On February 2nd, World Day for Consecrated Life, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) welcomed consecrated persons and consecrated groups from the Saint-Jean-Longueuil Diocese, at Maison Jésus-Marie.
For the occasion, Sister Lorraine Caza, C.N.D. and Father Michel Proulx, O. Praem, developed their presentation based on three circular letters from Pope Francis, which were recently addressed to consecrated persons.
The very mention of the titles of these letters: Rejoice, Evaluate, Contemplate, constitutes in itself a compelling call.
Rejoice in the renewal experienced since the Second Vatican Council. Listen carefully to recognize God’s Presence and witness to it by a life centered on communion and attention to the needs of the world.
Evaluate the horizons of your life and your time with careful attention. Scrutinize the darkness to discover the fire which enlightens and guides; scrutinize the sky to recognize the signs of blessings...
Contemplate in the midst of your daily life. May your quest be passionate. Remain, despite the nights and the struggles, so as to hear God’s whispers (just like Elijah). Look to God to see the faces of people and other creatures.
After a period of discussion, a break and returning to the group, it was time for thanksgiving: Father Jean-Pierre Camerlain, Episcopal Vicar for Canonical Affairs and Chancellor of the St. Jean-Longueuil Diocese presided at the Eucharistic Celebration. . He was assisted by eight concelebrants.
The 175th anniversary of the founding of the SNJM Congregation was highlighted with a prayer intention and by the placing of a bouquet of roses at the foot of the statue of Mother Marie-Rose.
Simone Perras, S.N.J.M.
The year 2017 was full of twists and turns, unexpected events, enriching encounters and various activities for the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). With such fertile ground, it is always difficult to embark on a journey back in time.
This time, to help us look back at this year, we have chosen to present 12 memorable moments that occurred in 2017. They are memorable for the gratitude and the outreach but also for their historic aspect in this year marked by major tributes for Montreal and many other organizations.
Here then is our look back at the year 2017:
It is difficult to ignore this adventure which showcased the SNJM Choir on a prime-time television show. It also served as a stirring reminder that the host Julie Snyder was a former SNJM student and a "fan" of Mother Marie-Rose in her early teens!
Sister Phyllis Douillard’s interview in the Catholic Register shed light on her commitment to restorative justice, a spiritual and social program designed to help prisoners, who are sexual predators, integrate into society after they have served their time. This teacher, who also campaigns against human trafficking, drew attention to certain problems experienced in the prison environment, including a lack of funding for support and accountability programs and the role of chaplains. This is another example of SNJM commitment.
The tribute paid to Dorothy Guha, a long-time SNJM Associate, by the Saint-Jean-Longueuil Diocese, highlighted the constant work and commitment by this citizen in her community. It was a great way of emphasizing the presence and contribution of associates who are continuing the SNJM Mission in their respective milieus, by seeking to respond to the needs.
As a representative of CATHII (Action Committee against Internal and International Trafficking) where she has been working since its founding in 2004, Sister Claudette Bastien, SNJM, participated in an international meeting Talitha Kum in Rome. There she made thought-provoking encounters and discovered the positive impact of this international solidarity in everyday actions. It was a reminder that demonstrated and reaffirmed the ongoing commitment of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) who adopted a corporate stand against human trafficking in 2004.
The reunion at Sainte-Émélie brought together participants from the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve districts and from elsewhere. They used this opportunity to reconnect with the Sisters and to share memories. This day of celebration also served as a reminder of the journey travelled by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) as soon as they arrived in the neighborhood in 1860 and especially at Sainte-Émélie Convent.
To date, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), along with partners from the milieus, have sponsored three families of Syrian refugees. The arrival of this third family brings the opportunity to build bridges between Christians and Muslims. A look back at the story of this new family and at their first steps on Quebec soil...
The commemoration of 150 years of the Paroisse de la Nativité in Montreal was an occasion to pay tribute to the religious congregations, including the SNJMs, who were very involved in education and pastoral work in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, since 1860. The organizers also recognized the contribution of women through their work in the many cotton mills in the area, by officially inaugurating Place des Tisserandes.
During a celebration commemorating the 175th anniversary of Saint-Bruno parish, the contribution of the SNJMs who began their commitment in this municipality in 1918, was highlighted. The representatives of the congregation had the opportunity to meet and converse with former students and their parents. It was another great opportunity to recall the diversity of the commitments of the Sisters who have taught and who have contributed to pastoral activities in many ways.
During the year 2017, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), were able to highlight their contribution in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-Viauville districts. Also, within the context of a public reading of archival documents, presented during the festivities of the 375th anniversary of Montreal, the SNJM Central Archives Department selected excerpts from articles published in the local newspaper referring to history lessons, prepared by the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve History Workshop with the collaboration of professors, one of whom was Micheline Collin, SNJM.
The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), prepared an activity to officially launch their corporate stand by rallying community organizations to present a portrait of the situation experienced by refugees and immigrants on Montreal’s South Shore. The interventions of a variety of collaborators captivated the large audience. It was a great opportunity to raise the awareness that the SNJMs are actively involved in this matter which concerns the entire world community.
Among the numerous activities organized for the 375th anniversary of the City of Montreal, an exhibition entitled “375 Years in the Heart of It All” was held at Maison Saint-Gabriel. This exhibition showed the many facets of the contribution of women's religious congregations to the City of Montreal. Among the dozen or so participating religious congregations, of course, were the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the first congregation of women religious teachers founded by a Canadian.
At the opening of its new season last fall, the Orchestre Symphonique de Longueuil (OSDL) presented its first symphony by a Russian composer, who created his musical work to pay tribute to two key figures from Longueuil, one of whom is Mother Marie-Rose. It was a wonderful sign of gratitude to the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM).
The most recent creation by Michel Tremblay is currently being staged at Théâtre Jean-Duceppe until February 3rd. This play takes us back to the world of the author in the fifties, who lived on Fabre Street in Plateau Mont-Royal. Curious about everything and very tenacious, the kid bombards those around him with questions about literature, cinema and ... religion! The various characters among whom are the mother, Nana, the grandmother, the father and the Sister who is the principal of the school, have quite a bit of difficulty answering the incessant questions of young Michel.
The play that has received numerous accolades since its final dress rehearsal, allows Michel Tremblay to portray, in a wonderful way, the society in which he had grown up. Brilliant conversations and dialogues, tinged with humor, innocence and common sense provide an outstanding moment of theater with amazing comedians.
For the record, it should be noted that the costume designer came to the Marie-Rose Center to make the costume for the Sister who plays the principal of the school. She made it as close as possible to the one worn by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) who, at that time, were very prominent in the neighborhoods of East-end Montreal. Apart from some slight changes to the coif and veil to provide a better view of the actress’s face, the work was well done, based on the comments of the Sisters who have seen the play.
For a résumé of the play written by the comedian Henri Chassé, click here. (video in French only)
From January 1st to February 8th, 2018, an awareness campaign with prayer intercessions was orchestrated by the anti-trafficking committee of the SNJM Justice and Peace Network. Sisters, SNJM associates, consecrated laypersons and all those attuned to SNJM values are invited to participate individually or collectively in this process to thwart the phenomenon of human trafficking.
This initiative was inspired by the American Bishops’ invitation of to the faithful to draw attention to the fight against the various forms of trafficking. The project took shape as a schedule of prayer intercessions spread out among the various groups within the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM).
These prayer intercessions can also serve as reflection and awareness of the various aspects of this phenomenon that affects all societies, including Quebec and Canada. It was intended as a calendar, but can be used in a variety of ways and adapted according to circumstances such as suggested intentions during a time of prayer, or to spend a period of reflection at a meeting, etc.
How can we feel what refugees are experiencing? Can we really understand the dilemmas faced by thousands of refugees around the world? What are the hazards of the migration crisis? These are the points that were discussed on December 9th, during a day of education and raising awareness about the experiences of refugees.
Organized by the Jesuit Refugee Service (Canada), this day evoked strong emotions among the participants while providing more relevant information, than ever before, to help them understand this phenomenon of forced migration.
Even before being immersed in a simulation experience to understand how refugees are feeling, the enormity of the situation must be taken into consideration. From your point of view, how many people do you think become refugees, per minute, around the world?
Has the cat got your tongue? Don’t worry; in this case, you are not alone. The answer is both simple and terrible. The magic number is 24. And yes, there are 24 new refugees per minute, in the world. The result of this is an even more terrifying number per year: 65 million refugees or displaced persons.
These refugees come primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen in the Middle East; Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea in Africa; Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti, in Central America. 86% of these people instinctively go to emerging countries with medium and low income. Thus, Canada received only 1% of refugees in 2017, or 65,000.
For this to happen, I had to physically leave the people I love, experience a great deal of insecurity, and be willing to learn a language other than my mother tongue. I had to love without expectations and to accept my vulnerability of not always being able to respond to expressed needs or to understand the needs of others because we do not speak the same language. On the other hand, we all speak the language of compassion and communion and this is what unites us. Without knowing it in advance, I left my comfort zone to open myself to something greater and more human.
These experiences lead me to believe in religious life. They give me the courage to create tomorrow’s future and to take the risks needed in order to respond to the needs of our world. When fear arises and the challenge seems unrealistic, I rely on my faith, knowing that God has always been present in the past, that God is present today, and that God will be present in the future. I sincerely believe that we can still undertake a deep reflection, surrendering to the Holy Spirit who will certainly know how to guide us. Do we have the courage to let the Spirit act and destabilize us once again? Yes, I am convinced that we will let the Spirit do this in the near future.
Huguette Fleurant, SNJM
Last winter, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation from a group of Sisters from the U.S.- Ontario Province to join them in order to get to know each other better, to create solidarity among ourselves and to reflect together on the future of religious life. This gathering has existed for twelve years and brings together Sisters of our Congregation who entered the community after 1970.
The meeting took place in Santa Cruz and included 28 Sisters from Canada, Peru and U.S. - ON. As you can well imagine, we too are concerned about the future of our SNJM community. This gathering was skillfully led by Sr. Joan Stedman from the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The sharing in small groups was riveting because the questions were well focused and clear. We were asked to answer the following questions: What is the essence, the distinctiveness of religious life today? What sets us apart from others?
Another key moment was learning about the three dimensions of leadership (canonical, relational and organizational). Following this, we were asked to gauge where we stood personally, by sharing our strengths and our limitations. Sisters Lynda Haydock and Guadalupe Guajardo then shared their leadership experience at the general and provincial levels.
A video, How Wolves Change Rivers, raised a lot of questions for me regarding our SNJM future. If your curiosity has been aroused, you can watch it on Google, click on this link which is easy to access, or simply type in How Wolves Change Rivers. If wolves have been able to change the ecosystem of a park, just imagine everything we could succeed in changing.
Before leaving, we also took the time to answer another question that called for a commitment on our part. The question was: In light of the challenges to be addressed in my ministry, my religious, social and political life, how do I feel called to respond, what action can I take?
We ended our session with a long meditation-contemplation that was very nourishing. The next meeting is scheduled for July 2019.
The period in which we are currently living is not something unique or new. I am convinced that an institution is often confronted with moments of crisis, anxiety, questioning and transition.
When I think of the death of Mother Marie-Rose, the Sisters probably asked the same questions that we are asking today. What will become of us? Who will be able to assume appropriate leadership in this time of transition? Who will bring us together, unite us in mission?
I continued my reflection by reading two books, one concerning the life of Sister Veronique-du-Crucifix (The Hope of the Harvest) and the other about the life of Sister Thérèse-de-Jésus (Called to Cast Fire). I was greatly impressed by their boldness in moving the community forward, in making courageous decisions to ensure the survival of the community. In the face of adversity and troubling times, they stood firm, they stood tall and they took risks.
Just like those who preceded us, the delegates at the last General Chapter affirmed their faith in the future of religious life. I share this faith but I see religious life expressed and lived according to different structures that would enable us to respond appropriately to the needs of our world.
Pope Francis invited religious communities to open their doors wide and to change their structures in order to better accomplish the mission to which they are called.
Huguette Fleurant, S.N.J.M.
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…
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