SSJD The Eagle - Epiphanytide 2011


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The Eagle - Epiphanytide 2011 - the newsletter of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, Toronto

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SSJD The Eagle - Epiphanytide 2011

  1. 1. The Eagle Epiphanytide 2011 Creator God (A paraphrase of the Song of Simeon) Creator, God, my governor, my guide, you give me leave at last to go to that great space where even stars do hide, their fire in your more brilliant glow. I’ve been your servant, still I serve and will, from birth until all ages end, and then, in peace and love, will I serve still, nor cease when time itself you rend. You send me forth, each vow and promise kept, according to the prophets’ word. My eyes, which searched so long, so often wept, are opened now in joy assured. You’ve brought salvation clear, deliverance sure, to every nation, settled, wild, for Israel’s glory—hope of rich and poor is God, embodied in a child. Sr. Sue Elwyn, SSJD The top panel: The Feast of the Purification on February 2nd marks the occasion when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple “(as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’.” (Lk 2:23) The bottom panel: Simeon holding the baby Jesus and praising God that he has seen the Lord’s Messiah.1
  2. 2. Dear Friends,On the feast of the Epiphany we used the collect, Eternal God, who by a star led wise men to the worship of your Son. Guide by your light the nations of the earth that the whole world may know your glory. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (B.A.S. p. 280)I used to think when I heard or read a prayer that Godwas the one who was really doing the work, really leadingthe wise men by a star, and guiding the nations so that allwould come to know the light of Christ as I knew it. The Mary Louise Stewart and Sandy Austin make their Lifeprayer would leave me with a warm, glowing feeling that Promises as Oblates to Sr. Elizabeth Ann.God was taking care of all things and it was good for me to In October, a week after the wonderful celebration ofbe using the prayer. I don’t know when it was that I came Thanksgiving with over 80 people sitting down togetherto the realization that what we really need to hear when we for dinner, the Community rejoiced in Sr. Rhonda’spray is what work God is calling us to do. We are the reception as a Novice of the Sisterhood when she is givenones who must live so that the glory of God is evident in the her habit. Sr. Rhonda works with the Guest House teamway we live, in our actions, in our words, in our thoughts and is a delightful addition to the Sisterhood.and prayers, so that others may come to know the light ofChrist. So God does use our prayers by working on ourhearts to open them to the needs of others, to bring thelight of Christ to the nations.As you may remember from the Michaelmas Eagle, sixteenof our Oblates were able to attend the first Oblate TriennialConference. At that time two Oblates gave presentations:one on monastic vows and Oblate promises, and the otheron silence and solitude. One of the articles in this Eagle ison the theme of silence and solitude by our Oblate, NancyScott. The Oblates are committed to reading The OblateLife and Norveen Vest’s Preferring Christ as sharedlectio. Another of our oblates, Mary Louise Stewart, wrotethe poem “Snow Time (or Time Snow?)” which you willfind on the last page. During the coming year the Oblateswill also begin working on an Oblate brochure so as toencourage more Oblate vocations, not just for SSJD, butfor all the Religious Communities. In early November my mother, Theda Irene Eckert, died in the infirmary at the Convent with my father Grant at her side. I want to thank all the Associates, Oblates, and friends who sent expressions of sympathy for my family and me at that time. I have found the sympathy from others to be so uplifting and incredibly supportive in my time of bereavement. Thank you. Later in November, we celebrated the 60th Anniversary of Sr. Helena’s Life Profession on November 16th, the Feast of St. Margaret of Scotland. Sr. Helena entered our Community in 1947 and has worked in many of the Houses of SSJD from Montreal to Edmonton doing a variety ofTowards the end of the Triennial, Virginia Finlay, Nancy jobs. One of her favourites was being sacristan both at theScott, Carolyn Madeley, and Beulah Walcott renewed Convent and at various branch houses. She is now almosttheir Oblate Promises, while Mary Louise Stewart and completely blind but she has an incredible memory and canSandy Austin (centre) made their Life Promises as quote poetry at the drop of a hat. Until very recently sheOblates of SSJD. practised tai chi every day.2
  3. 3. Many guests joined us both for the Christmas Retreat and for our Christmas Eucharist and dinner. Two days later we celebrated St. John’s Day, our patronal festival, with a number of Associates and Oblates. Two days after that, on December 29th, a wonderful article on our New Year’s Retreat appeared in the Toronto Star. As a result the Guest House was inundated with phone calls from people whoWe were delighted that Fr. Freeland could attend this wanted to attend the retreat. We received many wonderfulspecial event. He wheeled Sr. Helena into the refectory and comments after the retreat: “I came wounded, hurt, feelingtold her about the cake unloved, angry; I go home feeling the Joy of Christmasdecorated in her honour. truly a child of God.” “Even as a non-Christian I felt warmlyShe thoroughly enjoyed welcomed and included....Lovely grounds and gentle spacethe day and asked to here for contemplation, communion and community.”have a photo takenbeside the stained glass On January 4th we admitted the Rev. Debra Johnstonwindow in the Retreat as a Postulant of SSJD. Debra is a Lutheran Pastor and inChapel which has St. keeping with the Waterloo Declaration of full communionJohn the Divine and St. between the Anglican Church in Canada and the EvangelicalMargaret of Scotland Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), Debra will remain astanding on either side Lutheran in our Anglican community.of the risen Christ. The cover of this Eagle highlights the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple which we celebrateJust before Christmas, Dr. Gerald Hart presented the on February 2nd each year together with the birthdaySisterhood with 2000 copies of a book he has been of Sr. Constance, who we hope will be celebrating herworking on for some time entitled: 107th birthday just before you receive this Eagle. She had her 74th Profession Anniversary on December 21st and St. John’s Rehab Hospital, continues to enjoy remarkable health and wellness and to 1885 - 2010 remain interested in everything around her. The front page The Road to Recovery shows the two panels from the Mary Window in our Lady Chapel with Mary and Simeon.As Dr. Hart writes in the preface, “this publication wasthe result of serendipity.” His friend Dr. Donald Cowan In the season of Epiphany we are called to bring light towas researching the life of Dr. Vera Peters, Canada’s first others. One of the sayings of the Desert Fathers which Iwoman radiotherapist (i.e. radiation oncologist), and learned think illustrates this is the following story. “Abba Lot wentthat she had interned and lived at St. John’s Hospital on to see Abba Joseph and said: ‘Abba, as much as I am ableMajor Street which was founded by our Sisterhood. Dr. I practice a small rule, a little fasting, some prayer andHart’s daughter Jacki was and is a good friend of mine meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible Iand that stimulated in Dr. Hart a desire to write a definitive keep my thoughts clean. What else should I do?’ Thenhistory of the hospitals run by SSJD from 1885 up to the the old man stood up and stretched out his hands towardpresent day. Cowan and Hart began to collaborate on the heaven, and his fingers became like ten torches of flame.research and writing, but Cowan had to withdraw from And he said: ‘If you wish, you can become all flame.’”1the project due to other responsibilities. This book, full of May the light of Christ burn brightly in your hearts to bringwonderful photographs, both old and new, is now on sale the light of Christ to all the our bookroom for $20.00 Sr. Elizabeth Ann, SSJDWe have a number of long term guests living at theConvent and about a week before Christmas they gave a 1. Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers.little concert for us which was quite delightful. Translation and Art by Yushi Nomura. Doubleday 1982. 3
  4. 4. Silence anD SolituDe“Silence is golden.” This age-old saying conjures up Of course, it isn’t absolutely necessary to get far away fromthoughts of how children were to be seen and not heard. noise and people in order to hear God speak; otherwiseHowever, I wonder if we missed the real, golden treasure we’d never perceive God’s promptings in the course ofwhich is the silence that is equally applicable to adults as everyday life or even in peopled worship services. But thereto children. There is something appealing about silence. It are times to eliminate the voices of the world in order tocalls to our spirit as “deep calls to deep” (Ps. 42:7). hear, undistracted, the voice of God.Silence and solitude are often found together so I will deal Unplugging ourselves, at least for some period of time, iswith them both. Silence and solitude are not exclusive of one thing we can do to cultivate some silence in our day.our relationships with others for without the former weare shallow, and without relationship we are stagnant. Some ways to startBalance, as St. Benedict reminds us, requires both sides Look at your schedule and mark on your calendar timesof the equation. Our Western culture, however, conditions when silence and solitude would best fit in. Consider theseus to be comfortable with noise and busyness, but not with options as possibilities:silence and solitude. • right after you get up in the morning • during moments you would otherwise spendIn past generations, many people would have spent their watching TV or playing computer gamesdays working in the fields or in the home where the only • commuting in your car—turn off music or the radio other sounds were those of nature or human voices. and enjoy your own thoughts and perceptionsWithout electronic media there were fewer distractions • create a “retreat space” in your own homefrom the voice of conscience and the still, small voice of (i.e. a spare room or guest bedroom)God. This is not to glamorize the supposed “good old days” • as part of a soothing bathor suggest we try to return to them. It is just to reaffirm • in your own garden or nearby parkthat one of the costs of our technological advancement • as part of scheduled breaks at work or between is a greater temptation to avoid quietness. While we have classesbroadened our intake of news and information of all kinds, Respect these times as you would any other appointment.these advantages may come at the expense of our spiritual During these times, turn off the phone, ignore e-mails,depth if we do not practice silence and solitude. lock the door, if applicable, and resist the temptation toMany of us have an addiction to noise. It’s one thing to read or listen to music. Remember: you want to cultivateturn on the TV, CD player, or radio for information or silence and stillness within to hear the voice of God whoseentertainment, but it’s another thing to habitually turn one presence is unseen yet more real than any other.of these on immediately upon entering a room or starting There are many valuable reasonsthe car just to have back-ground noise. As it is, we are the to make time for silence and solitude:most urban, noise-polluted generation ever. We are rarelyalone with our own thoughts and God’s voice. As a result,we have an unprecedented need to learn the disciplines of To follow the example of Jesussilence and solitude in order to heal and transform both our “And when day came, He departed and went to a lonelybodies and our souls. place; and the multitudes were searching for Him, and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from going awayThe discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary from them.” (Lk 4:42) Put yourself in Jesus’ sandals for aabstention from speaking and from a noisy environment moment. People are clamouring for your help and haveso that certain spiritual goals might be sought. Sometimes many real needs. You are not able to meet all those needs.silence is observed in order to read, write, or pray. Can you ever feel justified in pulling away to be alone?Although there is no outward speaking, there are still Jesus did. We love to feel wanted. We love the sense ofinternal dialogues with oneself and with God. This can be importance that comes from doing something no one elsecalled “outward silence”. Other times silence is maintained can do. But Jesus did not succumb to those temptations. Henot only outwardly but also inwardly so that God’s voice knew the importance of disciplining Himself to be alone.might be heard more clearly. To hear the voice of God more clearlySolitude is the spiritual discipline of voluntarily and Often God’s still, small voice can only be heard in the silence.temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes. It is simply a matter of making ourselves available to hear it.The period of solitude may last only a few minutes or fordays. As with silence, solitude may be sought in order To worship Godto participate, without interruption, in other spiritual The worship of God does not always require words, soundsdisciplines, or just to be alone with God. or actions. Sometimes worship consists of a God-focused stillness and hush.4
  5. 5. Worshiping God in silence may occur because your heart To learn control of speechis so full that words cannot express your love for God. At Learning to keep silent for extended periods can help usother times you may feel just the opposite, so passionless control our speech at other times.that any words seem hypocritical. Regardless of the state There is Biblical precedent for disciplined seasons of solitaryof your emotions, there is always a place for wordless silence in Ecclesiastes 3:7b which says there is “A time toworship. be silent, and a time to speak”. Learning the discipline ofTo express faith in God the former can help you develop control in the latter, “forThe simple act of silence before the Lord, as opposed to the one who doesn’t know how or when to be silent doesn’tcoming in a wordy fret, can be a demonstration of faith in know how or when to speak”. (Don Whitney)God. “Thy will be done.” How can the disciplines of silence and solitude teachTo seek God’s forgiveness and healing speech control? When you practice silence and solitude,There are times when burdens weigh heavy and we turn you find that you don’t need to say many of the things youto God in solitude and silence for forgiveness and healing, think you need to say. In silence we learn to rely more ontimes when God seems to be the only one we can turn to. God’s control in situations where we would normally feelThe words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:25-28 might compelled to speak, or to speak too much. We find out thatbe appropriate: “The Lord is good to those who wait for God is able to manage situations in which we once thoughtHim, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits our input was indispensable. The skills of observation andsilently for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man listening are also sharpened in those who practise silencethat he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and solitude so that when they do speak there’s more of aand be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his freshness and depth to their words.mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.” Another reason why the disciplines of silence and solitudeTo be physically and spiritually restored can be so thoroughly transforming is because they canEveryone has a regular need for restoring the resources of help us with the other spiritual disciplines. They shouldboth the inward and outward being. It was true even for normally be a part, for example, of individual Biblethose who lived most closely with Jesus. After spending reading and prayer. They are a necessary component ofthemselves in several days of physical and spiritual output, private worship. In silence and solitude we can maximizenotice the means of replenishment Jesus prescribed for His time for learning and journalling. It’s common to practicedisciples; “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and fasting during times of silence and solitude. But more thanrest a while” (Mk 6:31). anything else, the disciplines of silence and solitude can be so transforming because they provide time to think aboutWe all need times away from our routine stresses to enjoy life and to listen to God.the restoration that silence and solitude can provide for ourbody and soul. Don’t expect each time of silence and solitude to be aTo regain a spiritual perspective landmark occasion in your life. There are not alwaysThere’s no better way to step back and get a more dramatic results or intense emotions involved. More oftenbalanced, less worldly perspective on matters than through than not they are emotionally simple and serene. However,the disciplines of silence and solitude. It is often only by as with all the spiritual disciplines, silence and solitude arestepping back that we can see again the larger picture. valuable. Even if you often end up feeling dry, it is still worth while to make the time.To seek the will of God Nancy Scott, Oblate SSJDPerhaps one of the most common reasons people seek atime of silence and solitude with God, at least on occasion,is to discern God’s will about a matter. Jesus did this in Luke Come away...6:12-13 when deciding whom to choose as the disciples In this desert time of strengthening and healing, comewho would travel with Him: “And it was at this time that He away and experience an encounter with group spiritualwent off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole direction. Reflecting on Margret Silf’s Sacred Spaces wenight in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His will explore the journey, the call and our gifts. This eight-disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also session series will be offered by Mary Lou Gormley, onenamed as apostles.” of our Guest House Spiritual Directors, on ThursdayAlthough we are often able to discover God’s will in the evenings March 3 through May 5, from 6:30 to 8:30realm of our daily activity, there are times when God pm at the Convent. Please register early with the Guestdiscloses it only in private. To discover it then requires the House as there are a maximum of 8 participants. Adisciplines of silence and solitude. small fee will be charged for each session. 5
  6. 6. our lives of Although born in Coronach, Saskatchewan, Sister Beryl and her three brothers lived on a farm nine miles away. To attend the one-room school, over three miles away, they had to walk, take a horse and cart or ride bareback. At 13 Beryl went to Regina to the Qu’Appelle Diocesan School (QDS, run by SSJD) for five years, then began BA studies at Regina College, completing them in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan. Intending further studies she went to England, “ambled about doing various jobs”, returning to teach at QDS in ‘52, and to Toronto in ‘53 for MA studies in English. Hearing about short term missionary work in India (as well as thinking of the Sisterhood), Beryl set off via England where she worked in summer agricultural camps and a UN camp in Austria. She sailed from Southampton to Bombay via the Suez Canal during the Suez crisis in ‘56. After four and a half years teaching in India, she came to the Community, “feeling well-marinated in SSJD” through her times at QDS. “A lot ended but a lot began.” She returned to QDS three more times as a Sister, the last as headmistress and oversaw the closing of the school—a “low-light” for her, but aware that “tough times are important to our learning”. A highlight of the Priory at Edmonton was when she and Sr. Jeanwere asked “to do something with the poor”. They joined a United Church project in which Sr. Beryl started an adult literacyprogram that expanded and still exists as “The Learning Centre”. After 13 years Sr. Beryl returned to the Convent, continuingthe role of Associate Director, but now for Ontario and the Eastern U.S.; then six years at Maison in St. Lambert, Quebec.Through all the years “the friendships and relationships were gifts—and now the opportunity of doing spiritual care at the Hospital - a highlight for me”. Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, Sister Margaret Mary and her family moved to Hantsport, Nova Scotia. Schooling, sports, community and church activities were all part of her early life. After high school, she entered a nursing program in Yarmouth, NS, followed by post-graduate training in psychiatry in Dartmouth. She worked as a nurse in Massachusetts, Niagara Falls, and then returned to nursing in the operating room of the hospital in Windsor, NS, where she took on responsibilities in developing specialty techniques for both the operating and recovery room. In 1967 she went to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto to further her education in these techniques, and then returned to Windsor where she was instrumental in the planning for a new hospital building.. Responding to “some inner feeling to do something more”, Margaret Mary attended Dalhousie University taking a Bachelor of Nursing degree program and returned to work at the hospital in Windsor. “It was a time in my life when I was always doing something new, while at the same time still aware of that ‘inner disturbance’ for something more in my life.” The priest at her church suggested that she visit St. John’s Convent in Toronto. This visit brought an inner peace; and she was admitted as a postulant, clothed as a novice in 1981, andlife professed in 1988. She has worked in many areas of the Convent, and in several branch houses; was appointed “Clerk ofthe Works” during the move from Botham Road; and also spent a period of time as assistant to the Reverend Mother. “I havealways said ‘yes’ to anything I’m asked to do. Undergirding everything, and most important to me is my life of prayer. It is thespiritual life, my prayer time, that makes my life complete and able to do what I do.” Sister Jean and her older brother came from a church-going family in the Congregationalist tradition in Worcester, Massachusetts. Along with singing in the church choir, she began her trumpet study in the high school band. After majoring in bacteriology at the University of Massachusetts, she was committed to two years work with Parke-Davis in Detroit, during which time she was confirmed in the Episcopalian church. The Dean of the cathedral encouraged her to visit SSJD in Toronto. On a subsequent visit, Sr. Aquila asked, “Have you ever considered the religious life, my dear?” to which Jean replied, somewhat shakily, “not until just now, Reverend Mother”. Additional visits confirmed her decision to try the religious life, becoming one of 12 aspirants in September 1960, six of whom became postulants, but Jean was the only one to make life vows. “This was where I belonged—I felt God was calling me here.” Sr. Jean remembers the long habit, the blue work gowns; counting and packaging altar bread; working with Sr. Nora in the bursar’s office; polishing the big copper bowl that went in the font—even the outside of it that didn’t show, for she was told that. “God and the angels would see it” even if it was hidden. She recalls times at St. Chad’s School in Regina, the Church Home and CanaPlace in Toronto, the Priory in Edmonton and Maison in St. Lambert, QC, where visits to different parishes—sometimes to add her trumpet to the hymns—were memorable. While sacristy work seems to have been her specialty, she particularly enjoyed the closeness of guests in the smaller houses especially. Having loved art since childhood, she finally enjoyed lessons in watercolours. Many of her paintings have been sold in the bookroom and others are evident throughout the Guest House.6
  7. 7. love and ServiceSister Wilma lived in Cupar, SK, until age eight when the family moved to Moosomin and thenYorkton where she completed her schooling. She knew SSJD had a school in Regina because“Mom was an Associate and wore her cross on Sundays”. She recalls seeing “three Sisterswalking across QDS grounds” (Qu’Appelle Diocesan School), when visiting the Diocesan officewith her father, an Anglican priest. Later, Wilma worked in Yorkton, Calgary and Moose Jawbefore joining the Bank of Montreal in Regina. While there she became involved in AYPA atSt. Paul’s Cathedral and also came to know Sr. Audrey at QDS. “I had no sense whatever ofbecoming one of them.” Although she appreciated and valued the background from which shecame, she said it was chiefly through the Community that her growth and development waschallenged, and often pushed beyond what she thought she could do. “My almost 25 yearsin the bursar’s office may not have been that different from my four years in the bank, but Ilearned that all work is of equal value if done to the glory of God. My 17 years at the ChurchHome, were truly valued years and gave me the opportunity to grow in love and concern forothers—the privilege of sharing in so many lives. My brief year at the Priory in Edmonton gave me a tiny glimpse of what it would be like to work with the poor and marginalized—my deep desire for as long as I can remember. In the 12 years I spent at St. John’s Rehab I experienced a different aspect of care than at Cana Place. I presentlyhave a variety of activities which I enjoy and which continue to interest and challenge me.”Born in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Sister Patricia was “baptized by my Lutheran grandfather,attended Presbyterian Mission Band, United Church CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training), SundaySchool and church camps, and from pre-school years I wanted to be a missionary”. Afternurses training at Moose Jaw General, Patricia attended the University of Saskatchewan for thediploma course in Teaching and Supervision in Schools of Nursing. After two years nursing inthe navy she attended the United Church Training School in Toronto. When work overseas wasnot available she served at a hospital in Hazelton, BC, which included some work with IndianHealth. On a European trip with her optometrist father in ’64, they visited Berlin and, in goingto East Berlin, experienced the infamous “Checkpoint Charlie”. She also went to Windsor fora polo game, and met the Queen Mother and the Queen. In ’65 Patricia worked in Kent, but“was still aware of something deeply missing in my life”. She took confirmation classes andwas confirmed in the Church of England in May ’66. Her father’s declining health brought herback to Saskatchewan, where she decided to make a retreat, as ‘religious life’ and ‘convent’frequently entered her mind. She told her parents, “I’ve been searching for many years and Ifeel that I need to pursue this so, in the fall, I will become an aspirant for a month and then a postulant, if it is meant to be”.Meaningful memories that she carries with her are the fun as an aspirant; happiness of working in different houses with thevarious Sisters; attending the Oxford Conference with Sr. Merle in ’83; experiencing the Whitby exchange program in ’97;being an anointer; and receiving the Associate Diploma in Theology from Thornloe College. “If I hadn’t taken all these ‘steppingstones’ in following God’s call, I would not be here.”Glasgow, Scotland was the birthplace, home and school beginning for Sister Jessica. Althoughshe was a school drop-out, having left home and school at 16 due to economic challenges, shepicked up her schooling later and went on to nursing, a university degree and many additionalcourses. Coming to Canada in ‘63 she “did all kinds of nursing from public health to pioneeringa family planning clinic”, many of which required special studies. Describing herself as a “latebloomer”, she moved from her Church of Scotland roots into the United Church and attendedthe Centre for Christian Studies. A visit to the Convent suggested by a monk friend, found her“very drawn to the place” and caused her to stay an additional 11 weeks that summer. “It didn’ttake long for me to know I was being called to come here.” Sr. Frances Joyce said, “stay closeand come often”. The turning point, Jessica realized, had been a course on Christian Holinessthat opened for her the monastic tradition; “a whole new life introduced me to sacramentaltheology. It all became an incredible awakening and couldn’t get enough of me”. On her firstdesert day, while journalling, she was suddenly aware of being a Christian for years, “and nowliving the Gospel with people you wouldn’t necessarily choose—the gift and the difficulty of living and working together”. All her jobs had challenging times when she questioned her vocation: “I don’t want to blow this,I remember crying over the laundry. . . . We have a golden opportunity in this life to look at ourselves every day through thescriptures, retreats, reading, etc. I love doing the chapel and the infirmary (looking after the souls and bodies of the Sisters!Aren’t I privileged!) and with such dedicated help. Maybe I’ll be a late-bloomer in heaven, too.” 7
  8. 8. oBeDience?!“The vow of obedience is grounded in the singleness of Jesus came not to be served but to serve. Service cares forpurpose with which Jesus lived in order to accomplish the other person and is a good antidote to self-interest inthe will of the One who sent him. Obedience as promised an age that could be called “The ME Age”. Being alert toin the religious life is the offering of our gift of free will others’ needs is an important part of obedience which joinsto God, that we may contribute to the restoration of all us to those, our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom wethings in Christ. It is the loving and voluntary response might not otherwise notice!of the mature and free creature, making us available toGod for God’s glory.” Disobedience sometimes is not a bad stance! Disobedience – Rule of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in its positive form is not rebellion and self-interest. Disobedience is necessary when God’s law of love forObedience is NOT my long suit!! Before I entered SSJD, all is defied, disregarded, and broken. What would havefriends challenged me and said, “You are so stubborn! How happened if Nazi soldiers had defied Hitler; if people todayare you going to obey?” Frankly, I wasn’t at all sure, myself. refused to buy into the hate-filled rhetoric of some peopleHowever, a month or so after I entered, I looked at all the who claim to be Christians; if people refused to obeySisters in Chapel (and we were more than 30 at that time!) unjust laws—written and unwritten. Think also of Gandhi, And thought, “No! I am in the right place!” Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvey Milk, Fr. Dan Berrigan SJ, and those who persist in working for peaceWhy? I had already figured out that there were different and justice.varieties of stubbornness and obedience. Yes, there is a price for positive disobedience; Jesus paidDisobedient, stubborn, obstinate, intractable, persistent, the price in his refusal to obey Jewish law when it ranunyielding, difficult, not docile, not amenable to control—all counter to His Father’s plan for the Jewish people andhave subtly different meanings in our wonderfully textured the world. People have, for centuries, become martyrsEnglish language! And all of these were present in SSJD when they refused to obey injustice. Today there are manyin varying degrees, surprisingly capable of enabling each people who disobey in the name of justice and love: forone of us to live together and continue to follow our call example, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma; Liu Xiaobo andto follow our Lord Jesus Christ in a way of life that often his wife in China; Mozhdah Jamalzadah, a young, Afghan-seemed impossible, except for the grace given to us to use Canadian woman who returned recently to Afghanistan toour wills in obedience for the furthering of the kingdom of speak openly on TV to women about their rights, and whoGod. admits her one desire is to stay alive another day to help women.No one survives in SSJD or grows into the person Goddesires, without struggles—both internal and external—as Obedience and disobedience both come at a price. Anya person gradually moves to a place of understanding that time I feel disobedience rising up in me I need to ask myselfthe good of the Community comes from give and take; a question: is this simply about ME and what I want? Is thelistening carefully to the words of our Sisters; balancing our request just and/or necessary for the Community’s sake?needs with the needs of the Community; allowing ourselves What are the consequences for the Community if I say no?to move into areas of work which may seem daunting until Is there something I need to ask about the request whichwe grow into that work. This is a form of obedience that is makes it a better thing to do? Is what has just been said todefinitely not servile, weak-kneed, passive or unthinking! me a request I can accept, or do I have to question it?Obedience in a Religious Community means being alert to Of course, most of the time the answer to a request is anhearing God’s call in every area of our life, leading us ever obedient “yes”, but there may be times when it is necessaryonwards in new paths of learning. Obedience means using for my integrity and the integrity of this Community I loveour brains, understandings, learning to discuss matters when I must question and possibly say “no” until I can seeintelligently, passionately—presenting the other side that that the issue is agreeing for the sake of Christian love.we believe in, if necessary—then accepting the consensus Obedience is not mindless; it requires the use of heart, mindof the Community, while still maintaining an inner integrity and soul, informed by prayer, to determine a “yes”, or amaintained by prayer that will bring up the matter again in “no”. Disobedience also requires the same fusion of prayer,the future if the decision is not working or turns out to be heart, mind and soul that will not allow me to disobey God’swrong. love for all humanity. Thanks be to God!!!!!!Many years ago I read a wonderful little book on the vows Sr. Anitra, SSJDof Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience by Fr. L. PatrickCarroll, SJ, entitled To Love, To Share, To Serve. Toserve—another facet of obedience—is a reminder that 8
  9. 9. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” Why am I so attracted to Years’ War, hungry peasants storming Norwich, and Julian of Norwich, the the burning of England’s first heretics on the outskirts of author of these words, and Norwich. Yet for her God was a loving God who assured an anchoress who lived in her that “All shall be well, and all shall be well; and all a small anchorhold attached manner of thing shall be well.” to the outside of St. Julian’s Church in Norwich in the In the 20 years she spent meditating on the meaning of her late 14th/early 15th Century? visions, she struggled mightily with the concept of sin. In What could she possibly say God’s all-foreseeing wisdom, why did he allow sin to exist? that would be meaningful Julian came to believe that no matter what people do, it for life in the 21st Century? is what they are that is important; and they are very good Yet, the first time I read the because God created them. “See I am God. See I am in all Revelation of (Divine) Love thing. See I do all thing. See I never lift my hands off my in 1997, I was immediately own works, nor ever shall, without end.” (p. 27) challenged by her writing and her profound understanding “Although it may seem to us that we are almost forsaken of God. and cast away for our sins and that we deserve it all, yet our Lord keeps us as his most precious prize always. . . .”As a young girl Julian had expressed a desire for three (p. 76) She is led to understand that sin is inevitable, andrather unusual gifts from God: 1st, to have “a bodily yet there is in us the divine will. We make mistakes, we failsight” of Jesus’ passion (as Mary Magdalene did) so as to badly but we are not defined by our sinfulness but by God’sunderstand the pain he endured; 2nd, to have “a grave unchanging love for us.sickness, even to the point of death” and to experience “allmanner of pains both in body and spirit”; 3rd, to “receive Our Soul is loved so preciously by him. . .three wounds in my life... the wound of true contrition, that it is beyond all human understanding. Inthe wound of kind compassion, and the wound of willful truth, no human alive can fathom how much,longing to God.” The first two requests she forgot over time how sweetly and tenderly, our Maker lovesbut the third stayed with her continually. us. (p. 13)In 1373, she did indeed become extremely ill to the What was even more surprising to me is that Julianpoint of death and it was then that she had a series of understands God to be both mother and father:16 “showings” or visions and experienced through thesevisions the passion of Christ. In the first showing, she As truly as God is our Father, so truly Goddescribes the “red blood trickling down from under the is our Mother. . . . “It is I: the Power andgarland (crown of thorns). Hot and freely it fell.” It was so the Goodness of the Fatherhood. It is I: therealistic that she almost wished she had not asked for this Wisdom of the Motherhood. It is I: the Lightvision. She wrote later that, in some ways, the first showing and the Grace that is all blessed Love.encompassed all of them. She writes: “Within this sameshowing, suddenly the Trinity filled my whole heart full of Perhaps the most challenging and stimulating aspect ofutmost joy.” Julian’s teaching for me was her conviction that there is no anger or wrath in God—a concept that I think may still For the Trinity is God, and God is the Trinity. shock many Christians today. She writes: “It is the most The Trinity is our Maker and Keeper, the impossible thing that can be that God would be angry, for Trinity is our everlasting Lover, everlasting joy wrath and friendship are two opposites.” She sensed that and bliss, by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (p. 8) if God ever became truly angry we would all be destroyed in an instant. As Robert Llewelyn wrote in “Light from aIn this same showing she saw that God “is the ground of all mystic” (The Tablet, Jan. 30/99), “Hell for Julian is notthat is good and supporting for us. He is our clothing that a place to which we may be sent by a wrathful God, butlovingly wraps and folds us about; it embraces us and closes a state in which we shall find ourselves if we do not allowus all around as it hangs upon us with such tender love; for God’s all-compassionate love to quench the wrath withintruly he can never leave us.” (p. 9) us. For Julian, God’s work is to love the hell out of us.”I continue to be amazed at this loving description of the Sr. Elizabeth, SSJDTrinity coming from a woman living in the Middle Ages.Julian experienced the Black Death three times in her life; All quotations are taken from John Skinner’s translation ofit was also a time of ruinous taxes to support the Hundred Revelation of Divine Love. 9
  10. 10. news from the Development officeFor the Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable (Roman 11:29)In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminds us of what we have come to know aboutGod and our calling to serve the church and the world God loves. Our response toGod continues in our prayer, worship, outreach, education, and pastoral and spiritualcare.Our response to God’s calling is shared by you and our many benefactors. Weundertake our mission with the generous prayerful support of more than 900Associates and Oblates. The many gifts we receive from our donors in Canada andaround the world inspire us to continue to meet God’s calling in a world in need ofcompassion and hope.We know that our benefactors make sacrifices to fund our work and our Community and we constantly strive to steward thosegifts responsibly. We were informed, earlier this year, by CanadaHelps that their fee for administering our donations wasincreasing to nearly 4% of the value of the donation. In response, we contacted PayPal who offers an online, affordablesolution for us to receive gifts securely and effortlessly from donors who find it convenient to support us by donatingonline. Effective October 1st, 2010, we are pleased to offer this method and we know you’ll find the process smooth, secureand easy to perform. Also for benefactors that make monthly donations and have made an annual pledge, we are pleased to offer a preauthorized remittance program, or PAR, that is administered by the United Church of Canada. Donating this way is as easy as completing a simple form, which is available from the Development Office or on our website at and mailing it along with a void cheque. Many parish churches in Anglican dioceses across Canada have been utilizing this service for years and now we are pleased to offer this convenient method of donating which also became effective October 1st, 2010.Narrative Budget — We have simplified the Narrative Budget this year from a 12-page booklet to the enclosed 4-page leaflet.We are highlighting just one of our ministries each year so that we can provide you with more information. This year we arefocusing on our ministry of hospitality which has always been a part of the Benedictine tradition. On the back you will find thepie charts which show where our money comes from and how it is spent.Donation Envelopes and Annual Appeal — In October 2010 we included white donation envelopes in our Eagle mailing.Its purpose was simple — to provide you, our benefactors, with a convenient way to support our mission and ministries. They also greatly simplify our procedures and ensure that your gifts are directed to the ministry of your choice. We are planning toplace these envelopes in the Eagle again this year.Each year we are challenged to fund a specific ministry or aspect of our community life.The Annual Fund, which historically appealed for your support of our ministries, has beenrevised so that we can direct your generous gifts to a particular priority. This will enableyou to give knowing the ministry which we have deemed most important this year. Youwill receive more information about this in the next mailing.Thank you for your continued financial support and for your prayers. We are truly gratefulfor the kindness and generosity that we receive daily from our friends and benefactors.Your continued love and support of our Community is remembered daily in our prayers.We trust that God will continue to bless you and our Community as we serve the worldthat God loves. Sr. Doreen, SSJD10
  11. 11. Women at a crossroadsIt was one of those bitter January nights, and I were assigned as our mentors. Afternoons found uswas pacing my flat, partly in an attempt to ignore toiling on work projects such as cleaning the librarythe wind that was tearing outside my window, and shelves, tending the garden, washing windows,partly to keep myself from flopping on the sofa cleaning the basement and sorting old furniture inand succumbing to tears and a bottle of wine. preparation for the SSJD garage sale. After dinnerThere is something about middle age that brings we did dishes, cleaned the refectory or conductedout the tears, the anxiety, and the pinot grigio. I night rounds in the Guest House. In betweenwas struggling with a dilemma about my future, classes and work we attended chapel four timesspecifically how to reconcile the options before a day, and ate our meals in silence. We learnedme with a surge of spiritual longing. The incessant about monastic life, perused the stacks in SSJD’sto-ing and fro-ing was keeping me awake at night wonderful libraries, and had informal chats with theand distracted during the day. “If I could just get away from Sisters about life in community. We even had a field trip tothe chaos of my life and think it through in a quiet place,” I Bally Croy (the Sisters’ cottage). Busy? You betcha! But themused. It’s been my experience that when it comes to big amazing thing was that everything we did seemed to lead todecisions solitude is an essential element. an illuminating conversation that changed our perception or helped clarify our direction. In those evenings whenDid such a place even exist without requiring a long plane we resisted the urge to fall into bed early, our group oftrip and the unwanted excitement of an exotic locale? discerners hung out together and let our laughter easeI raised a pleading look to God, and slumped down in the tension of our individual quests and our self-imposedfront of the computer. Suddenly my fingers flew across isolation. All this might seem like Big Girls Summer Campthe keyboard and began tapping out “Anglican convents or Pre-Nun: 101, but that would discount the seriousness ofin Canada” into the search engine. A few mouse clicks our intention, the emotional extremes we swung between,later I was perusing the site of the Sisterhood of St. John the deeply spiritual discussions we had with the Sisters, andthe Divine, and reading about its Women at a Crossroads the heart-to-heart talks we had with others in our group.program. This four-week course has been offered for 16years, and is designed specifically for women who want to Women at a Crossroads is rigorous, but it is also oneexplore that Inner Voice that draws us toward a spiritual of the most enlightening and meaningful programs youlife. That seemed perfect. Even better, the program is held will experience. By the time we emerged at the end ofin a convent in non-exotic Toronto. the program all of us were changed in some way. Our individual directions were much clearer and we were, II filled out the application and mailed it off. Six months think, more confident about the future. Of course, whenlater I was ensconced in the Guest House of SSJD with you have God and the Sisters walking with you what moreeight other women, all of us ranging in age from 33 to 64, could you hope for?and all of us searching for … well, some of us weren’t quitesure what we were searching for. The only certainty was Jane Christmasthat we had all hit a turning point in our lives: “crossroads” Participant in Women at a Crossroads program, 2010makes it sound a bit tidy. At times our lives don’t look somuch like a crossroads as they do six lanes of Highway 401screaming past at warp speed. But even if we didn’t cometo any big decisions during the program, those of us whohad signed up agreed that it would at least allow us to slowdown our lives and give us time to pray. It turned out to be much more than that. From the moment we arrived at SSJD our group was whisked into the warm, protective wings of the Sisters and into their routine and practices. Suddenly, the world of 24-hour news channels, office politics, and Lady Gaga seemed eons away. Instead, our mornings were spent learning about vocations, Back Row: The women on the Crossroads ways to pray, and how to walk a labyrinth. We were Front Row: The Sisters who were mentorsgiven books to read and questions to ponder in the privacyof our rooms or in the wise company of those Sisters who 11
  12. 12. Snow Time (or Time Snow?) Are You at a Crossroads Flakes of snow in Your Life? fall Are you considering a career change? from Are you looking for “something more” in your life? the Do you have a thirst for God? A hunger for prayer? sky Do you desire to serve God in a new way? to Would you like to experience life in community? rest Then you may be interested in attending in the ground a free 3½ week program (July 1 - 24, 2011) to discern where God is calling you. Each flake is a particle of time At the same time you will have the opportunity to passing into history experience the life of love, prayer and service in an Anglican religious community of women. Time is as fragile and unique as each flake Women who are interested should contact A moment to be valued Kelly Clark, The Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine, for its own sake St. John’s Convent, 233 Cummer Ave, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8 The ground is white with snow Phone: 416-226-2201, Ext. 301. Fax: 416-222-4442 Email: Website: Time is spread out Applications for Women at a Crossroads, 2011 must be in by March 31, 2011 before me. M.L. Stewart, Oblate SSJD Taizé Services at the Convent Altar Linens Join the Sisters at St. John’s Convent on the third FridayAltar linens may be purchased from Sr. Jocelyn, SSJD, at of each month, at 5:00 p.m. for a Taizé service.St. John’s House, B.C. All linens are hand-sewn from IrishLinen. Items which may be purchased include Fair Linens, This meditative service includes prayer, repetitiveCredence Cloths, Purificators, Lavabo Towels, Baptismal chants, candlelight and anointing for healingTowels, Fair Veils, Palls on Plexi Glass, Corporals and Sick to focus us on our spiritual journey.Communion Sets. Future dates for Taizé services are: For details, please contact Sr. Jocelyn: Telephone: 250-920-7787 February 18, 2011; March 18, 2011; Fax: 250-920-7709 April 15, 2011; May 20, 2011; June 17, 2011 The Houses of the Sisterhood St. John’s Convent, St. John’s House, B.C., 233 Cummer Avenue, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8 3937 St. Peters Road, Victoria, BC V8P 2J9 416-226-2201; Fax: 416-226-2131 250-920-7787; Fax: 250-920-7709 email: email: 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 greatly appreciated. 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 RR0001.12