We enter into the season of Advent in the presence of Mary awaiting her child. In the person of Mary, waiting for the birth of Jesus, tradition recognizes a figure of the Church waiting for the fulfillment of the promises. The Church is all Christians, and therefore each of us is a member of the waiting church. Advent recalls the waiting for the birth of the Savior in the flesh. But what are we waiting for? Do we dare to believe that our God became incarnate in the person of his Son who lived in the midst of our human reality?
Mary, it is so that neither God nor neighbors are made to wait
that you set out in haste.
God's visit of love to the world
is immediately transformed, through you, into service.
Servant of the Lord,
you are, at the same time, the servant of humanity.
You go in great haste because love fills you with joy.
As the new Eve, you run,
transported by the One you carry within you,
and you eagerly offer to the world the blessed fruit of your womb.
Holy Mary, share with us this love
that causes you to set out in haste,
which urgently calls you to go to your cousin
in order to share with her the Good News.
Share with us your eagerness to encounter God and neighbor with love and joy.
Rejoice, Mary, you who, according to St. Luke,
are going to the “hill country".
You travel on roads steep and difficult, rocky and unfriendly -
you, the sinless young woman,
surprised at evil and moved by compassion.
You set out on bumpy trails leading to the center of villages,
and opening, as always, paths to your Son.
Towards the pot-holed paths
of the old world, waiting for its spring
-which you bear and which will be born in you -
you set out, the Woman announced beforehand,
younger than the ancient world of sin.
Towards our paths both difficult and steep,
hostile and dangerous, you come.
In the midst of our troubles you reveal to us God’s dream for us,
a dream already fulfilled in you, a marvel of true humanity.
Holy Mary, be truly present to us
so that the difficulties of the road do not hold us back
from responding to the calls of our neighbor.
Our Lady of the Visitation,
grant that we may set out each day, in great haste,
to be of service to our neighbor.
Adapted and translated from a prayer by P. Quiavrac'h, smm
Following Jesus, the Great Sower, Eulalie (Marie-Rose) and Melodie (Marie-Agnes) set out for Longueuil, where Henriette Céré (Marie-Madeleine) and her sister Émélie waited for them in the little parish school. Like Abraham, they set out in faith, not knowing what awaited them. They were responding to a call rooted in their pastoral and social commitment in Beloeil. Bishop Ignace Bourget, very sensitive to the urgent need to educate youth, solicited their physical strength as well as their ardent love for this work of the Church. Their entire lives would be transformed.
Nine months went by in this "Bethlehem" where they lacked almost everything. However, their joy seemed to increase daily through their total gift of self. There was much to do: the material organization and upkeep, religious formation and the acquisition of pedagogical skills. Gratitude was expressed to the Brothers of the Christian Schools who shared their expertise and to the Oblate priests who guided them in their first steps. Salome Martin (Thérèse-de-Jésus) and Hedwidge Davignon (Véronique-du-Crucifix), two multi-talented women, were warmly welcomed. The harvest looked promising and students flocked to them. They had to move into a larger convent.
But challenges and difficulties arose: scheming by Fr. Chiniquy who wanted to take the place of the Oblates; the naivety of their pastor, Fr. Brassard, who allowed himself to be fooled by his protégé; doubts and suspicions among the public and an uncertain future. As they suffered and prayed, Providence watched over them. God wanted this work. It was God’s work and it would survive!
Soon, under the happy gaze of Mother Marie-Rose, the first expansions were realized: Beloeil, Saint-Lin, Saint-Timothée. However, an immense trial was on the horizon: the beloved foundress would depart this life leaving her community this message of hope: God will take care of you.
The expansion would continue: parishes in Quebec were calling for religious teachers. The audacious Thérèse-de-Jésus would send the first missionaries to far-off Oregon. The pace was set. Over time, many foundations were established in the United States, Ontario, Manitoba, Japan, Africa, Haiti, and South America.
As time went by, in order to meet specific needs, a variety of specialized schools were established: nursery schools, teacher training colleges, home economics schools, commercial courses, music schools, classical colleges, art studios, etc. These women, open to transformation, were letting new possibilities emerge wherever they were.
“Those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as much as you have decided ... God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9: 6-7)
In this time of grace, let us be in touch with the deep roots of our being which connect us to our Congregation. For many years, we have lived according to its values and mission. We have found a home in the SNJM spirituality. We have advanced the spirit of Mother Marie-Rose through the sharing of our gifts and talents, wherever our nominations and the calls of God have led us.
One way for each of us TO REMEMBER as we approach the 175th anniversary of our founding is to take times of quiet to recall God’s blessings.
Praise to You, Lord,
for your constant presence along our paths.
Praise to You for the many seeds cast into the ground.
Praise to You for generous sowers throughout time.
Praise to You for the earth
which welcomed the seed and helped it grow.
Praise to You, Lord, for keeping us open
to the calls of today and the calls of tomorrow.
Simone Perras, in collaboration with the PLT