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“We are all consecrated through baptism!”

Denys Chouinard, retired archivist of the CND

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 17, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel was bathed in a glorious light. The general public was there, some to visit, some to pray and others were responding to an invitation from the Centre Présence religieuse intercommunautaire (PRI). During this year of consecrated life, Centre PRI organized a visit of twelve religious communities in Montreal, Laval and Trois-Rivières under the theme Beyond the Walls. A Glance at Consecrated Life in Quebec. At Bon-Secours Chapel, two sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Francine Fournier and Sheila Sullivan, were present to meet with visitors.

Mother Bourgeoys’s tomb and the statuette gifted by M. De Fancamp. The two guides took turns leading the groups from the chapel to the room containing the True Likeness and then to two other rooms to see the holographic dioramas and the display of figurines depicting the life of Marguerite Bourgeoys. This visit provided a perfect introduction to the topic of the day – the life of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in 2015.

In a meeting room, an enthusiastic discussion began between the visitors and the two sisters. It became apparent that those present (some baby boomers and some younger adults with children) wanted to express their gratitude for the work of education from which they had probably benefitted, to inquire about the ageing sisters, what activities the community is currently involved in and to hear about plans for the future.

Sister Fournier was the first to lead the discussion. With great spontaneity, she summed up the thirty-three years of her religious life in Central America. She spent sixteen years in Honduras where she assisted a parish priest and where there was much to do. In order to have a meaningful ministry, first, respectable material living conditions had to be created. This task, in a small community deprived of resources, forced her to surpass herself. In the face of adversity, she says she discovered capabilities she did not know she had. Despite many difficulties, the realization of projects helped her enjoy a missionary life filled with happiness. She took great pride in saying that, during her mission, her Honduran parish had become the most beautiful one in the country.

Her subsequent experience in Guatemala with the Mayan people was the same. Hoping to counter the exodus of young people to the country’s capital or to the United States, she created a cultural centre that offered a university education, including a museum, a library, an art centre, a children’s centre and a new church which integrated the characteristics of the native culture. Once again, mission accomplished.

For her part, Sister Sullivan drew attention to the considerable number of sisters still in the Congrégation de Notre-Dame – close to 900. She talked about the newer sisters who come primarily from Africa and Central America. Moreover, the twenty or so current novices in the Congrégation de Notre-Dame will have the opportunity to gather this summer in Troyes, France, birthplace of the foundress Marguerite Bourgeoys. Sister Sheila also mentioned that the Congrégation de Notre-Dame has a large number of lay associates. Over 900 women and men from Canada, the United States, Central America, Japan, Cameroon and France who share with the Congregation in the charism of Mother Bourgeoys and who are involved in carrying out the mission of liberating education. An invitation was extended to them to participate with sisters, religious and priests in a consecrated life, one that flows naturally from baptism. This vision, one of the most inclusive of the Church, corresponds well with the spirit of Marguerite Bourgeoys’s message, the one she bequeathed to her companions and to all of us and for which a very special place has been reserved in the room containing the True Likeness:

At the end of the happy encounter, a beautiful light was once again emanating from the Bon-Secours Chapel.

 

Beyond the Walls. A Glance at Consecrated Life in Quebec. Open house organized by Centre PRI. Sunday, Mary 17, 2015, 3:30 p.m. visit.

 

 

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