Welcoming Presence at Becoming Neighbours

(L-R) Sr. Mary Jane Leonard, CND and Sr. Frances Brady, OLM

On April 19, 2022, Sr. Frances Brady, OLM, Sr. Mary Jane Leonard, CND (above photo), and Fr. Mark Miller, CSsR were honoured with the Margaret Myatt Recognition Award during the Becoming Neighbours’ Annual General Meeting.

On the following day, Our Lady’s Missionaries gathered to celebrate with Sr. Frances.  The award is named in honour of Sr. Margaret Myatt, CSJ who dreamed of a Joint Apostolic Ministry for the members of religious communities in the Archdiocese of Toronto. She spearheaded the founding of Becoming Neighbours to meet the needs of refugees and new immigrants in Toronto.

Sr. Frances has worked with Becoming Neighbours for some years and is currently Chairperson of the board.   Becoming Neighbour has always accepted donations of clothing, household items and furniture. Srs. Frances and Mary Jane have worked tirelessly sorting and arranging the donations. Since the beginning of COVID restrictions at Presentation Manor, they have welcomed staff and residents to come and “shop” for any articles they need. Many of the staff are also new Canadians. 

Above are the actual images of the three awardees from left, Mark Miller, CSsR, Frances Brady, OLM, and Mary Jane Leonard, CND taken during the Becoming Neighbours’ AGM event.

For more information about Becoming Neighbours see the links below:

Landing Page

Dancing Alone Together

Religions for Peace International https://www.rfp.org/?fbclid=IwAR2LQJ0g_xlxnX7E3_wRVmZAwAxsrJKpHLGb6W1hun8YFWZ4uxlKqDTCuh8

At a time when there is so much suffering – wars, climate change, racism, the pandemic, and so much more – as you can see from the meme above, there is also celebration and unity. 

Some time ago, I heard Sr. Jose Hobday, a Native Franciscan Sister, describe Native North Americans’ dance as “dancing alone together.”  What an apt description of all people of faith who are celebrating these days!

While the details of our beliefs and rituals vary, the core values of all these faith traditions are the same… love, peace, justice.

We who are Christians, celebrate the Paschal Mystery – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.  As we reflect on suffering, death and new life, those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere are used to seeing this same mystery played out in all of Creation as plants and trees spring back into life. 

(Although, due to climate change, weather patterns are disturbed and some are celebrating Easter with a huge dump of newly fallen snow.)

May our journey with Jesus this Easter weekend, through suffering and death into the new life of resurrection enable us to recognize the same journey in our own lives. 

And, may the happiness all of us enjoy as we observe our different celebrations give us the energy, courage and strength to pray and work together to spread the love, peace and justice we all value so much.

Happy Easter!  Blessings on all who are celebrating at this time!

Sr. Christine Gebel, OLM

Day of Action for a Just Transition

Christine Gebel OLM

On March 12, 2022 events were held across Canada to call for a Just Transition – from fossil fuels to green energy. 

Sr. Lorie Nuñez and I attended one held near the office of M.P. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.  I was attracted to this particular event because the invitation stated, “masking is going to be welcome.”

Lorie Nuñez OLM

This is just about the first public event in which I’ve participated since the beginning of the pandemic!  Since it was being held outside and the organizers were obviously conscious of Covid risks, I felt safe to attend.

The reason I (and most of the participants) wore a mask is the same reason I’m concerned about the Global Climate Emergency.

We all breathe the same air – literally – and whether it is infected with a virus or polluted with greenhouse gases, CO2, and other poisons, all Creation suffers.

Those who are economically poor may suffer first, but eventually we are all affected.  All of Earth is inextricably interconnected.

Mary-Ellen Francoeur SOS (left)

This means that the pandemic won’t be finished just because my little corner of the world is vaccinated.  The pandemic will only be vanquished when we ensure that everyone around the world has access to vaccines and medicines.

And, the Climate Emergency will not be resolved because my little corner of the world has reduced its fossil fuel use.  We need bold measures to be taken on many levels. 

One of the speakers at this event reminded us that decarbonization cannot happen without decolonialization.  A Just Transition also ensures that workers who will suffer loss in a transition off fossil fuels are given new opportunities in a green economy. 

The invitation to this event also mentioned cookies and “a spirit of fun, challenge and fierce joy.”  We have a long road ahead of us.  Fierce joy will help us to keep up our energy for the journey.  Cookies will help too!

Christine Gebel OLM (right)

Christine Gebel OLM

So Much to be Thankful for…

Our Lady’s Missionaries are in awe of all the staff of Presentation Manor. These days, this is especially true of the kitchen staff who have been working extra hard to keep the residents safe and healthy by serving us our meals in our rooms.

There is so much to be thankful for in the midst of the pandemic and the restrictions it entails, and after having experienced an unusually severe snow storm here in Toronto. Sr. Marie Clarkson wrote a poem to express her gratitude to the Presentation Manor Staff.

Here are some creative messages made by some OLMs and posted on their doors. Many Presentation Manor residents are leaving similar messages of gratitude on their doors today as we look forward to having our meals in the dining room once again this week!

It is a blessing to be served so graciously and gratitude is an automatic response, for our hearts know what is right.

by Lorie Nuñez, OLM

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Meaning:  The feast of the Immaculate Conception is hard to define precisely.  Even the church itself has taken centuries to try to put it into language that leads us into the mystery of God’s singular grace and gift to Mary from the moment she was conceived in the “eye of God” and then conceived on earth.  The church believes that Mary – by the singular grace and favor of God – is human, is free, and will die, yet that she was somehow more finely tuned to the will of God and open to obedience because of the intervention of her child’s power of redemption and resurrection.  

Megan McKenna “Advent, Christmas and Epiphany”

Our Lady’s Missionaries gathered to celebrate this feast with a simple prayer service combining hymns to Mary, a short theological reflection from the writings of Anthony Padovano, and an inspirational quote from the writings of Caryll Houselander.

Patricia Kay was celebrating 70 years as a member of Our Lady’s Missionaries and Frances Brady 60 years.  They were presented with bouquets of roses.

We then enjoyed a special meal of Chinese food.

                                                            Sr. Rosemary Williamson, OLM

Cushion Meditation in Spanish

Our Lady’s Missionaries shared Sr. Elaine MacInnis’s joy upon receiving a copy of her book “Light Sitting In Light” translated into the Spanish language.

A few years ago in an interview with the Global Sisters Report, when asked why she became interested in Zen practice and teaching; Sr. Elaine explained that “cushion meditation” requires one to be comfortable in silence. She continued to explain that as a musician she was sensitive to sound, and this equipped her to sit in silence.

She hopes that her Spanish readers will find the book helpful and that it will give more depth to the meaning of their lives. Her prayer is that they grow in awareness of how God speaks in silence and brings us to peace.

Here’s a link to Sr. Elaine’s Q & A interview:

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/q/spirituality/q-sr-elaine-macinnes-teaching-others-art-zen-meditation-45756

A Promised Reward In Heaven

On Saturday, September 11th Our Lady’s Missionaries celebrated the life of Sr. Mona Kelly, OLM with her family, friends, and some residents of Presentation Manor.

The celebration began with sharing memories of Mona. Evelyn, Mona’s sister, recalled how Mona often promised her a reward each time she requested a favour of Evelyn. When she asked Mona for her reward, Mona replied, “Heaven is your reward.”

After several others shared stories, we gathered in the central part of the chapel for Mass with Fr. John Carten, SFM presiding. A reading from Isaiah reminded us of God’s plan for his people. A plan that was reflected in Mona’s life as a missionary in many different countries where Mona became a refuge for the poor and the needy.

Mona’s choice for the Gospel “…that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” reflected her passion that mothers and children have a taste of heaven in this life.

Heaven in Mona’s heart is a place when justice and peace prevail. So, we prayed “most especially for indigenous children, children of colour and street kids; that the adults in their lives will treasure them and strive to make the world a better place for them as did Mona.”

– Lorie Nuñez, OLM

Thin Places

As Our Lady’s Missionaries celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of Mary last August 15’th, the idea of Thin Places came to mind.  My understanding of Thin Places is that these are spots where the physical world draws very close to the Holy.  Mary being bodily assumed into heaven strikes me as a Thin Place. 

The Gospel that day featured Mary setting out to visit Elizabeth and upon her arrival, proclaiming her Magnificat.  I remember theologian Mary Malone explaining in a class, many years ago, that Mary and Elizabeth weren’t just chatting….  The scene Mary Malone described was of Mary and Elizabeth shouting with excitement and glee while they were still some distance from each other.

And so, years later as I walked the mountainous country-side of Mindanao in the Philippines, and heard my companion shouting to her mother in the distance…  Mary and Elizabeth came to mind, and that spot became a Thin Place for me.

Every time I hear Luke 6:38, “…give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap…”, I remember the day I purchased rice in the market in Vandeikya, Nigeria.  The woman selling the rice scooped bowlfuls of it into the measure, an old cooking oil tin; then she shook the tin back-and-forth, causing the rice to settle and leave room for more.  She did this several times.  Now, the rice section of Vandeikya Market is a Thin Place for me.

Lately I have heard and read several commentaries noting that the news today is of “biblical proportions.”  It’s true, isn’t it?  Fires, droughts, locusts, earthquakes, plagues, unrest and injustice leading to war…  If the news of the world is of “biblical proportions,” then perhaps it can also be said that entire world has become a Thin Place.  If we stop, take a deep breath and become really present to the moment, we’ll also be able to feel the nearness of the Holy.  May this give us the impetus we need to grow in awareness, and to act.

Christine Gebel olm

72 Years of “Our Life is Mission”

Srs. Noreen Kearns and Rosemarie Donovan

On Monday, May 31st, OLMs attended Mass together at Presentation Manor Chapel to celebrate our 72’nd anniversary. In his homily Fr. John Carten, SFM spoke about Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth to be of service as her mission to fulfill God’s will.

One of the two pioneer members of Our Lady’s Missionaries; Sr. Rosemarie Donovan, recalled her experience when she first arrived in Immaculata House to enter, and the other, Sr. Noreen Kearns shared her story of how a simple act of giving pennies inspired her to join OLM.

In the words of Sr. Rosemarie Donovan…

On May 31’st, 72 years ago Our Lady’s Missionaries was founded. A 40 year dream of our Founder, Fr. Dan Mac Donald was realized on that day. He was 82 and stood so proudly on the station platform as we emerged from the train. Noreen and I and our Mothers. There were tears in his eyes as he put us in a taxi to take us to our new home – “Immaculata House”.

On our arrival there were two St. Joseph’s Sisters; St. Charles and Sr. Natalie to Welcome us and usher us in the front door. Fr. Dan was soon vesting for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in our small chapel. We could not enter as the varnish had not dried but we sat on the stairs and participated thru the door of the chapel.

Fr. Dan spoke eloquently thanking God for the many flavours granted him leading to this very day. We were all in tears as we were shown into the kitchen for tea and scones. Mother and Mrs. Kearns were sitting on chairs, Noreen and I sat on orange crates.

The sisters were warm and friendly and made us feel at home. Our mothers were to stay overnight at friends and the car soon came for them. Tears again and off they went until the next morning where we made our final goodbyes as they left for home. Our Lady of the Visitation seemed very close.

In the words of Sr. Noreen Kearns…

On March 25, 1949, Our Lady’s Missionaries was founded in Alexandria, Ontario.

I entered the community on May 31 that same year. I recall my memories of those seventy-two years during our celebration here in Presentation Manor, Toronto, Ontario.

When I was in Grade 3 at St. Brigid’s School, Toronto, our teacher, Miss Hayes’ gave each of us a small box distributed at that time by Scarboro Foreign Missions depicting a group of children in a far-away country asking for pennies to buy food. Young as I was, I remember saying, “When I grow up, I will bring them my food!”

After my teen age years and when I thought seriously regarding my future, I recalled my promise and I applied to Our Lady’s Missionaries. As a pure gift, I was privileged to work in “far-off” Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Brazil. My work was never equal to the many blessings and relationships I received from the people who received me and gave me their love and culture.

Our Lady’s Missionaries remember Fr. Dan’s words in a letter he wrote when the first sisters were preparing to go overseas for their mission:

There is an event to occur drawing nearer and daily increasing in size, when parting will come with no hope of re-union. Such at least is the probability. I think every day of it and know that your joy will be my pain. That is the human experience. Not to feel it would be inhuman.”

Going forth to the unknown, uncertainties, and risk has been for OLMs a blessing as we live “Our Life is Mission.”

A Tribute to Sr. Mona Kelly, OLM

Mona Kelly! We, the community of Escuta – Espaço Cultural Frei Tito de Alencar, will see you in Heaven, you have lived life to the fullest in our midst on Earth, our Common Home especially in Planalto do Pici, Fortaleza.

We witnessed your commitment to fight for liberation, peace, and justice by accompanying the poor and the marginalized denied their human rights.  You were a warrior by bringing together homeless people to be courageous to preserve and defend the right to housing before the state’s power.

At her invitation I, Leonardo Sampaio and Lúcia Vasconcelos in 1990 met  with a group of people at the church (Igreja da Penha) in Bela Vista, where the sisters of Our Lady’s Missionaries lived. We discussed the occupation of the land of the abandoned American Airforce Base in Bairro Pici. The initiative to occupy the land was strengthened, and soon after, you stepped on that space with a hoe in your hand and stuck it in the land, the land to call home that was longed for by many people to live, they were poor who’d been unprotected from the abusive powers. That very moment we see you as one of us not an outsider nor a foreigner, but a land dweller with a humanitarian spirit ingrained with the faith of Christ the Deliverer, making her mission present the oppressed and building the Kingdom of God here on Earth, the Kingdom of justice, equality, equity, love and fraternity.

Mona, in her earthly passage, testified to her commitment, leaving her legacy to be followed, which is why we are sure of her presence in the infinity of the Universe with the Sacred Deities.

Our gratitude to her and her congregation.

Sister Mona present, yesterday, today and forever!

Coordenação do Escuta 11/01/2021. (Translated from the original Portuguese)