Spiritual Message

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

 

Bibliography:

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

OPEN TO TRANSFORMATION

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.

                                                                                                                     (Constitutions,5)

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)

Reflection

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?

Thanksgiving

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