After having been called, during the last two years, to “open doors to the future and to Life”, current circumstances lend themselves perfectly to this meaningful theme, explained Sister Denise Riel, the Provincial Animator.
Sister Denise specified the reasons for this choice, especially because of:
In the plenary, based on the testimonies and discussions, the participants confirmed the relevance of the chosen theme at this point in the history of the Congregation.
At the time of the Sending Forth on Mission, a handout was given to each with the message: “Let us allow God to transform us and renew our minds.” (Romans 12,2)
In September, Saint Bruno Parish celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding with the theme “175 years, something to celebrate!” The Eucharistic Celebration presided by Bishop Claude Hamelin, Auxiliary Bishop of the Saint-Jean-Longueuil Diocese, took place in an atmosphere of serenity where tribute was paid to the “women and men of yesterday and today, committed to following Christ, and who have made Saint Bruno Parish what it continues to be today” said pastor, Father Michel Boutot.
During the Offertory Procession, Sister Aline Hébert, a teacher for several years at Montarville School and at the Trinitarians, presented a flower in the name of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. It was a way of highlighting the important contribution of the Congregation that served in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville in many different ways, beginning in 1918.
Besides the presence of several Sisters at Rabastalière and Montarville Schools, we must mention those Sisters who came to teach music. From among them, Sisters Françoise Lafortune and Luce Boyer were present.
In addition to work in the education sector, of course there was also parish work in which the Sisters were extensively involved. In particular, we think of Sister Luce Boyer who served on the liturgy committee for twenty years. Both Sister Thérèse Lemay, principal of Montarville School, and Sister Line Gratton worked in the field of education and also worked as volunteers in the parish for many years.
The festivities continued and provided an opportunity to renew acquaintances during a reception following the Mass. Sisters Aline Hébert, Luce Boyer and Françoise Lafortune, representatives of the Congregation at this celebration, greatly enjoyed this moving experience.
Sister Luce Boyer was approached by the parents of a student, who today is a judge, and reminded her of how music education has always served their son well throughout his life, including bringing him moments of relaxation in stressful situations.
Several participants voiced their gratitude to the Sisters and were quick to convey the importance of the education they had received and the training offered for their life paths.
Without a doubt, these moments were delightful for the three Sisters who had the chance to talk about remarkable times from another era. It was also an opportunity for them to recall anecdotes that took them back to living conditions very different from those of today.
And so, Sister Francoise Lafortune, who was on her first mission as a music teacher in 1965, remembered that for lack of space, she had to sleep in her music room.
These few facts allow us to better comprehend the many aspects of the term "vocation". Other days, other ways…
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary is part of the dozen or so Congregations of women religious who are the topic of the exhibition "375 YEARS IN THE HEART OF IT ALL" at Maison Saint-Gabriel. Organized as part of Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations, this temporary exhibition, which will end on December 22, is a resounding success.
In addition to a brief presentation on each of the religious congregations that were approached, we find countless objects and archival documents to illustrate the diversity of the involvement of these Sisters in the life of Montreal and in Quebec society. While recalling the presence of these women of action since the foundation of the city, the exhibition has the benefit of drawing attention to the diversity of roles assumed by these religious women: teachers, nurses, architects, musicians, scientists, social workers...
The exhibition has the advantage of revealing a whole segment on the legacy of these Congregations of women religious who have founded many institutions (hospitals, schools ...) including several prestigious ones. We need only recall the Vincent-d’Indy School of Music, the Saint-Nom-de-Marie Boarding School (Outremont Convent) and Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert founded by the SNJMs.
Consequently, Maison Saint-Gabriel's initiative provides the opportunity of discovering the diversity of past and present commitments by these women's congregations, which are less visible today, but are still actively involved in their mission.
The realization of this exhibition was based on the collaboration of the Congregations of women religious and their archives. It has benefited from the financial support of the City of Montreal and the Ministry of Culture and Communications as part of the Montreal Cultural Development Policy.
According to first estimates, Maison Saint-Gabriel has seen a 15% increase in attendance since the beginning of the year, demonstrating the interest of Montrealers and tourists in the history of Montreal, from different perspectives. While not being able to identify the main source of this increase, we cannot deny the influence of the City’s anniversary year and the organization of an unprecedented exhibition.
At the opening of its 32nd season, the Longueuil Symphony Orchestra (OSDL) presented the world premiere of Symphony No. 1 "On the Ruins of an Old Fortified Castle", created by the composer Airat Ichmouratov, an “adopted” long-time resident of Longueuil. This symphony pays tribute to both Charles II Le Moyne of Longueuil and Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
The first movement of this creation by the Russian born composer is a musical portrait of the eldest son of the founder of Longueuil. "At first, the timpani and the bass drum mimic the distant sound of the war drums of the indigenous peoples after which a theme, with horns playing, conjures up the image of the baron. Further on, Ichmuratov identifies himself with the heroes.” Then, added to this are “his own astounding memories as an immigrant ... "*
A joyful ‘scherzo’ (vigorous, playful composition) follows in the second movement. Here, the composer describes Longueuil as it is today, with its celebrations, its active lifestyle in which children’s games, the noise of the traffic and the night life are intermingled.
With the Adagio maestoso, Airat Ichmouratov brings us back to the 19th century. He pays tribute to “Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, another great figure in Longueuil’s history.” * Born Eulalie Durocher (1811-1849), Mother Marie-Rose founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1843.
“The Adagio reflects this Sister’s gentleness as well as her strength of character and her humble lifestyle in the convent. In this portrait, Ichmouratov superimposes a portrait of his own mother, who accidentally disappeared while he was working on this movement."*
This symphony’s finale takes us back to the events mentioned above: "celebrations, battles, and moments of nostalgia, ending with a celebration of contemporary life in Longueuil which is presently joyful and peaceful.”*
This world premiere took place as part of the opening concert of the 32nd season of the Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil. With the aim of highlighting the 360th anniversary of the City of Longueuil, Marc David, artistic director and principal conductor, gathered some of Longueuil's great performers.
In addition to the work of the composer Airat Ichmouratov, presented in the last part of this concert, we find in the opening act the Fantaisie sur L’Heptade by Neil Chotem, inspired by the mythical album of Serge Fiori and Harmonium. André Moisan followed with his remarkable Clarinet Concerto by Mozart.
A world-renowned composer
Note that the composer Airat Ichmouratov studied clarinet before obtaining his diploma in 1996. Following several tours in Europe, he moved to Montreal in 1998 where, in 2005, he obtained a master's degree and then a doctorate in conducting from the Université de Montréal. He was Assistant Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre Les Violons du Roy and Resident Conductor of the Orchestre symphonique de Québec before joining the Klezmer Kleztory Band. He demonstrates his many talents, playing the clarinet, and composing and performing arrangements. He has toured extensively throughout the world with this group, and his music is performed by many ensembles and musicians in a number of countries. He has been Associate Composer at the Canadian Music Center since 2010.
*Program from the opening concert of the OSD, September 28, 2017
Recently, during the 10 o’clock Mass, celebrated by Robert Gagné, a Sulpician priest, Mother Marie-Rose Durocher was officially recognized as "Secondary Patron" of the parish of St-Arsène. The parish, located in the Montreal borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, had issued an invitation to parishioners in the weekly bulletin, under the title "We are celebrating Marie-Rose Durocher".
For this special celebration, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary from Marie-Rose-Durocher Residence, across the street from the parish, provided the singing during the Mass dedicated to their foundress. Sister Monique Thériault accompanied them on the organ.
Some of the regular parishioners came to share the joy of the Sisters who were present. They were also joined by Sister Jacqueline Aubry, from the SNJM Mission Sector, who came with a friend who is a member of Les Soeurs Missionnaires du Christ-Roi.
During the Eucharistic celebration, Sister Denise Mercier gave a brief biography of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, and Sister Louise Danis read the prayer intentions.
At present, the statue of Mother Marie-Rose can be found in the sanctuary of the church while awaiting its transfer to the alcove that is reserved for her.
The “Chemins de vie” organization launched its 15th anniversary year during a festive cocktail reception on September 14th. It was a great opportunity for remembering how far this organization has come, along with highlighting its own trademark: "the warm and unconditional welcome of all those who want to pursue or undertake a spiritual journey," said Yvonne Demers, one of the members of the board of directors.
The gathering was the scene of many heartfelt testimonials from people who have benefited and/or who have decided to become actively involved, won over by this organization’s mode of operation, its vision and its contribution to the development and self-fulfillment of each individual.
It is therefore not surprising that the Quebec SNJMs have been partners with this organization for 15 years, since its mission and its values connect with both components of their educational mission: the full development of the human person through education and commitment to social solidarity.
The Acts of the 2016 Chapter are “bursting with calls to open the doors onto Life”. They encourage "dynamism to keep our mission alive to the end. Partnerships with organizations and groups which embody the same values and the same concerns as ours, help us to continue our mission in new ways, reported an article in the Publication of the Quebec Provincial Leadership Team (November 2016).
This partnership is expressed through financial support but also by the commitment of the Sisters. Thus, Sister Denise Riel, co-founder of the organization, was coordinator for ten years. She continues to be committed to it by facilitating the workshop ‘Spirituality, a Way of Life’ and by being a member of the small group that meets on Sunday to pray and share around the Eucharist.
Sister Françoise Lanthier welcomes people and facilitates small groups who share the Word. Sister Constance Létourneau individually accompanies people who are spiritually searching. Sister Marie-Paule Demarbre is a member of the Board of Directors, while other SNJM Sisters participate in one or other of the witness talks.
In her presentation, recalling some motivating factors that encourage people to join “Chemins de vie”, Sister Constance Létourneau emphasized the desire to "find our mission", to learn to pray, to face difficult situations and to discover God. According to her, these are reasons that legitimize her partnership and that of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
"I find the "Chemins de vie" family to be so generous, lively, creative and adaptable to the needs of our ever-changing society. Year by year, new projects that are always more interesting than the others and are aimed at meeting new challenges are emerging."
In the light of this testimony and other testimonies, we can only hope that this year of festivities will bring dynamism and energy to all the people involved in “Chemins de vie”, members of the team, participants, partners, and donors.
Unable to remain insensitive to the global crisis of migration and the polarization of anti-immigration statements, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) unveiled their corporate stand regarding migrants and refugees. They accompanied their words with action by seeking the collaboration of organizations to provide a profile of the situation on the South Shore, in a context where the number of families of refugees and asylum seekers has increased exceptionally over the last two years.
“We realize the importance of becoming aware ourselves and of raising the awareness of all people to the reality being played out in the field so as to put things in perspective," said Sister Denise Riel, SNJM Provincial Animator. In the current context, the SNJM Provincial Animator for Quebec wants the citizens of the South Shore "to discover the small and large successful experiences of the various organizations as well as the challenges which we all face: migrants, refugees and we, as a host society.”
Last summer, the massive arrival of people crossing the border seeking Canada’s protection necessitated the setting up of several emergency shelter sites, including the one in Boucherville, called Havre Providence. With the collaboration of the CISSS-ME Emergency Response Teams, this site welcomed nearly 500 people from August to mid-September.
During this same period, Carrefour le Moutier provided support to more than 400 people including 111 families. "We mainly supported these people so they could attain housing, material resources, food assistance, work permit applications and school enrollment," said Amalia Suarez, Project Manager for the asylum seekers at Carrefour le Moutier, who hailed the openness and the invaluable collaboration of Longueuil property owners in offering housing to these newcomers.
Private sponsorship: autonomous refugee
The mobilization of the public in the face of the Syrian crisis made it possible to welcome to Quebec 4,500 refugees through private sponsorship, an approach that is unique in the world. On the South Shore of Montreal, numerous private sponsorship committees were established in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Lambert, Saint-Hubert and Longueuil. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) contributed to the establishment of the private sponsorship committee, ''Chemins d'accueil de Longueuil'', which hosted two Syrian families of 3 and 4 people, respectively.
The young Marcel Alhanout, 18, also witnessed to this desire to integrate and to take advantage of the chance offered to give them a new life. Pointing out the daily challenges which all the members of his family are facing, Marcel said he was happy to live in Quebec. "The first thing that surprised us and that we really appreciated was the freedom that we find here. We are very grateful to our welcoming society."
"In one year, the first family of Syrian refugees has become autonomous. The husband has found a job while his wife is continuing her training in French and her studies so as to soon begin a new career," said Jacques Morin, coordinator of the group Chemins d’accueil de Longueuil. The second family, who arrived last winter, relies on two young adults who are already working while continuing level 3 of the francization program this fall. According to the speaker, beyond the refugees’ first objective to quickly become independent, the active commitment of volunteers to their committees and the strength of their network of contacts contribute significantly to the success of private sponsorships that are attracting the attention of several researchers and organizations, even European ones.
The first Congregation of teachers founded by a Canadian in Longueuil in 1843, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) are currently working in five countries. In Quebec, they are responsible for the establishment of many renowned institutions including the Vincent-d'Indy School of Music and Collège Durocher Saint-Lambert, and are known as well for their significant presence in almost all schools in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-Mercier districts. After taking corporate stands on "Water is a human right and public good" and against "Human trafficking", the SNJMs recognized the urgent need to declare their solidarity and to give public testimony by acting in favor of migrants and refugees. In addition to participating in the Chemins d’accueil de Longueuil Committee, the Congregation is also participating in the private sponsorship committee from Saint Monica Parish in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Montreal.
Created in 1975, the Maison Internationale de la Rive-Sud is an organization entirely dedicated to supporting newcomers, including public refugees (supported by the State). Its action focuses mainly on support for the settlement, francization, employability and integration into the host society. The organization has developed strong expertise and has established itself as a key player in the field of integration of migrants and refugees on the South Shore. In light of this, it participates in several round tables. It is the only organization on the territory of the South Shore, to be mandated by the Immigration Department to accompany State-sponsored refugees.
Initially, the group consisted of a core group of 13 individuals from different backgrounds, including religious communities, representatives from the St-Jean-Longueuil Diocese, representatives from community groups and some citizens sensitive to the cause. Since then, some 30 people have been contributing in various ways to support the two sponsored families. Chemin d'accueil de Longueuil is one of the 12 groups involved in private sponsorship in the territory of the Diocese St-Jean-Longueuil.
* Jean-Nicolas Beuze, Representative in Canada of The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), interviewed by the Le Devoir newspaper, July 7, 2017
Presided by Archbishop Christian Lépine, the Eucharistic Celebration celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Nativité-de-la-Sainte-Vierge Paroisse, in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, focused on welcoming others.
In his homily, Archbishop Lépine insisted that each human being was created in the likeness and image of God. Emphasizing the importance of these moments of encounter in his own life, he urged those present to reach out to each other, to create opportunities for encounters that are sources of astonishing personal enrichment. The offerings (bread, fruit, flowers and wine) were brought up by an African family to demonstrate this genuine welcoming of immigrants in the area.
The entire parish pastoral team, one of whom was the Pastor Father Jorge Muniz, and the curates actively participated in this commemorative Mass, which was also attended by former pastors and curates as well as religious congregations who have worked or still work in the parish.
Father Muniz took this opportunity to emphasize the important contribution to pastoral work and education by these congregations, and mentioned first the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), who were very active in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, since 1860.
This speech was also echoed by the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, during the official ceremony for Place des Tisserandes. This public square is aimed at paying tribute to the women who played an important role in the district by their work in the many cotton mills that were established in the 19th century and continued into the next century.
Located in front of the church, just in front of the steps, there is a rose window that is a replica of that of the church, around which trees and flowers have been planted. There is a plan in place to install a fountain in the near future. The idea behind this design is to recreate a space for friendly get-togethers for all the parishioners while, at the same time, alluding to gatherings on the church steps...
The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) were represented by Claudette Bastien, Florence Vinet, Simone Perras and Monique Thériault, all of whom lived in the neighborhood at one point in their lives. For one, her first mission was to go and teach at École Stadacona.
The event also prompted reunions with a number of former students. Several of them were eager to express their gratitude for the education they had received from the Sisters who were present.
Photo credits – Photographer Maude Colin – Paroisse Nativité-de-la-Sainte-Vierge
"During our training sessions about welcoming Muslims, we were cautioned not to touch people of the opposite sex. You should have seen our surprised looks when the Alrayes family hugged us upon their arrival at the airport," said Sister Beverley Wattling.
Since then, the members of the sponsorship committee from Sainte Monica’s Parish in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Montreal can, on a daily basis, enjoy the attitude of openness shown by the members of the Alrayes family. Despite all the suffering they have experienced in the last three years, each member of this family demonstrates an extraordinary sensitivity to others. They are a source of inspiration, not only by the courage they show, but also through this openness and sensitivity to others, as well as their interest in people that goes well beyond religious affiliation.
The members of the Alrayes family had to overcome a veritable obstacle course during the last number of years. The father, who first worked in construction and then as a vehicle driver linked to hospital services and the mother, a caterer, were forced to leave everything to save their lives and the lives of their four children.
Living as refugees in Jordan for three years, their situation there was not much better. The oldest boy, just 12 years old, found himself as the main source of support for the family by working in a grocery story. The father, who was experiencing problems with one of his legs, was limited in his search for work.
In addition to all the difficulties faced by refugee families in Jordan, the Alrayes family has had to overcome the anguish of endless waiting after making their application to enter Canada. The process was complex and lengthy, more than a year, causing moments of discouragement, moments which were shared in Quebec by the members of the sponsorship committee from Saint Monica’s Parish.
It required a lot of patience before, and even upon the arrival of the members of this family. In fact, following an administrative error at the Canadian embassy in Jordan, there was some frustrating red tape. The use of the same first name for the father and one of the sons was the cause for this confusion, which took more than a month to regulate in Canada.
However, despite the anxiety of waiting and the difficulties associated with adapting to a new environment while speaking neither French or English, the members of the Alrayes family could finally breathe again. You had to see how the members of the Syrian family were attentive to others. Visited at least once a day by a member of the committee or a friend of the group since their arrival on July 22, the members of the Alrayes family communicate via an interpreter, an application for translation on a smart phone or simply through signs.
Despite the language barrier, the visits are continuing to the Alrayes’ home, to get feedback, to help them in their dealings with the administrative or medical authorities and to familiarize them with their host society.
Despite the difficulties in communicating, visitors notice the strength of mind of the family members. During a meeting with two volunteers, the youngest daughter of the family showed her concern by taking an interest in the person who remained in the background. It was a good lesson in caring for others, of showing an interest in everyone who is present, regardless of religion, sex and language.
Aware of the major challenge imposed on them by choosing a Muslim family of six, including four children, speaking neither English nor French Sister Beverley is happy with their choice. "We are very pleased with the climate of mutual support between us and the family, with the opportunity to strengthen ties of friendship between Christians and Muslims and to do our part to reduce prejudice against the Muslim community.”
The initial contact at the airport and the further contact established on a daily basis demonstrates overall, that regardless of language, religion and social class it is important not to lose sight of what unites us as human beings.
There are still many challenges that lie ahead for all the members of the Alrayes family, including learning the language, adapting to a new environment and a new culture. Even so, in listening to Sister Beverley, we too have many things to learn from them, beginning by opening ourselves to the tragedies of all these men, women and children who are forced to abandon everything to save their lives.
Over the next few weeks, the children, as well as their parents, will attend literacy or integration classes to help them integrate.