Sister Cecelia: A True Neighbour
On January 13, 2015, the Annual General Meeting of Becoming Neighbours took place at Loretto College. Representatives of the 20 religious congregations who make up the organization’s members gathered with many of the newcomers and other guests to pray, tell their stories, and celebrate what has been achieved. One hundred and eighty-six companions and 291 prayer partners serve as the friends, guides and mentors of the immigrants and refugees with whom they are paired.
Two individuals received Margaret Myatt, CSJ Recognition Awards: Luis and Sister Cecelia Tallack, pictured at far right with someone she accompanied. To see the wording of Sr. Cecelia’s award, click here. Below, Sister Cecelia describes how she came to take on this special ministry…
In 2006, I came to Toronto from Vancouver to work with refugees in the newly formed Becoming Neighbours ministry co-ordinated by Father Peter McKenna, a Sacred Heart priest. He invited me to be a member of his committee of advisors along with Sr. Lucille Corrigan, CND, Father Patrick Fitzpatrick, Spiritan, Sr. Rosemary Albon, IBVM, Sr. Anne Schenck, CSJ and Sr. Annette Collado, Xaviere Sisters. Together, we prayed, planned for events and sought solutions to some of the problems of the refugees.
As a companion, one who walks with newcomers and offers assistance and companionship, I was matched with a Haitian gentleman, a lady from Uganda, a lady from Burundi and a family of six from Uganda. These, I visited on a weekly basis, especially for the first few years. I helped them the best I could and as their needs dictated e.g. learning English, finding suitable housing, obtaining health cards, medical care, food, clothing and eventually citizenship. They have become not only my neighbours but more importantly my friends. It was amazing when I was sick in hospital, they were all so concerned. All the children in the family from Uganda think of me as being their grandmother here in Canada. I feel so blessed!
There are three Becoming Neighbours special events for all the refugees each year: two clothing distribution events, one in the spring and one in the fall, and a picnic to celebrate Canada Day in July. We Companions do what we can to contribute to these events.
Each month, the companions meet to pray and share their experiences in small groups. This is extremely meaningful due to the rich background of the priests, Brothers and Sisters attending.
As my age advanced and my health and energy diminished, I resigned as a companion and am presently a prayer partner for a mother and her two children. As a prayer partner, I pray daily for this family.
I must say that I deem anything I am able to do as a privilege and a pleasure. The refugees are wonderful people and their courage, patience, endurance, faith and hope are inspirational. I thank Becoming Neighbours for the opportunities this ministry has offered me.
Sister Cecelia Tallack CSJ
Sister Margaret Myatt with Luis as he receives his Margaret Myatt, CSJ Recognition Award.
The January 13, 2015, Becoming Neighbours meeting begins.