the religious communities who had, until then, played a surrogate role, the government decided to assume its responsibilities. In 1964, it created the Ministry of Education and established greater cohesion in its public education network. From then on, it would be the State that would control the programs, the choice of textbooks, the way to validate diplomas, etc.

As a result, classical colleges would disappear to make way for Comprehensive High Schools and CEGEPs. The public network would extend to outlying regions. Teachers’ training would take place at the university level, marking the end of Teachers’ Colleges and classical courses. The secularization of education was in process, with the confessional status no longer reflecting a multiethnic society.

Time in the desert

A lengthy ordeal to overcome! Discontent among teachers and challenges for religious authorities! “The time of great uniformity and control is past” (Dominique Laperle). Beyond emotions, frustrations and uncertainties, we needed to bounce back, consider the future, negotiate, be creative, and practice detachment. The Sisters committed themselves to shaping a new institutional structure, something that did not happen without clashes, trial and error, resistance or the departure of sisters who deplored the slowness of the process.

An outside witness’s perception

In his book Entre concile et révolution tranquille (Between Council and Quiet Revolution). Médiaspaul 2015, Dominique Laperle made the following comment:

The Sisters, who were now a minority in the school system and called by Vatican II to intervene differently, taking into account the signs of the times, cautiously undertook a process of redefining the apostolate. . . Many members of the congregation saw this trial as a way to reread the work of the foundress and to revive it from a new perspective.

Charism and mission

The 1967-1968 Chapter sessions gave rise to serious reflections. There were discussions around transformation of religious life; new ways of living for and with the people of that time; the need for a unifying and dynamic spirituality to better understand the meaning of one’s vocation as a woman educator, committed to the work of the Church in the midst of the People of God.

Thus, the concept of charism would be broadened so that education would encompass liberating action, the development of the whole person, and an insertion into the life and pastoral mission of the Church. The school setting would no longer be the main area of mission. Fields of action became diversified in order to respond to a variety of calls from places where faith and justice merged. New life was breathed into mission.

More recent history

And since then, the Acts of our General Chapters have tried to set a direction with renewed calls to openness and commitment. Among the values ​​ promoted, we note: contemplation in action; solidarity with women, migrants, and refugees; justice and systemic change. We also observe socially responsible investments; interdependence for mission and a more just world; new forms of SNJM association; integral ecology; and the use of modern technologies as a means of communication and of looking at our world.

We can even dare to say that our poverty in human resources has become a  richness since our mission today is shared with laypeople – associates, volunteers, consecrated laypersons and partners, whether administrators of private schools, professionals working in our infirmaries, our various other employees, etc. Collaborative relationships have been created with organizations, NGOs, other religious congregations, and networks, such as Justice and Peace. After consensus, corporate stands have been publicly affirmed: for access to water, against human trafficking, for migrants and refugees. These stands have become, for us, a common ministry.

Time for reflection

With my current outlook, I ask myself:

How have desert times opened us up to the paths to life?

How have our “community living” and our mission been enriched?

We thank you, God,

for calling us to deepen our understanding of mission

and to work at building a better world.

Help us, in our everyday actions, to become

channels of life, of peace, and of love.


Simone Perras, s.n.j.m., in collaboration with the PLT

Open to transformation - January 2018


Transformations at the Heart of Church Events

Let God transform you

by the renewing of your minds.

You can then discern the will of God:

what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rm. 12, 2

As we continue revisiting the 175 years of our SNJM Congregation’s existence, we cannot but be riveted by two major events that have forever marked our community’s destiny. These are, of course, the Second Vatican Council and the Quiet Revolution experienced in Quebec during the 1960’s. Let us spend some time today looking at the first event.

From the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope John XXIII wanted to breathe new life into the Church. And so he convoked the Second Vatican Council. It was a work of faith and courage that would be continued by his successor, Paul VI. One of the decrees, Perfectae Caritatis (Perfect Charity), was addressed to religious congregations and urged them to undertake an aggiornamento, a spiritual renewal of religious life. A major challenge!

Our community set about listening to the Spirit speaking to us in this document, calling us:

  • to follow the Jesus of the Gospels,
  • to better grasp the original inspiration which motivated our foundress (charism),
  • to share in the life of the Church by updating our biblical, theological, pastoral, ecumenical, missionary and social knowledge,
  • to discern “the signs of the times” and the needs of the Church.

Concretely, this decree asked us to revise our constitutions, customs, prayer books, common practices, etc., in order to be disciples for our time. Our Congregation responded to this call with seriousness, conviction and enthusiasm. Several Sisters made outstanding contributions by means of their research, their writings, and their work of revising and rewriting the Constitutions. Sisters also contributed by taking part in community discussions, General Chapters, and various other sessions.

Some supporting documents

The summary of the 24th General Chapter (1967) presented the approved guidelines and changes which invited us, among other things, to be more flexible regarding our spiritual and community life (a variety of prayer forms, small group living, etc.), and to better adapt to real life (civil name, dress, family visits, personal budget, etc.)  The document was also an invitation to promote greater participation and personal responsibility. In short, it invited us to take into greater account the demands of the apostolic life.

It was hoped that the document Response to the Spirit, published in 1968, would give meaning to these changes. Here is a significant excerpt:

The spirit of our foundress urges us to advance . . . in the path of spiritual renewal and adaptation to the needs of the time. . .. In order that we may respond fully to the urgencies of our time, our Institute is reconsidering the formation of its members and rejuvenating its structures; in a spirit of service to the Church it is enlarging the scope of its apostolic activities; and in the light of new theological concepts it is deepening its understanding of the consecrated life.  (page 2)

The Acts of the 26th General Chapter (1976) presented our charism statement which was later formulated in our Constitutions and Rules (1985):

In fidelity to the spirit of our foundress, we are a community of women religious consecrated to God in the names of Jesus and Mary, who desire to proclaim by our lives the primacy of the love of God. Moved by an active love, we collaborate in the Church’s mission of education, with emphasis on education in the faith, and with a special concern for the poor and the disadvantaged.


These same Constitutions commit us, as we follow in the footsteps of Marie-Rose Durocher, to live our religious consecration as a call from and a response to God. They encourage us, in the name of Jesus, to serve together through chastity which is the broadening of our capacity to love; through poverty which implies sharing, solidarity, simplicity of life and the promotion of justice; through obedience which is our shared search for the will of God; and through the living of our charism which focuses on the full development of the human person.

More recently, the Acts of the 34th General Chapter (2016) invite us to a renewed vision:

In a spirit of contemplation, we root ourselves in the Gospel and the vision of Blessed Marie-Rose to go forth boldly with a renewed vision. The Spirit prompts us to be in dialogue with the emerging questions; to act with audacity and freedom; to widen our circles of collaboration; and to imagine the SNJM mission in new ways – open to all for the sake of the world, the Church, and the whole Earth community. (page 5)


How did Vatican II encourage openness and transformation in our prayer life, our community life, and our apostolic commitments?

What paths have we travelled together during the past 60 years?


Praise be to you, Lord,
for your Holy Spirit who inspired us
to transform our lives.
Praise be to you for opening our minds and hearts
to new horizons and new initiatives.
Keep us always attentive
to the calls of today and tomorrow.

Simone Perras, SNJM, in collaboration with the PLT

Called to a spirituality of welcome .. . welcoming life in its fragility – March 2017

This year, as a province, we are focusing on three aspects of a spirituality of welcome:

welcoming people and events

welcoming immigrants and refugees

welcoming life in its fragility.

Two previous spiritual messages have helped us reflect on the first two aspects of this spirituality, and today’s message will hopefully help us reflect on welcoming life in its fragility.

We are all well aware of experiences of fragility or vulnerability in our personal lives, among them: the loss of loved ones; diminishing capabilities; fears of death or of loss of autonomy; feelings of uselessness and of guilt.

We are also touched by the fragility of others, including trafficked persons, the unemployed and the powerless, and victims of war and violence. And we may be equally concerned about the fragility of Mother Earth and about the future of our world.

All these situations and experiences can seem overwhelming and we may want to run away from them. So, what can “welcoming the fragility of life” mean? Do we really want to welcome life in all its fragility or do we, like so many in our culture and society, prefer to think that life should always tend towards something “bigger and better”?  Do we really believe that God can bring good out of evil (Rom. 8: 28)? Is it true that life is more a mystery to be lived than a problem to be solved? 

Let us look at what our Christian tradition might teach us about welcoming the fragility of life. Fr. Richard Rohr, O.S.F., focuses much of his teaching on the essential, paradoxical, and deeply challenging mystery of the cross:

God is to be found in all things, even in the painful, tragic, and sinful things, exactly

where we do not want to look for God. The crucifixion of the God-Man is at the same moment the worst thing in human history and the best thing in human history. . . . 

Christians call this pattern “the paschal mystery”: true life comes only through journeys of death and rebirth wherein we learn who God is for us. Letting go is the nature of all true spirituality and transformation, summed up in the mythic phrase: “Christ is dying. Christ is risen. Christ will ever come again.” 

If we look at the life of Jesus, we certainly see that Jesus accepted the fragility of life. He never ran away from experiences of suffering or vulnerability, as Ronald Rolheiser, OMI explains so beautifully. Like a water filter that holds the dirt and toxins inside itself and gives back only the pure water, so Jesus took in hatred and gave back love; accepted bitterness and returned warmth; took in pettiness and offered compassion; accepted chaos and gave back peace; took in sin and offered forgiveness. 

And although this is not easy to do, as Christians and even as human beings we are challenged to do the same. To welcome life fully, we are called, with God’s help, to take in fragility, to hold it, to transform it, and to eventually give it back as something else: as love, graciousness, blessing, compassion, warmth, and forgiveness.

Life stories abound of people, not just well-known people like Jesus or Mahatma Ghandi or Helen Keller, who have done just that. These people have used their fragilities to help others and to give meaning to their own lives. I think of people I have known:

  • members of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) who find life in sponsoring others suffering from addictions;
  • a victim of childhood sexual abuse who, years later, said the experience was one of the blessings in her life because it helped her in her ministry to abusers as well as victims;
  • a religious sister who acknowledges the never-ending losses associated with aging and dying and so helps others to serenely accept their own mortality;
  • a woman whose experiences of rejection have led her to make acceptance of others the focus of her life.

Though we may often admire such people, accepting fragility goes against most contemporary “wisdom”. It also went against the wisdom of Jesus’ time. The Beatitudes, included in his inaugural speech, were not understood or accepted by the powerful of his time, the leaders both civic and religious. Let us ask Jesus to help us understand and live those beatitudes. May we hear Jesus speaking to us in this paraphrase of the first two Beatitudes:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of

God and his rule. 

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. . . . you [can then] be

embraced by the One most dear to you.

Indeed, blessed are we when we welcome the fragility of life.

Happy are we when we live as people of the Beatitudes!

Sister Beverley Wattling

Called to a spirituality of welcome ... welcoming the immigrant and refugee - January 2017

Last October, in the Spiritual Message, we focused on a spirituality of welcoming others and events by reflecting on our personal life experiences, the life of Mother Marie-Rose, and our tradition. In this message, we will reflect on welcoming immigrants and refugees. 

In recent years, the media have shown us thousands and thousands of homeless people trekking along the roads of Europe as they flee disaster in their own countries. Millions of refugees are confined in makeshift shelters in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. Various countries have been erecting fences and walls to prevent migrants from entering their territories. At the same time, life in our Quebec society is becoming more and more multiethnic, multicultural, and interreligious. Let us look at what our faith says about these events.

Learning from the life of the People of God

We remember the history of the Hebrew people during their slavery in Egypt where they were sorely oppressed. God could not bear to see the misery of His people. He knew their sufferings and came to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians. He asked Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt    (Ex. 3: 7-10; 12: 37-42). Thus, responding to God’s call, Moses placed himself at the head of his people who embarked on the journey through the desert and became migrants for forty years! They would know hunger, thirst, and a loss of meaning. Finally, they would find a country in which to settle, but not without encountering adversity!

When we think today about Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where people are suffering from war and where civilians are being killed every day, do we not believe that God knows the misery of his people? Do we not believe that God is on their side as they set out, leaving their countries and coming to ours in order to find a great and beautiful land which is “overflowing with milk and honey”, with peace and security?

The Book of Deuteronomy tells us that the Lord asks us to take care of the stranger, and it even says that the Lord loves the stranger! Our great God is not partial . . . and executes justice for orphans, widows, and strangers, providing them with food and clothing . . .  Cursed be you who refuse to respect the rights of the stranger among you! (Deut. 10: 17-19; 27:19)

This Word of God challenges us. To truly love the stranger, we must move forward in stages, since what is different often frightens us. The Word of God asks that we first respect the rights of the stranger:  the right to be clothed, to have enough food for survival, to have adequate housing, to know or learn the language of the country so as to become better integrated, to have a decent job that allows one to live a comfortable lifestyle, to socialize, and to develop self-esteem through participation in civic life.

Our society often hinders immigrants from meeting their needs because it imposes numerous constraints on them, including requisite skills, often leaving them feeling insecure about the future. 

The experience of Talal Touchan, a 33-year-old Syrian who is single, testifies to this:

In Montreal, what he is most concerned about and even obsessed with, is finding a job in his line of work, electrical engineering. “It is almost as stressful as the anguish of dying,” he said. For him, the future seems vague; his life, unstable. Although everything seems promising in Quebec, he continues to be filled with conflicting feelings. “Sometimes, I am optimistic; I tell myself that things will improve. Other times, no, I tell myself that I am going to die.” 

We can barely imagine the difficulties of integration for immigrants, but we can strive to get close to them and to become a loving presence, a reassuring presence for them, rather than a hostile or suspicious one.

Learning from the life of Jesus

Jesus forsakes his divine condition, becomes incarnated in our humanity, and becomes one of us: 

“ … who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. (Phil.  2: 6-8)

Jesus’ attitude of great humility encourages us to identify with him in our encounters with others. Though of Jewish descent, Jesus discovers, at the heart of his mission, the call to enter into dialogue with another culture, that of the Samaritans. We recall that “in fact, the Jews do not want anything in common with the Samaritans.” (John 4: 9) In his long conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus is not afraid to reveal himself and to speak of his Father: “You shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23)

Jesus broke down many barriers: between Jews and Gentiles, between men and women, between slaves and free. Is this not a call for us to say no to all the barriers people want to erect against immigrants?  Like Jesus, let us be welcoming, compassionate women and men. Let us open paths, let us tear down the walls of fear and insecurity regarding immigration.  Is not intercultural living a new way of living our faith? This life of faith will help us to change our hearts so that they will be ready, with the strength of the love of Christ, to move from hostility to kindness, from suspicion to openness.

In this way, in fidelity to the spirit of our 2016 Chapter Acts, we will be able to welcome refugees and immigrants and to act in ways that will be meaningful and helpful to them. Among possible actions are: opposing racist comments, learning about another’s culture, developing meaningful relationships with refugees or immigrants, diversifying our sources of news and information, knitting for an organization that supports immigrants, making a donation to new immigrants, giving time to an organization that helps immigrants, etc. Thus, we will overcome our misgivings and hesitations in welcoming the stranger as a daughter or son of God.

Sister Claudette Bastien

The spirituality of welcome . . . welcoming others and events – October 2016

 This year, the spiritual messages will help us to reflect and deepen the aspect of welcome in our personal and community life. Why speak of welcoming as part of our SNJM spirituality? To answer this question, we will explore our life experiences; we will look at Mother Marie-Rose’s life; and we will see how our tradition continues to be renewed in faithfulness to our origins. 

In our life experience

Throughout our lifetime, we have been faced with situations which have led us to experience a spirituality of welcome.  Daily we have numerous occasions to welcome people and events.

I would like to share with you an event that called me to welcome into my life a new reality: the school reform of the 60’s. This reform brought about changes in the school system which obliged many Sisters, myself included, to transfer from the private into the public sector. 

During this time of change, I was called to adapt to a new school environment and new teaching methods. I worked alongside lay teachers whom I got to know and with whom I collaborated. I taught students with diverse learning abilities and diverse social and economic backgrounds. I still hold fond memories and deep feelings for people I met at that time.

I experienced challenging moments, but also moments of sheer joy which have marked my life. Above all, I acquired an ability to adapt as well as an openness to others and to events. These have served me well throughout the rest of my life. I continue to be guided by the words of Alexandre Jollien: “To encounter the other is to enter another world. We move away from self, away from our reference points. We come out of our shell, letting our defenses fall. Encountering another moves us beyond the roles we play. “

What specific personal experience has led you to an interior transformation or to a greater sense of openness and welcome?

In the life of Mother Marie-Rose

Under her mother’s influence, Eulalie learned very early in life to be attentive to the needs of others. From a very young age, she was concerned about the well-being of others and wanted to contribute to their happiness. “She remained self-possessed and courteous with rude servants and, on occasion, with ill-humored religious as well.”  (She Who Believed in Tomorrow)

Marie-Rose Durocher had a talent for educating that flowed from her unconditional acceptance of others, anchored in a life of relationships based on trust and love. She was convinced that each person is unique and fundamentally good. Her loving appreciation of others helped them to see themselves in a positive light.

Mother Marie-Rose’s path was not without obstacles. Throughout her life, she was confronted with adverse situations. Her plans were often thwarted and circumstances often restricted her. However, she accepted all these hardships as opportunities to grow in maturity and in openness to the unexpected. 

Marie-Rose Durocher had an acute perception of the needs of society and the Church of her time. Her vision for the future helped her to accept events and, in faith, to surmount her numerous difficulties. If doors closed before her, through the power of the Spirit and trust in Providence, others opened. 

How does our foundress’s life inspire us to live attitudes of openness and welcome in our daily lives?

In our tradition 

Since our foundation, through our Constitutions and the General Chapter Acts which focus on their ongoing relevancy, we have been challenged to ever greater openness, solidarity, dialogue and collaboration. These values express different aspects of a spirituality of welcome in tune with today’s reality. Let us call to mind some of these calls: 

We are missioned to call humanity to fullness of life

In collaboration with our contemporaries in our fragmented world, we face together the questions of our day and seek paths of hope and life. We are thus led to strengthen our ties and to announce the good news of a life in the process of liberation and communion.

“In union with all who search for meaning in their lives, we are called . . . to use our abilities to bring about relationships of equality, justice and solidarity; to promote dialogue and foster collaboration.” 2001 Acts 

We are called to live reciprocity and interdependence

In our experience of interdependence, we find strength in new relationships. “In a spirit of reciprocity, we welcome [one another and] the richness of the diverse world and we share the gift of our charism.” 2006 Acts

In our adventure with the Spirit, may that Spirit prompt us “to act with audacity and freedom; to widen our circles of collaboration; and to imagine the SNJM mission in new ways – open to all for the sake of the world, the Church, and the whole Earth community.”  2016 Acts

How do these calls resonate in our lives?

Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God is in our midst. (Luke 17: 21)  Is it not our mission to reveal God present at the very heart of our communities and our world? The Kingdom draws near to us and is present whenever we take steps to be welcoming, to share and to be peacemakers. “The Kingdom draws near each time we love each other in our diversity, following the example of Jesus.”        

 Sr. Denise Riel