Published on February 20, 2014
The Eagle Epiphanytide 2014 Winter Wonderland at St. John's Convent 1
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. 2 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 Sisterhood where she could speak to a Canadian beekeeper. 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 the Convent. 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 Spencer-Nimmons. Our Oblate, Sandy Austin, who stayed at the Convent for an extended Oblate Residential time 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, 3
in Victoria, is the Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of British Columbia. 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 British Columbia. 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 4 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 community. Sonya 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 Reverend Mother
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. Robert Frost 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 real stretch. 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 agreed to: • 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 Mother; • to be sensitive to the customs of the Sisterhood, especially with regard to chapel, the enclosure of the Sisters, and personal relationships. 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. 5
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 family. 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. Joyce Lambert 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 tomorrow. 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. 6 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 the effort. 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 7
Alongsiders 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 God. Any woman who is interested in this program should call 416-226-2201 ext. 301 or email email@example.com 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 convent. The Houses of the Sisterhood 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. Please contact: 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ssjd.ca Applications for Women at a Crossroads, 2014, must be in by April 4, 2014. 8 www.ssjd.ca St. John’s Convent 233 Cummer Avenue, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8 416-226-2201; Fax: 416-226-2131 email: email@example.com St. John’s House, B.C. 3937 St. Peter’s Road, Victoria, B.C. V8P 2J9 250-920-7787; Fax: 250-920-7709 email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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