Catholic Sisters Week: Celebrating Traditions, Changing the World

March 8-14 is Catholic Sisters Week. The theme this year is Celebrating Traditions Changing the World.

Sr. Marie-Noëlle and Sr. Blandine share some of their experiences:

When I (Sr. Marie-Noëlle) arrived in Toronto in July 2006, I met a sister from the Congregation of Notre Dame, Sr Ann, who she told me right away, ‘Save the date. The first Saturday of Lent is a retreat day for Catholic Sisters of the Archdiocese of Toronto.’

In fact, for the past 25 years, Catholic Sisters of Toronto organize a retreat day on the first Saturday of Lent. The committee’s name is Together For Mission and such is the reality: we are all together on mission in the Archdiocese of Toronto. The facilitator is always a Catholic Sister from the Archdiocese. The themes and insights are different each year…. It is very special for me to pray and meet with others religious during this time of the year.

Here is a reflection by Sr. Blandine about the retreat on Saturday:

The theme this year was, ‘The Gift of Joy and Laughter.’ It was facilitated by Sister Dotsy Schweitzer, a Sister of St. Joseph of Toronto. Sr. Marie-Noëlle and I participated from the Xaviere Sisters along with 40 other Catholic Sisters. This was a fraternal encounter in person after being virtual for the past few years due to the pandemic.

While difficult to share everything, I present to you a few phrases that are good to hear and relish on religious life today and how to purposefully live these during the Lenten season:

‘Joy is never out of place!’ ‘ Joy should be always a part of who we are,’ ‘Joy is not an option,’ these remind me of what our foundress, Claire Monestès used to say, ‘Joy is a central element of life in Christ,’ and ‘To not feel joy is possible, to not possess it is impossible … the charity of Christ urges me: all is joy!’  

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on

This does not mean that everything is always simple and easy. Joy is first a choice as Henri Nouwen reminds us, ‘Joy does not simply happen to you … We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday!’ 

The secret? Live each day in gratitude (which is like a muscle to exercise!). And cultivate this joy in the smallest things, the least of our encounters. Keep a sense of humour that rhymes with love.

This is what I wish for each and every one of us during this Lenten season. And to ‘joyfully spray that joy to others!’

A week later, I (Sr. Marie-Noëlle) saw many of the sisters again at the Festival of Women and Girls – Making a World of Difference organized by the Loretto Sisters, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto and the University of St. Michael’s College.

It was the same joy given by the Holy Spirit that makes me more aware of how we are connected! It could also be an inspiration from the cookies of Joy that were shared, based on an old recipe of St. Hildegard von Bingen!

On this International Women’s Day and Catholic Sisters week, I share with you this quote by Mary Ward, the foundress of the Loretto Sisters, ‘Women in time to come will do much.’

Continuing the Journey of the Synod on Synodality

During our Superior General, Sr. Christine Danel’s visit in February, we gathered on a Sunday afternoon with some friends and superiors from other religious communities in Canada: the Sisters of St Joseph of Toronto, the Loretto Sisters (IBVM), the Faithful Companions of Jesus, and the Basilian Fathers. Together, we took the time to share and pray, as a step on the road of the Synod on Synodality that Pope Francis invites us to embrace. All of us had read the National Synthesis for Canada written in the summer of 2022, based on the contributions from various groups and dioceses who engaged in the first phase of the Synod on Synodality.

We shared our good surprises and the notes of hope that resonated from our reading, and also the priorities and the calls we hear for religious life in Canada: building bridges, giving witness to the joy of the Spirit and of the Gospel, being out there in the midst of God’s children, grounded in love, providing spaces for conversations, forming faith-based communities, renewing our formation and the formation of everyone in the Church – the laity and the clergy… There are so many ways and so many reasons to be hopeful in God!

It was a very fraternal afternoon. We are grateful for walking with brothers and sisters in Christ on this journey for the entire Church.

An Advent Reflection

Sr. Véronique lives in a Parisian suburb in France. She was recently selected to be part of ‘The Life‘ – a virtual panel of religious sisters from all over the world who write on a variety of topics – sponsored by the Global Sisters Report.

Here’s an advent reflection from Sr. Véronique:

In the etymology of the word « Advent », we hear an orientation – ad – but the aim of it doesn’t seem to be so clear: venire, ‘come!’ And so it is: Advent invites us to turn towards someone coming. As two people walking towards each other, they would definitely meet on the way and not at the end of the journey.

Before entering religious life, I searched for a congregation for such a long time that at times I thought God had forgotten about me. Everybody around me seemed to be able to achieve their goal (get married, get a job, travel…) and I kept looking for a congregation… I finally discovered La Xavière (the Xaviere Sisters) when I was 35… so more than 15 years after my decision to become a religious sister.

In the first year of my novitiate, as I got used to the Ignatian habit of reviewing my life, I realized just how much God had been present in my quest: He had not stood at the end of my journey (as an aim to target and reach) but He came to me and walked with me.

Here comes the significance of Advent in a very concrete way: God is coming to us who are yearning for Him and the meeting is not only to come but is already a reality. The feast of the Nativity sheds precious light on our lives: before a baby, all anxieties and worries often easily fade away. All the more for Jesus – the Word of God – silent and vulnerable, present like treasure to be taken care of: He seems to engrave in our hearts an orientation that will definitely remain and that has something to see with Hope.

As a teacher near Paris, I hear so many different voices expressing disillusions. Not only those of colleagues experiencing ruptures and losses in their private lives, but also those of teenagers who are worried because of the violence they witness – in their family or in the world – and the lack of security they fear regarding their future place in society and the ecological concerns. Most of these people – adults and teens – are not Christians, but like all of us, they thirst for justice, peace, security.

I do believe the season of Advent has something to tell them: in the present of our lives, certainly in a remote part of ourselves, there is a quiet place where we can sit in silence and review the traces of Hope. Helping them discover this place is one of my implicit but major targets in my educational options.

Daughters of the Kingdom: a reflection on our charism

Today is the feast of Christ the King! While this feast day was instituted in 1925 a few years after the Xaviere sisters were founded, our foundress – Claire Monestès – had a special fondness to the reign of God. She called us daughters of the Kingdom.

J’ai choisi un roi bafoué, flagellé, trahi par la justice. J’ai choisi un roi crucifié. Je l’ai
choisi librement. Il me reste à faire les offres d’un plus grand prix.

Claire Monestès 1920

I chose a scorned and scourged king betrayed by justice. I chose a crucified king. I have chosen him freely. All that remains for me is to make the ultimate offering.

St. Philip Church, Marseilles where Claire had this spiritual encounter

In 1906, Claire had a spiritual encounter while receiving the meditation of the Call of the King from the Spiritual Exercises that was foundational to her desire to to give herself fully to the service of God.

Many years later, when Claire commented on the spiritual exercises to the Xaviere sisters, here is what she said about being daughters of the Kingdom:

She who is speaking to you understands that this heavenly call of the King is what gave birth to the Xaviere sisters. The Xaviere sisters are daughters of the Kingdom….

Claire Monestes 1932

Today, 90 years later what does it mean to be daughters of the Kingdom? Here are some reflections from the Toronto Xaviere sisters!

To be a daughter of the Kingdom is first of all to receive my identity as a Xaviere sister and to continue to discover it in my daily life. It means living in community with other daughters of the kingdom and seeking with them where mission calls and leads us in Canada. To me the expression unfolds the call to live as a disciple of Christ. To be a daughter of the kingdom is to choose him as my Lord, the eternal King, to accept to follow him and to imitate him – as St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to do in the Spiritual Exercises – accepting the joys and the costs that this entails.

Concretely, it means committing myself in today’s world in order to “proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18). It means working to build a more just and fraternal world, where I am. On a daily basis, being a daughter of the kingdom is an invitation to
remain dynamic in the mission of service, to remain available in the great calls as well as in the small ones. It is to accept to get back on track when
discouragement arrives by looking beyond the concerns of the moment.

Sr. Catherine

Claire Monestès and some of the first Xaviere sisters

This sentence from our foundress moves me and gives me impetus and aspiration to go beyond my limits, my fears, my resistance to change. God does not stop creating, it is his way of loving us.

This reign, already there and not yet, pulls me forward, like a new creation constantly in the making. Living in Canada for 20 years, in a culture different from that of my origins, this facet of our charism makes me grow. I try to work for his reign of peace, of brotherhood across borders, in this multicultural city of Toronto. In English or in French, in Canada or in France, God is with me and with all the people I meet, in sorrow and joy.

Sr. Marie-Noëlle

Wildflowers, Tom Thompson
Christ Crucified, St. Ignatius Church, Paris

Being Daughters of the Kingdom is an invitation to be with Christ who reigns in this Kingdom of life, in a very special way. In some representations, as in St Ignatius Church in Paris, Christ wears a royal robe, he is the Eternal Lord of All Things Living, but he is also on the Cross. He reigns from the Cross. This is symbolic of his presence with us in all suffering, opening a passage to Life. As Claire Monestès received this invitation, we, Xaviere sisters, are also invited to “turn all suffering into a work of joy,” with Christ and by doing so, to gather all the scattered children of God and enter in the joy of the Father. This is our mission; this is who we are!

Sr. Claire

How do I hear this? I see a lot of dynamism in this phrase. If we are daughters of the Kingdom rather than daughters of a King, it is to participate in this task. To enter into the dynamic of God who works unceasingly, who works in hearts – and first of all in my own. Thus to let my heart be worked by God so that Christ can reign in me and beyond me, despite my frailties.

This King we are trying to follow is also the Servant-King, a humble King who has chosen
the last place, that of the washing of the feet.

Sr. Blandine

Jesus washes his apostles’ feet, Bradi Barth

Blessed feast of Christ the King to all of you!

Each morning you wake us to hear to listen like a disciple: the liturgy of hours in my life as a Xaviere sister

Each morning you wake us to hear to listen like a disciple… These words from a hymn by the Weston Priory Benedictine brothers give me a sense of the power of the liturgy of hours in song every morning over these 40 years in religious life.

To start the day by singing and praising the Lord is very life-giving and also community-building.

Our foundress Claire Monestès was very keen on Benedictine liturgy. In our formation and in community life, we spend some time in practice, chanting psalms and learning new hymns. Some of us have composed some antiphons and songs.

Praising the Lord is a way to enter the Mystery of God whom no words can describe. We still babble, stammer, stutter….  The way to be present even if we are not fully awake some days, even if our voices are not in tune… It makes us stand together in front of God and reminds us that we are here for Him and it is He who is the center of our life.

Even though I can’t read music, I can memorize and during the day some refrains come to my mind and help me for the day.

The simplicity of our chapel with icons, candles, and flowers – depending on the liturgical cycle – reminds us that creation is part of God’s revelation as well and is a way to praise the Lord.

Laus Tibi Christe!

Sr. Marie-Noelle

Making Compost: My way of Taking Care of Creation and Learning from the Earth

In community, we eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. So it feels natural to me to make our own compost.

Sr. Claire mixing the compost

I like to mix it, ensuring that there is enough moisture but not too much, and to see how it evolves.

At this time of the year, after several months without opening the compost box (thoroughly mixed before winter), the cycle is complete. It smells like the ground in a thick forest…

St. Gabriel’s Garden with some of our compost!

We donated two large pails of freshly ‘harvested’ compost to the Garden Ministry at St Gabriel’s parish, our parish.

Sr. Marie-Noelle and other volunteers spread it to the young fruit trees.

The cycle of life and simple joys!

Sr. Claire

Concluding our Centennial Festivities

On Sunday, February 13, we had a festive gathering online with our sisters in France, Ivory Coast, Chad, and Cameroon to celebrate the feast day of our Foundress (February 14) and to conclude our centennial festivities.

The video is a festive overview of the various celebrations that took place this year.

At the end of our time together, Sr. Christine, our Superior General, left us with these words:

Our jubilee year has come to an end, but the Ignatian year continues! Let us continue on the road of conversion towards the Lord with the whole Ignatian family!

The song in the video is the theme song from the Ignatian Family gathering in Marseilles in November 2021, ‘Avance au Large’ referencing Jesus’ invitation to Simon Peter to put out into the deep (Lk 5: 4).