Winter Wonderland at St. John's Convent
Dear Friends of the Sisterhood of
Saint John the Divine,
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light; those who
lived in a land of deep darkness – on
them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9.2)
There were many people over the past
Christmas season who were literally
living in deep darkness because of the
ice storm. Lots of them have stories
to tell of how they coped with the
darkness and cold when the power went out,
and some others of how they reached out to
those in need.
My brother told me about a friend living in
a Toronto neighbourhood, where limbs of
many of the old trees had broken and fallen
under the weight of the ice. This man had a
fireplace in his home and a chain saw. He
helped out his neighbours by cutting up broken
limbs to help clear them from driveways and
sidewalks, while providing himself with a year’s
supply of firewood! Neighbours were invited
in to his home to stay warm by the fire. They
experienced the light and warmth of a helping
hand reaching out to them in their need.
The Christmas story is about light coming into
a world of darkness. What is that light for you?
Where do you perceive light breaking forth in
your life? How do you reach out to help others
come into that light?
For a while our Guest House was without lights
and the heat was intermittent, a problem which
we need to address. The Sisters called everyone
slated to come for the Christmas Retreat to tell
them that we were without power. A generator
for the newer areas of the Convent meant we
had heat, some light, and power for the kitchen
refrigerator and freezers. Since we cook with
gas, we had hot meals as well. Still we, like
everyone else, lived with the uncertainty of not
knowing when the power would be back on.
With only a single rank of lights in chapel, our
services became beautiful candlelight worship.
Neither the organ nor keyboard
worked, but Sister Anne saved the day
by accompanying us on her violin.
Thankfully the power returned in the
evening of December 23rd, and we
were able to call everyone who was
to have come for the Retreat and
Christmas Day to let them know that
our doors were open again. Some had
made other arrangements but still we
were almost 80 people sitting down for
a delicious Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.
Sisters were out with cameras recording the
beautiful images of the ice on the trees and
buildings – it felt like we were living in a winter
wonderland! The sun shining through the ice
seemed to illumine the objects. How beautiful
the ice was – but also how destructive. Still, light
shone out of darkness and we saw a great light!
Looking back a bit, in October we had an
exchange visit from Sr. Heather Francis, OHP,
from the Order of the Holy Paraclete in Whitby,
North Yorkshire, England. Her interests include
bees and beekeeping,
botany, and ecology.
We made sure her
time with us included
a visit to Algonquin
Park to see some
bog areas (a special
interest), and to visit
the farm of one of
the Oblates of the
she could speak to a
Sr. Heather Francis is an avid and creative
knitter and over the years we have received
many “bear skins” from her – the unstuffed
bears which we then stuff and put out to sell to
raise money for Amnesty International. It was
splendid to see her at work and get to know her.
of healing in the Diocese for which we give
thanks. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, our Primate,
came November 20th to preside at the Eucharist
and speak to us about his work as Primate of
the Anglican Church in Canada. He will be with
us September 8th, 2014, to preside and preach
on the occasion of our 130th Anniversary. We
hope many of you will be able to join us.
November 21st we
had the interment of
ashes of Sr. Jean at
York Cemetery. It was
a simple service which
included the singing of
the Song of Simeon.
Sr. Jean loved to start
this hymn for us when we would sing it in the
community room. She is much missed around
We continue to work on updating the history
of our community. Our Associate, Martha
Bartlett worked away for a month this fall on
transcribing interviews of Sisters which had
been conducted by our former Archivist, Noreen
Our Oblate, Sandy
Austin, who stayed
at the Convent for
an extended Oblate
over Christmas, is
continuing this work.
In November, Paul Murray, a lay theologian
from the University of Durham, England, came
to the Convent to speak to us about Receptive
Ecumenism. He is an engaging speaker and
passionate about his work. Basically the premise
is that we must be really ready to listen to one
another and to learn from other denominations.
Together we are the Body of Christ in the world.
Later in November the Convent hosted the Lay
Anointers’ Training Weekend for the Diocese of
Toronto. There is a real growth in the ministry
Another Oblate, Chris Hooker of Detroit,
Michigan, is keeping the Sisterhood’s Facebook
page up to date with regular postings and input
from the Sisters. This past fall the Oblates
organized the production of a booklet of
Advent readings and reflections by Oblates and
Sisters. The booklets were popular items in our
bookroom and quickly sold out. Many people
also read them online daily as they were posted.
In December I went to visit with the Sisters in
St. John’s House in Victoria, BC. I went in
time for the episcopal election. The Ven. Logan
McMenamie, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral,
in Victoria, is the Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of
Sr. Brenda has been working hard to redo
the lower floor of St. John’s House after the
removal of an old oil heater. We have installed
a new and very efficient gas heater, which
takes up less space. Sr. Brenda got busy with
paint brushes and elbow grease to brighten
up the lower level which contains our chapel,
community room and several bedrooms, as
well as the new heater and storage areas. While
I was there the Sisters hosted a wonderful
afternoon tea party for many of our benefactors
who have been so generous in supporting the
life and work of the Sisterhood in the Diocese of
While I was away the Sisters at the Convent had
our Annual Advent Carol Service with readings
and symbols for each of the O Antiphons. We
hope that we can attract more people to this
beautiful service next year.
We celebrated the Winter Solstice with a
candlelight celebration on the evening of
December 20th as we ushered in the longest
night of the year and looked forward to the
return of light. The next evening we had a
service of leave-taking at Evening Prayer for
Amy Hamilton as we prayed our farewells
to each other. Amy is continuing her studies
towards an M.Div. at Trinity College in the
University of Toronto.
On January 14th we
admitted Sonya Dykstra
as a Postulant of our
attended our Women at
a Crossroads program
in 2010 and then was a
long-term guest for two
years while she did her
Masters of Theological Studies in Urban and
International Development at Wycliffe College.
In 2012 she spent four months as chaplain for
the staff and students of the Arab Evangelical
Episcopal School in Ramallah on the West
Bank. We are delighted to welcome her as she
tests her vocation as a Postulant of SSJD.
As we go forward in Epiphanytide and see each
day grow brighter, may we rejoice in Christ, the
Light of the World, who brings us light even in
our darkest nights. May you bless the world with
the reflection of the light of Christ within you in
your daily life.
Sr. Elizabeth Ann, SSJD
Living alongside the Sisters
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In the summer of 2012, I decided
to embark on a new journey. To
take the road of an Alongsider
with the Sisters of St. John the
Divine seemed to some of my
family and friends a crazy idea.
To walk with the Sisters for a
year – not as a postulant for the
Sisterhood, not as a staff person for
the Sisterhood, not as a volunteer
to the Sisterhood, but to journey
alongside them – that seemed a
I saw this as another opportunity to
be of service to others, a role I played much of
my life as a worker for the Canadian Red Cross
and later with the International Red Cross.
Rendering service to others was an integral part
of me. The other attraction was the opportunity
for spiritual growth that life at the Convent
would offer. I had learned a lot during my month
at the Convent in the Women at a Crossroads
program in 2010, and yearned for more.
St. Benedict, in the Prologue to his Rule, said,
“Listen carefully to the master’s instructions
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”
I listened, and signed on as an Alongsider. I
share the life of the Sisters, to follow their
daily timetable which began at 6 am and
went until after Compline at 8:30 pm,
except on Mondays (their day off);
be faithful to the Sisters’ discipline of public
and private prayer which meant two hours
a day for private prayer, and another two of
public worship at four daily chapel services;
work in the areas assigned by the Reverend
• to be sensitive to the customs
of the Sisterhood, especially with
regard to chapel, the enclosure
of the Sisters, and personal
In the first few months I struggled
with living, working and fulfilling
all functions within a community.
I had lived alone almost all of
my life so the transition to life in
community with everything being
shared was not an easy one for me.
The study of Joan Chittister’s book
on Benedict’s Rule and discussions
with Sr. Constance Joanna, our Alongsider
Coordinator, and Amy Joy Wong, the other
Alongsider, were a big help.
I found the daily schedule of working and activity
very tiring at the beginning, when everyone and
everything were unfamiliar to me. Part of the
weariness was due to the lack of private time.
At home I could choose how much of my time I
would devote to public functions. I discussed this
with Sr. Constance Joanna and was able to build
in some extra time for silence and meditation in
the garden, labyrinth and chapel.
The joys of my experience as an Alongsider
came from the many wonderful times with
people in my principal role as Volunteer
Coordinator. I got to know the many women
who volunteer at SSJD in various positions,
such as: taking care of the Associate Library;
working on the Reception Desk; helping in
the Chapel; stuffing envelopes for The Eagle;
watering the plants. These women came
from varied backgrounds and interests and
were dedicated and loyal to the Sisters. They
were supportive to me and made my work
very rewarding. I am so grateful to many who
continue to be my friends now that I am away.
I treasure the memories of working and being
with, and getting to know the Sisters. I worked
with Sr. Jessica and the senior Sisters in the
Infirmary, helped spring clean the cottage at
Port Sydney with Sisters Doreen and Dorothy,
worked in the Guest House with Sisters Rhonda
and Susanne, helped in pastoral visiting with
Sisters Sue, Beryl and Anne at the St. John’s
Rehab site of Sunnybrook Health Sciences
Centre. It was a great privilege to have Sisters
Constance Joanna and Wilma as mentors. I
came away with an incredible album of fond
memories to call on when needed. Through my
experience I have come to understand and value
living in community. This was especially evident
to me in times of distress, such as the deaths
of Sisters Joyce and Constance, when it was a
privilege to be part of the family of Sisters as
they went through the loss of members of the
I also felt fortunate to have Amy Joy Wong
as an Alongsider with me as we became
acclimatized to life in the Convent and our
duties and responsibilities. It was wonderful to
see how our respect and love for one another
and for the Sisters and volunteers developed
over our time together.
Having benefitted in so many ways from my
months of living alongside the Sisters, I am
trying to be an ambassador for them and their
values in our society. I came away from the
Convent with a realization of the need and great
significance of monastic places as sanctuaries of
silence and meditation for our restless society.
I can bear witness to the value of the monastic
vows of poverty (everything shared), chastity and
obedience. I am more aware of the simplicity of
living which comes from the heart, when one’s
life is directed only to the glory of God.
As I looked back over the Alongsider brochure,
all of the benefits of my year-long experience
had been the stated purposes of the program. I
had taken a road less travelled and it had made
all the difference.
News from the Fundraising Office
We are grateful for your generosity in 2013!
Our gratitude to you makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today and creates a vision for
The Narrative Budget shows our expense
and revenue projections for 2014. This year
the challenge will be to keep the Founders
Fund healthy, and keep up with the ongoing
maintenance and repair issues of our building.
We need to replace our dishwasher this year
at the cost of approximately $15,000. Ongoing
repairs are no longer cost effective and
replacement parts are difficult to find.
We are confident that the generosity and
support of our Associates, Oblates and Friends
will continue. Including the Sisterhood of
St. John the Divine as one of your charitable
outreach opportunities is a wonderful way to
link your life with our ministry and mission.
For more information on how to make a
donation to SSJD, please see our web page or
call Sr. Doreen at 416-226-2201 ext. 303 or email
Remembering Sister Jean, SSJD
1937 – 2013
Sr. Elizabeth Ann and I were at the
Community’s cottage in Port Sydney on
October 4th, 2013 when we heard the news
that Sr. Jean had died peacefully but very
suddenly and unexpectedly. One of Sr. Jean’s
great loves was our cottage at Port Sydney.
She loved nature in all its aspects but especially
dogs, birds and the night sky. Sr. Jean would
frequently call anyone who was near to come
outside and look at the cloud formations or the
moon or whatever she found exciting. Sr. Sarah
Jean remembers Sr. Jean dragging her out of
bed in the middle of the night at Bally Croy to
see a meteor shower. It was hard for Sr. Sarah
Jean to get up but she said it was well worth
If you ever went for a walk with Sr. Jean – and
she did enjoy a good, brisk walk – you had to be
prepared to stop and greet every dog along the
way. When Sr. Jean, Sr. Helena, Sr. ThelmaAnne and I were visiting the cottage of one
of our Associates (Diocese of Montreal), the
daughter of the Associate arrived with a puppy
(a black lab I think) that had been thrown out
of a car. Sr. Jean immediately fell in love with
the puppy and, when no home could be found
to care for it, decided we should bring it back
to Maison St-Jean in Montreal. It was a happy
thought but the puppy had not been housetrained and did not stay with us very long.
Her love of nature was very close to her heart,
as was her enjoyment of art. She thoroughly
enjoyed visiting the McMichael Art Gallery
in Kleinberg which features the Group of
Seven and other Canadian artists. She was
also very artistic herself. We have many of
her watercolours and sketches around the
Convent as well as a few oil paintings. She was
also gifted at carving and designed the altar,
credence table and tabernacle for the chapel
at Port Sydney. The tabernacle she actually
made herself. She also made a pair of wooden
candlesticks in the shape of the St. John’s cross
which we still use frequently at the Convent.
Sr. Jean had a lovely singing voice and was a
cantor for most of her time in Community. Her
artistic talents also included playing the trumpet
which she loved to do on all special occasions.
Sr. Jean was a compassionate and caring
person who had a keen interest in social
justice issues. While she was at the Priory in
Edmonton, she worked as a volunteer at the
former Bissell Women’s Drop-in Centre, at WIN
House (Women in Need) and at the Remand
Centre for the Elizabeth Fry Society. Sr. Jean
was a free spirit; she was kind and generous,
had a wonderful sense of humour, did not hold
grudges, and seemed to live fully in the present
moment, enjoying life with a sense of wonder.
She worked in many SSJD Houses including
the Church Home, Cana Place, and St. John’s
Rehab Hospital in Toronto, the Qu’Appelle
Diocesan School in Regina, the Priory in
Edmonton, and Maison St-Jean in the Diocese
of Montreal where she was Head of House. We
are so glad that Sr. Jean was able to visit the
Holy Land (the gift of an anonymous donor)
in 2011 on a tour led by the Rev. Anthony
Jemmott and the Rev. Susan Sheen. Her
sense of wonder was appreciated by those who
travelled with her. She will be much missed by
all who knew her.
Sr. Elizabeth, SSJD
Are you between jobs, retired or wanting to take
a year away from your studies?
Consider becoming an Alongsider of the Sisters
of St. John for a year or two, “Living on the
Edge” of the monastic life to explore living in
community and deepening your relationship with
Any woman who is interested in this program
should call 416-226-2201 ext. 301 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org for a brochure on this new
program and/or an application form.
Priority will be given to applicants who can
commit to at least 25 hours of work per week in
The Houses of the
Are you at a Crossroads
in your life?
Are you considering a career change? Are you
looking for “something more” in your life? Do
you have a thirst for God? A hunger for prayer?
Do you desire to serve God in a new way?
Would you like to experience life in community?
Then you may be interested in attending a free
three-week program (July 4 - 27, 2014) to
discern where God is calling you.
Kelly Clark, The Sisterhood of St. John the
Divine, St. John's Convent, 233 Cummer
Avenue, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8
Phone: 416-226-2201, ext 301.
Email: email@example.com Website: www.ssjd.ca
Applications for Women at a Crossroads, 2014,
must be in by April 4, 2014.
St. John’s Convent
233 Cummer Avenue, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8
416-226-2201; Fax: 416-226-2131
St. John’s House, B.C.
3937 St. Peter’s Road, Victoria, B.C. V8P 2J9
250-920-7787; Fax: 250-920-7709
The Eagle is published several times a year by
the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, St. John’s
Convent, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8. An annual
donation of $10 to help cover the cost would be
Please let us know promptly of any changes of
address. The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine
is a registered charity. Our charitable donation
number is BN 11925 4266 RR0001.