CCCB president Archbishop Paul-André Durocher released a message Jan. 29 examining, in a Canadian context, the Year of Consecrated Life. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Canadian lives, past and future, shaped by consecrated life

  • February 4, 2015

OTTAWA - As Catholics mark the Year of Consecrated Life, the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops looks to a future of hope for Canadian religious.

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher released a message Jan. 29 examining in a Canadian context Pope Francis’ apostolic letter last November announcing the Year of Consecrated Life.

“So much of our country was shaped by those living the consecrated life,” he said. “Our first teachers, health-care givers and social workers were men and women who dedicated their lives through poverty, chastity and obedience in order to serve the community of faith and all men and women, no matter their faith or ethnicity.

Their witness, lives and service were shaped and purified by the consecrated life.”

In Pope Francis’ call to “look on the past with gratitude,” Durocher said: “Here in Canada, we can look with pride at the remarkable saints who lived consecrated life in New France — St. Marie of the Incarnation, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, St. Marguerite d’Youville, for example — founding new communities or adapting older ones to respond to the needs of the people they lived with, both Native Canadians and immigrant Europeans.

“They were followed by many others who responded to the needs they identified with diverse charisms that flourished in various apostolic endeavours, people such as St. Brother André, Blessed Émilie Gamelin who founded the Sisters of Providence, Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin, founder of the Sisters of St. Anne, and others.”

In the Pope’s invitation to “live the present with passion,” the archbishop acknowledged that many traditional religious communities are shrinking in size and members are aging.

“Yet I marvel at the energy I find when I visit convents that still open their doors to refugees and to the poor, and when I meet elderly as well as younger religious men and women who go out each day to parishes, community centres and meeting halls in service and in love,” he said.

“I rejoice in the shoots that are springing forth as new forms of consecrated life find expression in Canada: young men and women are committing themselves to following Christ more closely in small, highly intentional communities; others are consecrating themselves according to specific charisms; all are finding creative ways to live the Gospel in today’s world.”

The CCCB president echoed Pope Francis’ five invitations: “to be living witnesses to the joy of the Gospel,” “to be prophetic,” “to create communion,” “to go to the peripheries” and “to seek God’s will.”

“Our Canadian society, so often focused on material well-being and immediate gratification, needs to discover the source of deep, lasting joy, a joy that is contagious and life-giving,” he said.

He stressed the need for the prophetic witness consecrated life can bring, its openness to building communion and its ministry on the peripheries in serving the poor.

In Ottawa, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast marked the Feb. 2 World Day of Consecrated Life with a special Mass Jan. 31 to honour men and women religious who serve in the diocese.

“We follow others who have left some big footprints,” said Prendergast, a member of the Society of Jesus. “Here in Canada, we are blessed with the powerful example of holy and heroic men and women. St. Jean de Brébeuf and four of his blessed companions navigated the Ottawa River on the way to and from Huronia and portaged nearby.

“Our first bishop, Msgr. Guigues, was sent to us by a saint, the founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St. Eugene de Mazenod,” he said. “Not to be outdone, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa were led by intrepid and saintly Elisabeth Bruyère, the servant of God whose cause we need to foster in our devotional life. The sainted Brother André also travelled in these parts to bring consolation and peace as he encouraged devotion to St. Joseph. These consecrated persons are typical of the holiness we have experienced.”

Prendergast also mentioned Ottawa’s Fr. Bob Bedard, founder of the Companions of the Cross, and Don Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, to which consecrated “Memores Domini” living in Ottawa belong.

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The past was, no doubt. But the future??? This sounds like wishful thinking.

Antoine Houdeville
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