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Daring to be Saints in today’s Church? A Call to Humility and Courage

“Woman ‘preaches’ at concluding Mass for Ignatian Family gathering in Marseilles, France”. This is the title of the article from La Croix International, republished by the Global Sisters Report. And this woman happened to be Sr. Christine Danel, our Superior General! The occasion was the Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints concluding a gathering of 7000 people of the Ignatian family. Read the full article.

The fact that a woman could share her reflection on the Word of God was a good news in itself. The content of what she shared was also one! Below is her reflection in its entirety.

“Blessed are, blessed are, blessed are… this is the proclamation that we hear every year on the Feast of All Saints. All saints?

How do we have the audacity to speak of sanctity after the discovery of the extent of the crimes perpetrated within the Church? How could sexuality, power, and the sacred be distorted to such an extent? We need a lot of humility in our speeches, and a lot of courage in our actions to reform ourselves…

This quote from (Blaise) Pascal came to me recently, “He who behaves like an angel ends up behaving like a beast…” No, we are not angels, but human beings! “God created man and woman,” says the book of Genesis. And that, God saw that it was very good! We have a long way to go to unfold this otherness and complementarity in all areas in the life of the Church, including access to the words and to governance, to truly receive it as wealth, a gift from God!

As human beings we are differentiated by sex, and thus by definition incomplete, in want, we are beings of desire, a desire which turns us towards the other, and towards the Ultimate Other!

So, holiness is not to be perfect, with the illusion of being “angels!” The illusion of perfection is a bait, which can lead us to frustration, spite, or hypocrisy, to mask our shortcomings.

To be holy, is it not rather to be human, truly and fully human as the prophet Micah invites us to be. “You have been made to know what is good, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God!” (Micah 6:8)

Jesus calls them blessed – those who take on this need and their vulnerability! Blessed are you who are poor, you who weep, you who are meek, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, you who seek peace…. Then you will be comforted, you will see God, you will be called sons (and daughters) of God…

If Jesus calls them blessed, those who are not consumed by their possessions and with themselves, it is undoubtedly because happiness lies in this capacity to desire, to receive from others, to rejoice in not being all powerful! Then we can really listen to others, hear the whisper of the Spirit at work in our lives, in the life that is offered!

In the reading from the book of Revelation (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14), we see the huge crowd of witnesses. Facing the throne of the Lamb, they have gone through the great trial. They have accepted the path of the servant, the pascal path that goes all the way to the Cross, that offers life and forgiveness.

In this vast crowd of saints, there are the ‘saints next door,’ those who do good without making a noise, the humble ones of the earth. These people do not shine, but by their simplicity, their gentleness, their goodness, their way of loving and living, they are sources of hope, consolation and joy for those who live with them. Ignatius (of Loyola) invites us to discover how God works and lives in creatures. Let us ask for a vision that is pure enough to discern the Spirit at work in our world and to recognize those saints who accompany us and lead us!

Finally, it is a people who are holy! We cannot live holiness alone! It is together, with each other that we are saved. Men and women, young and old, families, consecrated persons, lay, clergy… Each one of us brings his or her stone to the structure and forms with the others the Body of Christ! All together, inhabited by the Spirit who works in each individual, all interdependent, as the pandemic experience has shown us. The vision of Revelation is a beautiful image of the synodal Church that we are invited to live in and dream together, called to witness to fraternity and the joy of loving and being loved.

Happy feast of All Saints!

All Saints 2021 – meditation aids by Sr. Christine Danel, xmcj

Celebrating the gift of Ignatian spirituality throughout Canada

Lire l’article en français

On September 25 took place the first online meeting of the “Ignatian family” in Canada! In several parts of the world, this term designates the religious communities and movements whose inspiration and charism are grounded in the spirituality of Saint Ignatius Loyola, who founded the order of the Jesuits in the 16th century. This celebration was part of the series of events organised by the Jesuits in Canada to mark the 500th anniversary of Saint Ignatius’ conversion in 1521. Sister Laurence co-organised and facilitated the event.

The Ignatian family in Canada gathers about 20 religious orders and lay movements whose members are spread throughout the country. Some communities have been present in Canada for over a century: the Jesuits, the Loretto Sisters, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil de Montréal, les Soeurs de la Charité de Quebec, Religieuses de Jesus Marie… while some were founded or have arrived in the last decades: Christian Life Communities, Communaute Vie Chrétienne, Institut du Christ Seigneur, Eucharistic Youth Movement, our own community of Xaviere sisters…

The general theme was “Seeing all things new in Christ”. The morning session was a workshop/colloquy organised in two parts. A first series of speakers presented how Saint Ignatius, Saint Francis Xavier and the first Jesuits in Canada had to open up to new ways of living out the mission based on the new contexts they were faced with. A second series of presenters spoke about new mission paths emerging in the areas of primary and post-secondary education, spiritual accompaniment, and relationships between indigenous and settler communities in Canada. The afternoon took the form of an online celebration during which short presentations of the participating movements and communities were shown.   It was a beautiful day of encounter, reflection, sharing, prayer, rejoicing and thanksgiving for the gift of the Ignatian spirituality which remains to this day so life-giving and relevant to discern God’s loving presence and action in all things!

Sr. Sonal’s First Profession and off to Toronto!

We had the joy to celebrate Sr. Sonal’s first vows in our ‘family home’ La Pourraque, in the south of France on August 15th. She pronounced her first vows with Sr. Grâce with whom she spent the last two years as a novice.

The vows ceremony took place during the Mass celebrated by Archbishop François Fonlupt, from the diocese of Avignon. There were about 60 Xaviere sisters present – many from our communities in Africa and of course, our community was present too!

During the vow ceremony, each candidate shares some aspects of her faith journey. Here is a translated extract from Sr. Sonal’s testimony:

“God is good, all the time!” His faithfulness is not limited. By this lived experience I desire to concretely be available to Him by the vows of chastity, of poverty, and of obedience. I desire to be ready and available to rejoice with Christ, to suffer with Him, to work with Him in His Kingdom forever. La Xavière gives me the means to be available to my Lord and for this I am grateful.It is to love that we are created,” says Claire Monestès. By the grace of God, here I am ready to cast off, ready to be sent to love like Him.

At the end of the Mass, Sr. Christine Danel, our Superior General, sent Sr. Sonal to Toronto and Sr. Grâce to Abidjan in Ivory Coast.

“Reaching to the Sources of Joy”, our centennial gathering in Lourdes (France)

Candlelight Procession in the Sanctuary of Lourdes (France)

From July 31st on the feast of St Ignatius Loyola to August 2nd, 2021, the Xaviere Sisters gathered in Lourdes (France) for a pilgrimage with families, associates and friends – a humble but happy gathering of 400.

The theme for our pilgrimage was “Reaching to the Sources of Joy”. Each day explored an aspect of this reach:

  • Day 1: Turned towards Joy, Overcoming Difficulties
  • Day 2: Engaged in Dialogue, Sharing the Joy
  • Day 3: Sent to Live and Announce the Joy of the Gospel

Watch the video for highlights!

Happy Birthday to the Xaviere Sisters! A “Covid-friendly” birthday cake!

A Meditation: Good Friday for the Earth

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.

Note: Sr. Marie-Noelle recorded the French version.

More information available on the website of Green Churches Network here.

100th Anniversary’s Opening Address by Sr. Christine Danel, our Superior General

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!

Sr. Laurence’s mission: “Building communion, one group at a time !”

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.

Sister Laurence

Goodbye Bloor By The Park, Hello North York! A new start for the Xaviere Community in Toronto

In April 2020, the house we had been renting for 10 years in Bloor By The Park was sold
Searching for a new place over the summer,
a way to discover various areas of Toronto
At the beginning of September, Laurence came back to Toronto after 6 months in France to take care of her parents through the pandemic. Joy to be together again, even with masks!
We moved to North York just when her quarantine was over.
Our new chapel