“Sowing Hope for the Planet” (Title used by the International Union of Major Superiors - UISG)

 The increase in the number of natural disasters and the reports of many scientists calling for significant change make us aware of the urgent need to act in order to save the planet.

Closer to home, many Quebec personalities, including several artists, have taken an ecological "pact for transition" initiative and have invited citizens to get involved.

This Pact for Transition project has two objectives:

  • to encourage us to reduce our environmental footprint by means of small daily actions.
  • to lobby the government to take concrete action against climate change.

 It is one minute before midnight for the planet

At the beginning of the year, Radio-Canada contributed to the debate and reflection by offering a program reminding us of the need to act quickly because it is "one minute before midnight for the planet".(Video in French)

Right from the outset, a pointed question was asked of everyone: "What behavior(s) are you willing to change for the planet?” This is a serious question that speaks to our responsibility as citizens of the earth.

A concrete commitment for SNJM’s

The members of the Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary of Quebec did not wait for these calls before taking action. They invited individual sisters, community groups and SNJM associates to choose a concrete everyday commitment in line with the 5 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, reinvent, and repair.

This call for commitment has been part of the SNJM journey for a long time. It should be remembered that in 2008 SNJM’s adopted a corporate stand in favor of access to quality water and sanitation facilities for all. Among the other favored means, they support environmental organizations like Eau Secours and participate in environmental awareness and action events.
As a follow-up to the invitation from the Provincial Leadership Team, several groups have taken action. The "Sowing Hope for the Planet" project presents initiatives by two schools associated with the SNJM community. Discover the initiatives of the Uni-Vert Committee of Pensionnat Saint-Nom-de-Marie (PSNM) and the actions of the 100% Green Committee of Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert.
*Title used by the International Union of Major Superiors, UISG

Concrete Initiatives at PSNM to Improve the Plight of the Planet

Several projects have been put forward in recent years by the Uni-Vert Committee at Pensionnat Saint-Nom-de-Marie (PSNM).                                                                                                                                                                                  

The most recent is the "Pact for Transition", initiated by Dominic Champagne in November of 2018. Mathilde Galipeau-Bitsch and Olivia Ruge, members of the Uni-Vert Committee, were among the many student and staff signatories of the pact. These two students spoke live, in French on RDI Matin, about their commitments and those of the school in regard to environmental issues.

The Uni-Vert Committee, composed of a teacher and approximately ten students, has the mission of raising awareness and mobilizing students for a greener environment. It organizes activities throughout the year in order to encourage students to commit themselves personally to the future of the planet.

Tree planting and participation in the city’s “Mont-Royal clean-up bee” are part of the annual activities of the committee which, with the support of the staff, has also been responsible for several other ecological initiatives at the school. Composting and waste reduction, as well as a ban on disposable plastic water bottles and straws in the school cafeteria, are good examples of the actions taken.

Lastly, it should be noted that a biological roof garden project has been operating since 2014 and has been enriched with the addition of beehives. This PSNM project promotes the production of local foods, education in gardening, urban greening and the reduction of urban heat islands.  It is a fascinating subject which will be developed more fully in the context of networking with a community food organization.

A study on the presence of heavy metals    

The members of the Uni-Vert Committee at PSNM are not the only ones to be concerned about the environment.

Another project, a study on the presence of heavy metals along highways, was initiated by another group of PSNM students, who visited the Canadian Light Source facility in Saskatoon. Their research enabled them to discover the presence of a high concentration of heavy metals in their samples taken near highways around Montreal. To learn more about this specific project, follow the two following links that refer to an article in La Presse + (Text in French)  and an interview on Radio-Canada. (Interview in French)

Source: Manon Lanoue, PSNM Assistant Director

Two Green Projects at Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert

This year the 100% Green Committee launched two new projects at Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert College.

The first project was an invitation to sign the ecological "Transition Pact", initiated by Dominic Champagne, a stage director. Committee members sensitized students and staff who responded in great numbers.

Secondary 3, 4 and 5 students were permitted to sign the online petition. Those in Secondary 1 and 2 showed their commitment by signing their names on banners prepared by the committee. The campaign also served as a reminder of the importance of small daily actions in order to preserve our planet.

Team members of the 100% Green Committee also visited the individual classes to continue raising awareness among students.

Collaboration with Food Services

The second project developed by the committee was made possible because of the spirit of openness and collaboration of the food services. The committee proposed a reduction in the school’s ecological footprint and the company, Laberge Food Service, participated by agreeing to withdraw the following items from the cafeteria as of February 4, 2019:

• straws

• plastic utensils

• cardboard coffee cups.

The 100% Green Committee has been in existence for more than 20 years at Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert. Throughout all these years, the members of the committee have raised the consciousness of students and staff to the importance of taking concrete action to safeguard the planet. They offered regular awareness campaigns and initiated several on-going actions, such as recycling and composting.

Sources: Maryse Blanchette and Johanne Tremblay – Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert

“Une Bible des femmes” (A Women’s Bible), an Interpretation of the Bible from a Feminist Perspective

Officially launched in Europe in September 2018, this new publication by Éditions Labor et Fides has attracted a great deal of interest. The title, "Une Bible des femmes", reflects the purpose of the book. The Bible, as we know it, was written by men, with their particular perspective.

Supported by discoveries in biblical research, various Protestant, Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic theologians from Europe, Africa and Quebec (five), sought to interpret the  Bible from a twenty-first century feminist perspective.

They looked more closely at the presence and contribution of women in the Bible and revisited certain passages in the context of realities experienced today. Sr. Pierrette Daviau, FDLS, one of the authors and a co-editor who describes herself as a feminist, affirmed: "It is important to make women's points of view known. . .  [but] being feminist is not equivalent to being against men.”

Sr. Daviau notes particularly the diversity of feminine approaches and perceptions in this collective work. The twenty theologians are from different generations (27 to 77 years old). According to her, they shared an extraordinary collective work experience.

These twenty theologians highlight a dozen themes related to well-known, unfamiliar, or even nameless women. They reveal these women’s qualities of wisdom, courage, rootedness in the lives of their people, etc.

It is true that interpretation often bears the mark of personal and subjective convictions. New elements, however, can arouse curiosity, reflection, and critical thinking. They can thus help to broaden our vision. Many people will undoubtedly find Une Bible des femmes a source of enlightenment and encouragement. 

The book won the Religious Book Prize of France in December 2018. It has been widely read in Europe and Africa and is in its second reprint. So far, according to Sr. Daviau, all the comments received have been positive, except for one from an American evangelist who had not even read the book!

The Quebec Provincial LeadershipTeam's initiative in offering this book to francophone Sisters and Associates for Christmas was greatly appreciated. What a wonderful source for meaningful reflection and possible sharing. . .

Enjoy your reading!

Simone Perras, snjm

Une Bible des femmes. Twenty theologians interpret controversial texts. Elisabeth Parmentier, Pierrette Daviau, Laurianne Savoy (editors). Labor and Fides, 2018. 281 pages.

“Chemins de vie Pays” Tribute to the SNJM Community

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) received yet another mark of gratitude on the occasion of their 175th anniversary – this time from Chemins de vie.

Taking advantage of their visit to the Marie-Rose Center, a delegation from Chemins de vie officially presented a memorial plaque to Sr. Denise Riel, Provincial Animator.

Ms. Monique Rhéaume, President of the Chemins de vie Board of Directors said, “We consider it important to highlight the generous and on-going participation of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in our mission from the very beginning up to the present."

"This collaboration has been felt not only through your financial support, but also through the dynamic contribution of several Sisters whose continuous, reliable, and energetic ministry has been essential to the development of a solid foundation throughout the years."

The similarities between the SNJM mission of education and the mission of Chemins de vie are very evident. The organization, located in Longueuil, provides support to people who wish to begin or continue, in a new way, their journey of spiritual growth.

Although the organization’s approach is founded on Christian spirituality, Chemins de vie does not try to proselytize. People of any belief or affiliation are warmly welcomed. In short, Chemins de vie is a place of welcome and spiritual accompaniment for anyone in search of life, meaning and solidarity.

Chemins de vie was established in 2003, with Sr. Denise Riel as a co-founder. She worked there as Director for ten years and continues her affiliation with the organization. At present, Chemins de vie benefits from the contributions of Sisters Françoise Lanthier, Constance Létourneau and Marie-Paule Demarbre.

"Thank you so much for the gift of your ministry at Chemins de vie. We are very grateful to you," said Rhéaume during the presentation.

An Integration that Nourishes Hope and Dreams

News of a Syrian refugee family

The Alrayes family, who arrived in Montreal in July of 2017, are the third refugee family to have been sponsored by a group composed of interdenominational lay and religious collaborators including several Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) and SNJM Associates.

Filled with memories of the atrocities experienced in Syria and worries about family members still there, the family has had to adapt to a new country, with a different language and alphabet; a challenging climate, especially in winter; and so many different ways of doing things (food shopping, banking practices, municipal regulations, etc.) It has certainly been a challenge and it continues to be so.

The family has often expressed gratitude for the untiring support of members of the Refugee Sponsorship Committee of St. Monica’s Parish. From the very beginning they have been blessed by the presence of exceptional volunteers. Tutors have provided instruction five times a week both for the children enrolled in “classes d’accueil” (welcome classes) and for the parents who have attended government-funded French classes.

A positive experience of integration

In September 2018, the father, Ziad, accepted a maintenance job at a seniors’ residence. Although he had to abandon his full-time French classes before fully mastering the French language, and although he speaks little English, the seniors are fond of him and he has a wonderful, considerate boss who is helping him to adapt.

The mother, Eman, is continuing her government-sponsored French courses but is hoping soon to enter a special program for refugees, preparing them for work as cooks or pastry chefs. She is certain to do well since she is already an excellent cook and a very creative one as well.

All four children are integrating into Quebec society and are looking forward to moving to regular classes soon. The older daughter Abeer (age 17) hopes to complete high school in June of 2020. She will then attend CEGEP. The older son Ziad-Mohamed (age 15) attends École Secondaire St-Henri and also works part-time at a fast-food restaurant. The younger children, Mariam (age 11) and Yousef (age 7) attend École Les Enfants du Monde.

A festive meal

Recently the family invited the sponsorship committee and tutors to a home-made supper at their home where all enjoyed great food prepared by Eman.

What an unforgettable evening of Muslim hospitality this was - an evening filled with stories and laughter. And what a great opportunity to marvel again at this family’s amazing generosity, courage, faith and openness.

This family never ceases to impress the sponsorship committee. Each member is reminded over and over again that the sponsorship relationship is a mutually-enriching experience, a beautiful life-giving gift.

Source: Sr. Beverley Wattling

Another Way of Supporting Projects Corresponding to the SNJM Mission

Collaboration with Béati

Conscious that their mission and values ​​are shared by many community organizations, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) support groups and projects with which they share affinities. Since August 2012, SNJM’s have been working in partnership with the Béati Foundation.

This Foundation, active in Quebec for more than 25 years, has a solid expertise in financial support and the accompaniment of significant initiatives that "contribute to building a world marked by justice and solidarity". Béati’s knowledge and methods of accompaniment allow SNJM’s to explore new avenues of education in the area of solidarity with communities.

Supporting an education and awareness project

This year, the Béati Foundation has chosen to support, on behalf of the SNJM community, a project presented by Les Arches du Quebec (Quebec L’Arche Communities). This project matches the Congregation’s priorities in education.

The financial support of Les Arches du Québec project makes possible the hiring of a person who will act as a project support assistant. This person will have the mandate to support "all the L'Arche communities of Quebec in their work of raising awareness of the contribution of people with intellectual disabilities."

The project includes, among other things, an awareness campaign in elementary schools, and an awareness of the L'Arche experience with college and university students as well as with the general public.

The support of such a project is a perfect illustration of the diversity of causes that correspond to the SNJM values ​​and mission. It also fosters a better understanding of the scope of Béati’s collaboration in analyzing and identifying projects in line with the SNJM mission and is a great way for the SNJM community to support groups throughout Quebec.

Photos - Source Béati and Arches of Quebec

Being Open To Others In Order To Fight Prejudices

Recollection 1 - Jewish Religion

Speaking about her Jewish religion, Mrs. Sharon Helfer shared the knowledge gained by her own quest for meaning and her experiences. This first meeting, of a series of conferences oriented towards interreligious dialogue took place on November 22nd at Residence Marie-Rose Durocher. To expand on her presentation of explaining what the Jewish faith says about God and how to practice this religion according to various Jewish denominations, Ms. Helfer elaborated on the following three points: Who is God in the Jewish faith? What is the Jewish faith? And how to know and serve God?

Who is God in the Jewish faith?

The Jewish God has no physical appearance, he has no body even though the Torah speaks of the hand and the heart of God. He is the Creator of the universe. He is immanent in his creation. He is an intimate presence. The feminine aspect of God is called "Shekinah".

This scholar presents the Jewish God as a "God of the Covenant. A God who accompanies. All that He is, is beyond us. His uniqueness is proclaimed by the prayer that begins with "Hear, O Israel, God is One" (Dt 6:4-9).

This God of the Covenant is very well represented by the exodus from Egypt which constitutes a central moment in the Jewish faith. It is at this time that God proclaims "From now on if you keep my commandments, I will be your God and you will be my people."

What is Jewish faith?

The speaker presented a picture of some world religions to paint a fair picture of the situation. Percentage wise, Christians occupy the first place with 33.6% of believers, followed by Muslims with 20.28%. The Jewish religion is 0.23%, far below the population that declares itself atheist at 2.35%. This is why we say that "Jews are a proud minority."

The respect and love of the Torah is reflected in the profession of the scribe and the wearing of phylacteries and the possession of the mezuzah (an elongated case that contains two texts of the Law). They are also manifested by the feast of Simchat Torah where we celebrate the Torah by carrying the scroll and dancing on the 9th day of Sukkot.

The speaker presented a picture of some world religions to paint a fair picture of the situation. Percentage wise, Christians occupy the first place with 33.6% of believers, followed by Muslims with 20.28%. The Jewish religion is 0.23%, far below the population that declares itself atheist at 2.35%. This is why we say that "Jews are a proud minority."

The respect and love of the Torah is reflected in the profession of the scribe and the wearing of phylacteries and the possession of the mezuzah (an elongated case that contains two texts of the Law). They are also manifested by the feast of Simchat Torah where we celebrate the Torah by carrying the scroll and dancing on the 9th day of Sukkot.

Over time, the Jewish faith has evolved under the influence of women even if they still have difficulty finding their place. During her talk, Sharon presented a wheel that represents the liturgical celebrations of the year, celebrating the certain areas: agricultural, historical and family. While describing each of them she noted that the Passover is the most celebrated holiday. It also highlights the existence of a division between Jews. Those who come from Eastern Europe speak the Yiddish language (mixture of languages and Hebrew).  Those from Spain, the Sephardic branch, under Arab influence, speak Ladino.

How to know God?

To this important question, Sharon has a simple and clear answer. "If we love God, we want to know him, to study his creation, hence respect and love for the Torah."

A member of the Reformed Jews, Sharon met the Imam of the Quebec Mosque. She observed that by learning to know each other better, we "improve our knowledge of God.”  Her research led her to a greater knowledge and understanding of humans.

Continuing her explanation of the distinctions in Judaism, Sharon spoke of the Kabbalah, a mystical path of Judaism, emphasizing the existence of three branches. She then mentions the three key books that are: the book of Creation (3rd or 4th century), the book of Clarity (Languedoc - 12th century) and the book of Splendor or Zohar (Moses of Leon, 13th century - Spain).

She goes on to mention the existence of another key, the ten “sefiroth”. These are the attributes of God, two of which are wisdom and beauty. She also speaks of the reparation of the world, a theory of the Kabbalah (17th century) that containers holding the divine light broke; and to repair them, one must follow the commandments, pray, help others, and eat kosher food.;

She ends this part of her presentation by pointing out another distinction: the union of man and woman. The presence of God among us is described by the notion of Shekinah, considered as the feminine part of God. From then on one can understand the metaphors of the conjugal relationship to account for the desire for union between the "En sof" (the Infinite) and the Shekinah.

How to serve God?

Among the other distinctive elements in Judaism, let us emphasize that social justice is very present in their religion. The presenter mentioned the fact that Jews serve God by walking in solidarity. They pray with their feet! They use their free will to do good and to practice mercy in the world. Evil cannot be camouflaged.  They seek the path to walk through their suffer, and they try to turn evil into good. In addressing the presence of mercy in Judaism, Sharon quotes a rabbi, "Do not do to others what you do not want to be done to yourself."

An unusual journey

Raised in a modern home where there was not much talk of God, Sharon became acquainted with faith when meeting with a rabbi, in a synagogue, who told her that "God is good.”  It was in Israel that she met her husband, Peter, a native of Sweden. They have three boys and are part of a community.

Not knowing much about prayer, Sharon undertook a second master's degree and then began a doctorate in Jewish studies. Discovering the importance of belonging, she was not content to continue her research on Jewish studies. She is more interested in dialogue without losing sight of the fact that Jews are in the minority. She emphasizes listening, what she calls oral history. She participates in the Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Quebec. This approach enables an inner transformation that allows her to see the other as a sister, a brother. 

"You have to fight the prejudice of thinking that the other wants me harm," she says. Today, Sharon has undertaken a post-doctoral degree on the oral history of Jews, Cambodians, Rwandans and Haitians.

She listens to life stories while compiling the data collected in a database. The conference was rich in content touching on many aspects, including the question of forgiveness, the many branches of the Jewish religion and the conflict with the Palestinians. 

The session ended with a celebration in the chapel.

 Remember that this activity was organized by the SNJM Spiritual Animation Committee. 

Source: Sr. Constance Létourneau 
Photos: Sr Yolande Dufresne



The SNJM’s call for Canada to ratify Convention C-189

Significant support was given to protecting the rights of workers with an immigrant background at the SNJM provincial gathering on October 6th.
All those present were asked to sign a postcard calling upon the Canadian government and its Prime Minister, to ratify Convention C-189, adopted at the UN in 2011. This convention identifies a series of measures to be put forward by signatory states to protect the rights of immigrants in the labor market.

The text of the petition in the form of a postcard campaign clearly explained the relevance for Canada to act since there are more and more programs promoting temporary migration. 


Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 at a glance

Remember that this approach was part of the spirit of the SNJM Day of Service and Justice, launched by the Congregational Leadership Team. This day was created to highlight the spirit and values of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher and help meet the needs of our world and the Earth.

The call launched throughout the Congregation was warmly received and led to more than twenty actions held in Quebec and elsewhere, in the days preceding or following October 6th. This collective solidarity initiative was another important moment in the year of celebrations commemorating the 175 years of existence of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). To learn more about this topic, click here.

Source illustrations: International Labor Office - Geneva

Call for Universal Pastoral Action to Protect Drinking Water

On the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Safeguarding of Creation on 1 September, Pope Francis made realistic observations on environmental issues and, more particularly, on everything concerning the protection of drinking water.

At the outset he said ."It must be acknowledged that we have not succeeded in responsibly protecting creation."  He drew attention to the problem of water by recalling that, “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”

Pope Francis firmly emphasized the importance and urgency of taking care of water sources and water basins and not allowing the seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. " We urgently need shared projects and concrete gestures", before adding "... we are called to engage, actively, praying as if everything depended on divine Providence and working as if everything depended on us." 

This vibrant call directly challenges us as a Congregation that adopted, more than ten years ago, a corporate stand on the protection of water as a human right and a public good. What concrete actions can we take on a daily basis to answer this call and contribute to the safeguarding of this essential commodity

The Right To Safe Drinking Water

In its most recent Declaration on the Right to Safe Drinking Water, published on October 9, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) responds to the Pope's call and urges Canadians to take simple actions that can result in important benefits for the good of all. 
Among their suggestions:

• Avoid bottled water whenever possible.
• Make your voice heard to your political representatives to ensure that Canada’s fresh water remains a public good and is not monopolized  by private companies.  
• Make your voice heard to ensure that the federal government follows through on its pledge to provide clean drinking water on First Nations Reserves

In addition, there are many other actions that can make a difference: such as using water wisely to avoid waste, and so on…
Read the the Holy Father's full message of September 1, 2018; as well as information on the proclamation of the United Nations General Assembly which confirmed the 2018-2028 period as the International Decade for ActionWater for Sustainable Development.

Interreligious Dialogue

“God is too large to fit into a credo statement.” said ’Ibn ‘Arabî, Sufi mystic, who then asked each of us:  “Who is God or me?”

During the three planned gatherings, the three women: Jewish, Christian Orthodox and Muslim will answer this question from the perspective of their faith tradition as well as their personal journey.

The three gatherings, organized by the Spiritual Animation Committee, responded to the General Chapter asking us to reflect upon what we can learn from people who are of diverse cultures, races and religious beliefs.

These three women, Sharon Gubbay, Denitsa Tsevtkova et Samia Amor, are our sisters in the faith in the one God.

Welcome to Marie-Rose Durocher Residence on Saturday February 9th and March 30.  The first of these gatherings were held this past November 22nd.

Lise Bluteau, facilitator


Other articles in the section News
“Sowing Hope for the Planet” (Title used by the International Union of Major Superiors - UISG)
Concrete Initiatives at PSNM to Improve the Plight of the Planet
Two Green Projects at Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert
“Une Bible des femmes” (A Women’s Bible), an Interpretation of the Bible from a Feminist Perspective
“Chemins de vie Pays” Tribute to the SNJM Community
An Integration that Nourishes Hope and Dreams
Another Way of Supporting Projects Corresponding to the SNJM Mission
Being Open To Others In Order To Fight Prejudices
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The SNJM’s call for Canada to ratify Convention C-189