One hundred and sixty year ago, October 7, 1851, the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Toronto. And this October, fittingly on Thanksgiving weekend, many Sisters and CSJ Associates gathered in the Morrow Park chapel to give thanks, to remember and to celebrate.
Gordon Rixton SJ celebrated Mass. Perhaps its most memorable moments occurred during the prayers of the faithful: each petition was accompanied by a presentation at the altar and an appropriate reading. First came the altar cloth and other necessities for Mass; then a picture of Mother Delphine, the leader of the first group of Sisters to arrive; a basket containing the Constitutions of the congregation as well as the Associates' handbook; a book listing all the deceased members of the congregation and finally, the bread and wine of sacrifice and the flowers of celebration.
After communion each Sister and Associate was "missioned," sent officially to spread Christ in the world.
But what does it mean to be missioned? Here are a few responses:
Debbie, Associate: "To be part of something bigger and community love."
Sister Leona: "To be sent in God's name to serve his people in the world."
Shelly, Associate: "To be missioned is to know my purpose and to go out and do it."
Sister Nida Fe: "To be missioned means I have been entrusted by our congregation to be Christ's hands, face, voice and heart."
Ursula, Associate: "A call to serve the Lord through the ministry of looking after those in need."
And so, each of us was sent in the name of the Lord and the congregation.
A large and chatty group moved on to a great pre-Thanksgiving dinner during which the names of all the deceased Sisters flowed across the screen at the end of the room. The sight of these names brought to mind many stories from the past and there were many echoes of "Remember when..." History even featured in the placemats which pictured Sisters in many ministries, both past and present.
The Associates moved on to meet in Mary Lounge for a rare opportunity to enjoy each other's company at a purely social occasion.
All in all it was a wonderful day, a day to enjoy in the here and now while looking back in wonder and gratitude at the past and at the same time preparing to move into the future.
By Mary Buckley CSJ