Presence, Prayer and Solidarity with Newcomers
... Help us, most gracious God, to recognize one another as neighbour. — From the Becoming Neighbours' prayer
At the fifth Annual General Meeting of Becoming Neighbours on Sept. 8, the 19 religious congregations of women and men who established, collaborated on and supported this ministry had much to celebrate. Becoming Neighbours has become a permanent ministry, offering presence, prayer and solidarity to many newcomers as they settle in Toronto.
Eighty-three Companions, 193 Prayer Partners and five Theological Reflection Circles were among the many gifts Toronto's congregations have offered. Peter McKenna SCJ, Director of Becoming Neighbours, invited participants to reflect on the blessings and challenges of this ministry.
Becoming Neighbours matches a congregation member with a newcomer referred by a settlement agency. Newcomers arrive with a wide variety of needs; companions can assist with friendly visiting during which some of these needs can be attended to.
Speaker Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, commended those present, saying that he wanted to 'hold this up' in Ottawa as an example of collaboration. He then encouraged those present to acknowledge the systemic problems that cause poverty and support his organization's "dignity for all: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada."
Father Peter then acknowledged that some people are "spirit-linking, full of spunk and adept at managing chaos." Ken Decker CSB and Evanne Hunter IBVM joined him in celebrating Margaret Myatt CSJ, Becoming Neighbours Board Chair, who was stepping down after five years in this role. In 2003, Sister Margaret invited the congregations to come together to address needs too great for one congregation alone to address. Becoming Neighbours, the first joint apostolic ministry in Toronto, started in this way.
Sister Margaret shared the following, "It has been a great privilege for me to be in ministry with all who are associated with Becoming Neighbours, especially:
- "The members of the Board: extraordinary women and men who have Becoming Neighbours as a high priority in their lives of ministry and prayer — great people — good friends!
- "The Companions who minister tirelessly, often at a great cost to their personal energies and life plans;
- "The Prayer Partners who each pray daily for a particular newcomer and their family.
- "In particular I am indebted to my good friend and colleague, Peter McKenna. Peter brings heart and soul and extraordinary energy to this ministry. His respect for each individual coupled with his determination and very creative leadership have enabled this ministry to endure. Thank you Peter."
Sister Evanne presented Sister Margaret with the promise of a tree for the new location, a Becoming Neighbours candle and a bouquet of 19 flowers, one for each of the 19 participating congregations.
For more on the history and beginnings of Becoming Neighbours, see here.