What’s Up

Inspired by Nelson Mandela

One morning in October, my eyes were caught in the subway by an advertisement for an exhibition on Nelson Mandela: “The exhibition for everyone who refuses to see the world in black and white”. Seeing his face in the midst of the advertisements was a relief for me. We decided to go with the community and we did so just a few days before the closing, early January.

There were lots of posters, videos, pictures, texts in three languages: Xhosa, English and French. The exhibition depicted the journey of Mandela from violence to non-violence. His cell in Robben Island where he stayed during 18 years was also reproduced in its real dimensions. The atmosphere was special: gravity, silence, peace, with softened light.

Reading some letters of Mandela, experiencing the narrowness of his cell, the context of violence and poverty, the climate of fear was quite an experience. I was moved by his determination to be liberated along with all his companions, to take the opportunity in jail to train, to learn from each other, to learn the Afrikaners’ language.

Canada is one of the first countries that Mandela visited just after his liberation in 1990. I learnt a lot about the links between Canada and South Africa and the role that some politicians played in the liberation of Nelson Mandela through the boycott of the products in the 1970s.

As Canada was supporting Mandela´s struggle, some First Nations in Canada started to speak up about their situation, so unjust as well. Since 2007, the government of Canada has made excuses to the First Nations and was inspired to start a commission of Truth and Reconciliation as South Africa did.

This exhibition gave me a shot to be more aware of injustice where I live and to continue to be part of the movement of reconciliation, which is the only durable way to live together.

Sr. Marie-Noëlle

An oasis of peace and hope

Toronto’s diversity is well known. People coming from all continents call the city home and the variety of cultures, languages and food is impressive. The city is also widespread and there is a lot to explore ! On one of our latest excursions, we visited the Aga Khan museum located in the North York area. Recently opened in 2014, its purpose is to present Islamic art and objects with the perspective of fostering a dialogue between cultures and religions.

I felt quite inspired by the beauty of the building and the exhibitions, the serene atmosphere and the sense of openness and respect that pervades the museum. I was enthusiastic to see that the theme of upcoming artistic performances for winter and spring 2020 is called Listening to each other. In the Program, the head of Performing Arts states:

Today, listening can seem like a lost art. It is both a collaborative and creative act, inviting us to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Done well, it is an act of empathy in which our ears, eyes and minds, witness another person’s individual expression”.

The museum’ s project and its open invitation to view diversity as an opportunity to enrich our ideas and worldviews are compelling and energizing. I received them as a gift, as an oasis of peace, a path of hope, in stark contrast with the deafening noise of the compounded political and religious tensions that fills our screens daily. Celebrating the genius of the human mind and the quests of our common humanity through art and culture is a sound and inspiring antidote to the divisive forces at play around us.

Laurence

In gratitude for the gift of consecrated life on this Feast day of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, detail, by Giotto

Over the week-end, some of us spent a time of silence and prayer at the Anglican Sisterhood of St John the Divine in the North of Toronto. We give thanks for this time of spiritual revitalization, especially through the liturgy. On Sunday, we celebrated “Candlemas” marking the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and Jesus being received by Simeon who recognised him as “the light of all nations”. On this day, we also celebrate the gift of consecrated life in the Catholic Church.

We were moved by the ritual at the end of mass as we were holding candles around the baptismal font and remembered our baptism. The prayer we said when extinguishing our tapers brought to a close the Christmas season and turned our hearts already towards the celebration of the Lord’s Passion and Easter.


“God our creator, here we bring to an end our celebration of the Savior’s birth.
Help us, in whom he has been born, to live his life that has no end.
Here we have offered the Church’s sacrifice of praise.
Help us, who have received the bread of life, to be thankful for your gift.
Here we have rejoiced with faithful Simeon and Anna.
Help us, who have found the Lord in his temple, to trust in your eternal promises.
Here we have greeted the Light of the world.
Help us, who now extinguish these candles, never to forsake the light of Christ.

All extinguish their tapers.

Here we now stand near the place of baptism.
Help us, who are marked with the cross, to share the Lord’s death and resurrection.
Here we turn from Christ’s birth to his passion.
Help us, for whom Lent is near, to enter deeply into the Easter mystery.
Here we bless one another in your name.
Help us, who now go in peace, to shine with your light in the world. Thanks be to God! Amen

(Source: The Promise of His Glory, Church of England, 1991)

Advent’s Events to Prepare the Way to a greater Joy

Marie-Noëlle proposed a 30-minute prayer after mass on Mondays at our parish (St Joan of Arc).

“Let us ask the Lord to show us three blessings that we received this day. After 10 minutes of silent prayer, we will pass a candle and each of us will have the opportunity to share with the group one of these blessings”


Celebrating life!

Mid-December Claire and Laurence had their birthdays two days apart, and it was a milestone birthday for Claire. So you’ve got to celebrate! On the D-Day, a surprise was organized after work: gathering at mass at St Stephen’s chapel, Indian restaurant and a great musical, Bend it Like Beckham. We thought there was a good analogy with the call to religious life and the way some of our families reacted when they learned about our decision to join the Xaviere Sisters! The Indian danses and the songs were a delight. What a great gift that life… and sisterhood!


The Sing-Along Messiah with the Tafelmusik choir and orchestra at the Roy Thompson Hall on December 21st was a thrill! The words and the melodies stayed with us during the whole Christmas time: “Comfort ye my people…” “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…” “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice greatly!”

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Good-Bye, Father Dan!

On Sunday, December 22nd, we said good-bye to our parish pastor, a Franciscan Father of the Atonement, who is sent to a new ministry after 12 years as pastor of St Joan of Arc. Being sent is part of religious life and we do believe in the fruitfulness of it, even if it is always sad to say good-bye…


We then welcomed some of our sisters coming to celebrate Christmas in Toronto… Thanks be to God for allowing us to prepare his coming through the ordinary and the extraordinary events of our lives!

Happy Feast of St Francis Xavier!

Portrait of St Francis Xavier – Azulejos from Goa
Gift from Fr Dan, Pastor of our parish, St Joan of Arc
at mass on Dec 3rd, 2018

We are celebrating today our patron saint, whose dedication to the mission of Christ inspired Claire Monestes, foundress of the Xaviere Sisters.

“To work for the glory of God is not an empty phrase. It implies putting all our sweat and blood and life’s breathe.”

CLAIRE MONESTES

Let’s follow them in their passion for Christ to be discovered in the midst of the world!

And now this breeze that blows me from China and further away, it is you, my God, who come to me.
For I know now. I know, and people who will talk a lot won’t know.
They will believe that I was going to gain the world when you were going to gain my soul.
They will believe that I was going to bring Christ to the Chinese when it was you, you first of all, who were carrying him to me through them.
And it was up to me to enter first through my neighbor’s door, so that we could go out together through the door of God, through your door.

Fabrice HADJADJ, what good can it do to gain the whole world?

I just love Halloween!

I’ve been living in Canada for 20 years and I particularly love the days before Halloween, all the excitation, the decorations in the streets and in the gardens. Some are very scary (ghosts, skeletons…). In our neighborhood, quite a few houses have some very original decorations. We like to take a walk around to go and see them.

Every October 31st at dusk, under rainy or clear sky, knights, princesses, rabbits, dinosaurs, pirates, Transformers, Ninjas, Spiderman, ghosts, vampires, rabbits, cows, etc. are walking the streets (with their parents not far away), knocking at the doors where there is a lit carved pumpkin. “Trick or treat!” and goodies of every kind are offered…

I love it because it is one of the few evenings where there is entertainment in our street! We sit on our porch watching the families outdoors, happy kids to be with their parents in the dark. It’s also an opportunity to talk to our neighbors, to share memories of our childhood.
I like the costumes: even adults have their own. Usually I am dressed in orange, wearing some funny wig and hat looking like a funny pumpkin.


I like carving the pumpkin: with few cuts, it takes a funny look.
So it’s an evening special for children, which involves creativity and on a deeper note that speaks about death and darkness. Its origin is Celtic, in Ireland where the days are shorter and darkness longer. For me it’s a help to think about death, to laugh about it because I am scared of it and to prepare myself to die and to remember the departed that I loved.
I am aware that this tradition can be offending if you don’t have the codes.

Hospitality, creativity and family moment for two hours once a year: I don’t want to miss it!
Now Halloween is part of my life and is a way to prepare myself to the celebration of All Saints and the commemoration of the Dead in the following days. A way to tame death to celebrate Life all the more!

Happy Halloween!

Marie-Noelle

In solidarity with the Climate strikers

On Friday September 27, the climate strike wave hit Toronto. To express our solidarity with this global movement, Sr. Laurence joined the thousands who gathered in front of the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park and marched afterwards in the streets of Toronto. More images of the event in Toronto can be seen here.

“I was impressed by the number of children, teenagers and young adults participating. You could really feel the rising mobilisation of the younger generations asking current leaders to take effective measures to curb the alarming progress of climate change.”

Climate change is a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness that Pope Francis highlighted in Laudato Si’. We are connected to all living beings and with the Earth itself, currently suffering and crying under all sorts of abuses. The wounds we inflict on disappearing species, on others and on the Earth, are wounds we are inflicting on ourselves and on younger generations down the road. Will we wake up in time?

Starting a new community year

On Labor Day week-end was the first monthly community week-end. Time for us to acknowledge our new configuration for the year with Laurence, Marie-Noëlle, Claire and Blandine in Toronto, and Nathalie in Paris and later in Boston.

To do so, we had (among other things):

  • A “Grace Night” to share about how God granted each of us personally his love and his graces throughout the summertime
  • The “Time that God is giving us“: a look on the calendar of the year written on huge post-it on the wall to acknowledge our reality incarnated in time and choose realistically what we feel called to live together: invitations, sharing…
  • A discernment on Christmas time including a 3-day recollection in a monastery and the visit of a General Councillor, led with Nathalie through Skype: thanks to the modern communication channels!
  • And a visit to the Exhibition on Saturday evening to feel what so many Torontonians are experiencing every year! What a discovery for two of us!