A passionate advocate for the Earth, Sr. Marie-Noelle has contributed to an event organized by the Green Churches Canadian Network for Good Friday. A 14-station meditation was recorded both in French and in English.
We pray in communion with all of you, as we journey through the paschal mystery towards the hope of the Resurrection.
Here we are on February 4, 2021! This day marks the opening of the 100th Anniversary celebrations of the Xaviere Sisters Community.
On February 4, 1921, Claire Monestès, joined by Léonie Fabre, took private vows in the presence of Father Eymieu, sj, in the chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Cenacle in Marseilles. Claire Monestès, like Jacob after his dream in Genesis 28:16, later interpreted this event as the moment of foundation of the Xaviere Community! The grace of beginnings is discreet and humble, often hidden from our eyes. Good does not make noise.
Since then, the Xaviere Community has been growing in size and, hopefully, in wisdom and grace! Even if it remains small, fragile, our order is nonetheless very much alive and joyful, serving in the three continents where our communities are present today!
This one-hundred-year anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on our history and go back to our roots to draw from them. God has given us the gift of the Xaviere Community and of Claire Monestès. She was a foundress almost in spite of herself and yet nothing would have happened without her. All the women who joined her also contributed to incarnate this gift of the Spirit in lives, hearts, communities, and missions throughout the ages. The subsequent Congregational Leaders, in particular Marie Henriette Callet and Marie Guillet, were committed in fostering a strong human and spiritual formation, grounded in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.
« Missionaries because contemplatives », as Marie Henriette Callet used to say, with an open view of the world, the xaviere sisters seek to discover the traces of God at work in all things. The challenge is to learn to recognize the hues of the Spirit and to hear his music of « sheer silence » at play within every human heart and in all creation. And in so doing, we attune ourselves to the Spirit’s music, and through his inspiration we play a song of freedom, gentleness, and consolation for all who will hear it.
Celebrating a jubilee means actualizing the gift for today. This act of discernment compels us to be sensitive to the cries and sufferings of the people and of the earth. This means keeping our ears and hearts open so we can hear and respond to these calls by making ourselves present and by taking action, in our own way, without fear, with determination and confidence. Yes, our world is complex, the stakes are high and combine several crises ranging from health (in particular with the Covid-19 virus which has turned our lives upside down) to politics, the environment and the Church. Our God is involved in our suffering world and loves it to the point of dwelling in it. He yearns to engage with us and searches for worshipers and friends to live with him as witnesses of hope and of the Gospel.
We wish to celebrate this anniversary with joy, simplicity, and gratitude for all the good we have received in order to love and serve in all things! May this jubilee be an opportunity to meet and share with all of you, friends, members of our families, and associates!
In February, each community and region will organize celebrations to mark the opening of the jubilee. We will close the year with the feast of All Saints’ Day on the occasion of the gathering of the French Ignatian religious communities and movements in Marseilles, our place of foundation. Before that, we hope to see many of you at our gathering in Lourdes this summer (July 31-August 2) whose theme is « Reaching To the Sources of Joy ». We will celebrate together the One who invites us to follow his steps!
I am currently the first director of the Service for Discernment in Common of the Canadian Jesuit province. The Service was established in March 2019 to assist Jesuit apostolates and communities, as well as other organizations, with communal discernment processes.
Discernment is a spiritual practice meant to help persons and groups to open up, recognize and make decisions under the motions of the Holy Spirit. God calls persons and organisations alike to work for the greater good, to serve God and others to the best of our God-given abilities. We need navigation tools, not only to orient our energies and wills in this direction, but also to stay the course amidst constantly evolving contexts.
Discernment in common is the practice of discernment at the level of a group, helping the group members through prayer and spiritual conversation, to get a stronger sense of their identity and purpose, to become aware of how God is at work in their corporate history and the contexts in which they operate and to discern where the Spirit might be leading them next.
The Canadian Jesuits have pioneered these practices since the 1980s, notably through the work of John English, sj and George Schemel, sj (an American Jesuit) who adapted the Spiritual Exercices to a corporate setting.
Since each group has specific questions and needs, each process is tailor-made and varies in length and content. The focus might be on a specific decision the group is grappling with or on acquiring a renewed understanding of the group’s mission and ways of operating under changing circumstances.
I am amazed to see how communal discernment processes generally foster a greater sense of communion and a deep spiritual joy among group members. You can sometimes literally see the Spirit at work when in spiritual conversations people gradually open up and learn to become attuned to God’s presence and to one another. I also love the fact that these processes rely on simple and fundamental human activities: praying, reflecting, paying attention to one’s feelings, talking and listening to one another in an authentic, meaningful and just way. There is something of the simplicity and radicality of the Gospel at work in this way of relating to one another.
It is significant to me that communal discernment is a key aspect of the synodality that Pope Francis wishes to promote in the Church. Communal discernment has indeed the potential to reconnect us with our deep calling to communion with God and with one another. In our troubled and polarized times, I believe it can contribute a great deal to reweaving within the Church and beyond a sense of community, creativity and hope.
On October 3rd, Pope Francis released the third encyclical of his pontificate. Its title means “All brothers and sisters”. It is about fraternity and social friendship and calls us to embrace the path of universal fraternity in the midst of our broken world. We, Xaviere sisters, deeply resonate with the Pope’s vision. Encounter, dialogue, fraternity, care, hospitality, charity, reconciliation, mercy: all these key words from the encyclical find an echo in our charism and in our Constitutions.
Nathalie interviewed Prof. Rafael Luciani from Boston College on the main topics covered by the encyclical:
Rafael Luciani, a Venezuelan lay theologian, is currently Professor of Theology at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He is also an expert theologian for CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Conference) and CLAR (Conference of Religious of Latin America), and is a specialist of the thought and theology of Pope Francis. He has published “Pope Francis and the Theology of the People”, Orbis Books NY (2017).
The Eucharist is the center and the link to unite all members of Christ at the same table close to the Father. For me the Host is always glorious. It is the sacrament of Joy… May I carry and radiate Christ, may I be “christophore” with all my life!
As Xaviere sisters we usually take part to the Mass every day. During all those last weeks we have lived the absence of sacrament in solidarity with all the Christians that were like us deprived of communal celebration at church. Reflecting on this stay-at-home experience, even if we were able to follow mass online, we perceive even more how much Christianity is the religion of the Incarnation. That is why the Liturgy is an act that requires the presence of the bodies. After a long lockdown we feel a lack and a desire to meet again as soon as possible in our churches to celebrate the Eucharist together.
The Eucharist according to the Second Vatican Council is the act of an assembly, an action of the People of God. Through communion with the Body of Christ, the assembly becomes itself “Body of Christ”. The Eucharist is not a solitary act of the priest-sacerdos according to the pre-Vatican II model of worship. That is why online celebrations raise real theological questions even though they may have a pastoral and spiritual sense in helping many Christians, especially the most isolated, to pray and live the communal dimension inherent in our faith.
In and through this form of lack due to the absence of Eucharists celebrated in their usual form, we have experienced differently and strongly the presence of Christ who makes the Church. God did not abandon us. He made himself present to us in many ways, his grace is not limited to the sacraments. God’s grace is already fully given to us through our baptism and is continuously given to us day after day according to this important principle to keep in mind: “God always gives us the grace of what He calls us to live”. It is up to us to discern the spiritual means we need to get through this uncertain and challenging situation, to live and strengthen our faith day after day. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can discern and implement ways of praying, serving and celebrating where we are. Many online and other proposals are offered to us to support us in these difficult times.
We are not helpless in our Christian life, we can contemplate God in all things, discover Him in all aspects of our daily life, receive Him through the Book of the Word, through the Book of Creation, through every encounter, and especially in the service of our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest.
We can remember that if we usually participate in the Eucharist it is so that our whole life becomes Eucharist. That is to say, a union with Christ who takes us into his movement of self-offering to the Father to lead us to surrender. In this time of pandemic that calls us to solidarity, to the gift of oneself all the way to love and serve others, more than ever we can ask for and receive the grace to live this movement of thanksgiving and offering day after day. We can meditate on and deepen what is the Eucharistic dimension of our lives: the call to remain in this trinitarian movement of “receiving everything and giving everything”, in this communion that is stronger than the visible encounter. Through the baptism that inserts us into the ecclesial community, despite the distance, we can experience these strong bonds created by Christ.
Gabrielle spent 10 years in Toronto. During the 2011 Victoria Day weekend, she took her final vows in Toronto. Nine years later, now a missionary in Paris, she shares with us how she is still experiencing a lasting and joyful energy from that day.
Each year a special energy surges within me as we approach the date of May 21. How could I explain it? Something in the air… a secret joy within… the memory of love received and given and shared… we are in the Easter season and everything comes together again : water reminds me of my baptism, the flame of the Easter candle reminds me of the light that is Christ in our hearts, the celebration of the risen Christ makes me ponder that all things are restored in Christ. In the Easter season, in this “coming together of all things”, I celebrated my final vows as a xaviere sister on May 21, 2011. The celebration took place in Toronto, in our parish at the time, St Pius X church on Bloor Street West. I remember the sheer joy of sharing this moment with my parents and my sister, with family and friends who had flown in from France, with my Xaviere sisters who had come from France, from Montreal, from Toronto; friends, parishioners, children from the St Pius X confirmation program I had taught, coworkers, religious men and women from Toronto and Guelph and Montreal, Loretto sisters, Anglican sisters from the sisterhood of Saint John the Divine, Anglican father from the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, Jesuits, Dominican friars, fathers of the sacred heart, sisters of Our Lady’s Missionaries… The choir was led by Brian…
How is it that this moment was so light while so deep? So simple while bringing such a diverse group of people from different places and life styles? What is this energy that flows through the years and sustains me still? Everything coming together… the hope of a world restored in Christ, the joy of dedicating my life to this hope, to live my life in the offering of Christ… there lies the sustaining energy.
What’s in a date? May 21, 2011 fell during the Victoria Day long weekend… so each Victoria day weekend reminds me of the day I took my final vows. May 21, 2011 was just before the 4th Sunday of Easter, when we hear of the Good Shepherd in the gospel of John. Each 4th Sunday of Easter is therefore a special day to me also. And, will I say it? I am led to recognize that every day is special : the energy is given every single day, if I just let it.
The homily that was given by Philip Shano sj can be found here. The joy of the celebration of the vows is also reflected here, in the Fall 2011 editorial from the “open-liner”, the Toronto women religious newsletter.
In these times of Covid-19, as fear and uncertainty are all over us and in us too, the news of the Risen Lord strike as a fresh reminder that life is stronger than death and darkness!
On Easter Sunday, four of us attended a Zoom-broadcasted mass with Romero House, our neighbour community organization welcoming refugee families in Toronto. It was a prayerful service, connecting the intensity of Good Friday with the hope, faith and light of the dawn of the Resurrection. The Praise Song for the Pandemic by Christine Valters concluded our prayer and we would like to share it with you:
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.