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News from Troyes…

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From July 28 to August 6, 2015, the new members of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame met in Troyes to deepen their understanding of the Congregation’s history by walking in the footsteps of its foundress, Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, a native of this city. They took this opportunity to get to know one another and to work together. Gathered from the eight countries where the Congrégation de Notre-Dame is present, these young, dynamic and committed women are the Congregation’s future.

News from Troyes…


Day’s Report for July 28

How do we begin to describe this unforgettable day that we all have been so looking forward to? We can begin by saying that not all of us arrived at the same time. Some of us arrived on July 27, while others, on July 28; some of us had a time difference of only a few hours, while others had travelled for 14 hours!!!

Those already there gave us the warmest of welcomes! Cries of joy and thanksgiving continued to echo in the halls of Maison Notre-Dame en l’Isle where we are all staying. It was indeed a series of wonderful visitations, each of us in the arms of another.

When all the luggage was brought up to the rooms, we began to explore our surroundings. Some, anxious to immerse themselves in the city where Marguerite was born, left the house right away to discover the cathedral and the streets of Troyes. A word on Maison Notre-Dame en l’Isle, the house where we were lodged: Formerly a small seminary, it is today a diocesan centre comprised of spaces to rent, a library etc.

At 7:30, after the evening meal, we gathered in the conference room which was furnished with all the equipment required for simultaneous interpretation in four languages. What a privilege this was for us. Certainly, this must have required considerable organization!

Sister Agnes and Sister Danielle each began by welcoming us and described how the meeting would unfold. With true emotion we listened to a letter which our leader, Sister Josephine, had addressed to us. In it she reminded us that: "Your time together is not long, so we encourage you to use it wisely, to take every opportunity to bridge the gap of language and culture, to form deep and lasting relationships and to live the joy of the Gospel." It was truly a blessing to be gathered here in this Year of Consecrated Life!

Lucie and Violaine then led a time of sharing during which all those who wished expressed what they admire most about Mother Bourgeoys and how this inspires them in their current lives. Among the replies were: a sense of compassion, seeking God’s will, simplicity and courage. After this time of sharing, during which our attention remained sharp despite our fatigue, we moved on in order to experience together the evening prayer which Marie and Angèle had prepared.

They invited us to listen to the Word of God that narrates when Abraham was asked to leave his country. This resonated in each of us as we were all experiencing a journey necessary for us to advance, to go further to better listen to the unique and special message which God, Mary and Marguerite have whispered in our hearts.

Needless to say, it was with smiles on our faces that we all retired for the night...

Sister Marthe Falie and Sister Violaine


Day’s Report for July 29

Sharing and Visitation

The day began with a lovely and colourful celebration of the Eucharist prepared by Marguerite Bourgeoys Province. In both the readings and the hymns, we were aware of the different languages of the Congregation.

The meeting in the conference room began at 9:00 a.m., after a word of welcome by Sister Danielle Dubois. Sister Dominique Sabas presented the afternoon program which was a visit to the Oblate Sisters of Saint-François-de-Sales and their mother house. Sisters Annie Mballa (Notre Dame des Apôtres Region) and Barbara La Paz (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Region) led a time of sharing. In keeping with the previous evening’s exchange, they invited us to continue to express our thoughts about what we admired most about Marguerite Bourgeoys. How does my past connect with what I am living now? How does this sustain my daily life?

Added to this was a questionnaire which focused on Mary of the Visitation and her cousin, Elizabeth: The hopes we would want to entrust to them, what we would wish to share with them and our personal visitations related to that of Mary to Elizabeth.

This time of sharing was very fruitful. What follows are some thoughts which are, for each of us, life-giving in our daily life: Marguerite Bourgeoys’s daring, her simplicity, her ability to go toward, her being with, her profound faith, her great love of God and of her neighbour, her perseverance, her hope, her constant seeking of God’s will for herself and for others, her reverence for the mystery of people in listening and in love, her transforming presence in her milieu.

The afternoon was a time of visitation: We called on the Oblate Sisters of Saint-François-de-Sales. At the convent’s entrance, Sister Hélène Bernard received us with a warm welcome. Their openness in sharing the lives of their co-founders (Saint Léonie Aviat and the Blessed P. Louis Brisson), their charism and spirituality, made this visitation experience unforgettable. We each experienced this time of union as though we were Mary meeting Elizabeth. Christ’s presence among us filled us with joy; we expressed this shared happiness by singing and dancing the Magnificat. We were vibrant with joy!

When we returned to Notre-Dame en l’Isle Residence, Sister Akiko Usui (Maria Province) guided us in a lovely and simple prayer of thanksgiving for our wonderful day.

MAGNIFICAT!!!


Day’s Report for July 30

What joy it is to run with Marguerite in the streets of Troyes…!

Today we had the joy of letting Marguerite tell us about her origins, step by step and from one place to another: Saint-Rémy Church, where her parents were married, the family home, Saint-Jean-au-Marché Church with the inspiring statue of the Visitation, the many shops and networks that sustain them, the site of the famous "touch" of God experienced in front of an image of Mary, beautiful and radiant, the cathedral with the stained glass window of Jesus and the wine press giving his life for us, the streets in which Marguerite committed herself in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, Hôtel du Chaudron where, for nine years, Marguerite lived her first paschal community experience and Espace Marguerite Bourgeoys which is notable for the active participation of sisters and associates. We imagined Marguerite among us. This became a reality when the door of Hôtel du Chaudron was unprecedentedly opened for us. Even some of sisters who have been living in Troyes for many years discovered this site with us!

This pilgrimage in the footsteps of Marguerite is even more significant for us because we see ourselves as coming from the same family. It was wonderful to hear our echoing voices sing in Espace Marguerite Bourgeoys, to laugh out loud in the places where we gathered in Troyes, to be thrilled by what each one openly shared and to journey together… simply!

From a single burning heart,

Sister MENGUE Évangéline and Sister Marie de Lovinfosse


Day’s Report for July 31

We started our day with a celebration of the Eucharist beautifully prepared by Maria Province. Sisters Akiko and Cecilia led us in a multicultural liturgy. At 9:30 a.m., we began a day of formation on the theme of shared leadership, facilitated by Sister Anne Chapell of the Sisters of the Holy Heart of Jesus.

We were impressed by the participatory pedagogy of the session. The facilitator had an excellent grasp of the topic; her practical and relaxed approach reached us and triggered reactions. From our sharing on the subject of leadership we retained: the importance of listening, discernment, good relationships, service and cooperation. Questions were asked, such as: "How does one live leadership in an intercultural community?" "Who can be leader?" Leadership is a service, a service we shoulder together. To quote Sister Chapell: "A leader says to herself: 'For you, I am a leader and with you I am a sister.'" In exercising her functions, a leader must hold both pyramidal and circular types of leadership. In other words, she needs to foster within herself a combination of "become authority, have authority, create authority". To this end, we were invited to work in groups in order to identify the advantages, the disadvantages and the qualities of each of the two types of leadership (pyramidal and circular). The afternoon was dedicated to finding our own personal style of leadership, in line with our dominant type of intelligence among the multiple types of intelligence explored by Howard Gardner (intrapersonal, interpersonal, logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, bodily kinesthetic, musical rhythmic, spatial, naturalist conservationist). After personal reflection, a time of sharing in the form of a game took place outside. All in all, it was a very good day, a day rich in questions. We sensed that there was an issue in our community life that needed to be addressed: Rather than as "little sisters," the newer members need to be considered as equal in relation to the other members, with all that this entails in the sharing of responsibilities, including that of leadership. 

Sister Brigitte Minkada closed the session with a word of thanks on behalf of the group. The day ended with a rich experience of integration and a lovely prayer led by Sister Janet Lawrence. 

Sister NGO NKEN Agnès and Sister SIMO FOTSO Estelle


Day’s Report for August 1

A Visitation Tour

1) 9:00 a.m.: The group departed for the vineyards outside Troyes in a very comfortable bus. Laughter, songs and playful banter were all part of the experience.

2) 1st Stop: Mr. and Mrs. Pelut’s vineyard.

After receiving a warm welcome, we divided into two groups and were guided through their vineyard. Some of the most important steps in the production of wine and champagne are: harvesting, bottling, disgorging, turning, tasting. Producing good wine and champagne is a long-term process. It takes time – even years – and great patience.

3) 2nd Stop: At noon, we made a third stopover at our CND community in Estissac.

Awaiting us were: A friendly welcome from Sisters Dominique, Monique, Lorraine and the associates, a glass of champagne, a variety of appetizers and a tasty, hearty meal. The decor reflected the thousands of colours from the four corners of the globe. The host community spoke to us about their ministries in the area. We ended by expressing our heartfelt thanks and reciting the Ave Maria in the sisters’ chapel.

4) 3rd Stop: Sainte Madeleine Church in Troyes. A time of tranquility and contemplation.

5) 4th Stop: At the CND Sisters’ Residence in Troyes, sisters, associates and members of the Marguerite Bourgeoys Committee warmly greeted us with words and actions of welcome. We gathered for a casual and friendly chat after which we were invited to partake of a bountiful supper prepared by the sisters and the associates. Everyone spoke to and thanked one another. Afterwards, each member of the group received a small souvenir from the sisters in Troyes. To conclude, we gathered in the oratory for the evening prayer led by Sister Dominique Sabas which began with a moment of silence and thanksgiving in harmony with Taizé. It was then time to leave and we bid one another joyful and heartfelt farewells.

With joy and gratefulness, Sister Brigitte, CND and Sister Mariana, CND


Day’s Report for August 2

Akiko and I would be remiss if we did not thank Sr. Dominique Sabas for organizing the lovely Mass that was held at St.-Jean-au-Marche Church for the sisters, associates and the general public. We only found out afterwards that there is usually no mass held at this time, but because of Sr. Dominique, we were blessed to celebrate in the church where Marguerite was baptized.

As this day was a free day Sr. Cecelia and I went to the museum of St. Loup and the museum of St. Clairveux. We also visited the Cathedral and prayed for the mission of the new members, including those that could not attend this meeting.

Sister Akiko Usui

In the evening, the provinces and regions celebrated internationality in whatever way they felt their culture would be best expressed. For the Cameroonians and the Central Americans, it was through dance and song. Each also spoke of issues they face in their daily lives as women and as religious. Sisters Akiko and Cecelia gave a very touching review of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the bombings over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They asked us to pray as their President is considering changing their constitution to allow Japan to engage in war. The sisters of Marguerite Bourgeoys invited us to participate in a common artistic activity. I gave an oral presentation on the United States. It focused on religious freedom and the dichotomy of power that my country demonstrates around the world and within our own boarders. While we have the potential for goodness, we are also capable of aggression and oppression. I stressed our issues regarding immigration across our borders and how the church is fighting against those who ignore their plight. In the evening, it was wonderful to share our cultural differences and our spiritual similarities. We laughed and we danced. Yes, even I danced… after much encouragement.

Sister Janet Lawrence


Day’s Report for August 3

Today, August 3, we visited Paris. Having prepared our lunches the evening before, we left at 7:00 a.m. after our breakfast. Some of us stayed in Troyes to rest. Our first stop was the Pantheon, where distinguished French citizens, such as Napoleon, Émile Zola, Madame de Gaule and many others are buried. We then walked down a few streets to the site where Marguerite Bourgeoys met Paul de Chomedey sieur de Maisonneuve while she was visiting Paris, and where he lived his last days. We know that they were good friends and that Monsieur de Maisonneuve had helped Marguerite through the process relative to obtaining the Letters Patent. He died in 1676 and his funeral was held in St-Etienne-du-Mont Church, a church we had the opportunity to see from the outside.

Afterwards, we went to St-Germain-des-Prés Church, where, in order to thwart his rival, Most Reverend Laval was consecrated bishop during the night of December 8, 1658. We then walked to the market of St-Sulpice Church, where we attended Mass. We had our lunch in front of the church, near the large fountain. Next, we took the bus to Notre-Dame-de-Paris Cathedral. We waited in line, in 40o C. weather, for fifteen minutes before entering this site which was guarded by armed police officers, gendarmes.

Finally, we took a riverboat, or bateau-mouche tour, on the Seine River. It was wonderful! Joyful but tired, we returned to Troyes.

After a quick recap of the day followed by a prayer together, we each dove into our beds until morning.

Sister Andrée Maheu, CND and Sister Louise Breton, CND


Day’s Report for August 4

Tuesday, August 4, 2015, is the Feast of Saint John Vianney, Curé of Ars, a simple and very pious man. He was very close to God and knew how to devote all his time to his Lord. It was from this perspective that we entered into reflection that day.

It all began with Mass at 9 a.m. at Église Saint Rémy. At 10 a.m. we were gathered in room 4 of Notre Dame en l’Isle where Sister Agnes Campbell initiated the time of reflection. She asked us to live this morning in silence and to meditate on the following three questions:

  • In what ways are you changed because of your experience together these days?
  • What are your greatest insights and learnings?
  • What image holds your experience of this time together?

Each sister then set out on her journey. There was silence all morning. You could see that each sister was “connected” to the Lord, to the Virgin Mary (our first superior), and to Marguerite Bourgeoys herself. We all shared the desire to remain in prayer and meditation. At noon, we came together at table to nourish our body after having nourished our soul.

That afternoon, we all went to Église Saint-Jean-au-Marché to do some volunteer work – we were to clean the church. It was with great joy that we began our tasks: sweeping, dusting, tidying, cleaning the walls, the furniture, the liturgical ornaments, in short, everything in the church. Each one of us had something to do under the benevolent and encouraging supervision of the older sisters. We were all very happy to take part in beautifying the church where Mother Bourgeoys was baptized on April 17, 1620. It was such a nice experience! What a joy it was to touch the baptistery in which she was baptized and to touch the bells that announced her birth! Believe it or not, we were so proud of our cleanup that we didn’t feel tired. When we were done, the church looked as good as new and smelled heavenly. Sister Agnes Campbell congratulated us with these words: “From the time of Marguerite Bourgeoys to today, never has the church been so clean!”

At 6:30 p.m. we returned to room 4 of Notre Dame en l’Isle and had evening prayer which was led by Sisters Annie Mballa and Evangéline Mengue. After eating a good meal, each sister retreated to her room for a well-deserved rest.

The sisters busy cleaning and beautifying Saint-Jean-au-Marché Church!


Day’s Report for August 5

Today was a day of harvest, a day to collect everything we experienced during our gathering in Troyes. The day started with some questions for our personal reflection given by Sister Agnes:

  • When I go home, what am I going to tell about our encounter?
  • What ups and downs or difficulties have I experienced? Where do I feel that I grew?
  • What wisdom did I gain from this experience?
  • How do I see myself exercising leadership in my apostolate or in my community?
  • What leadership quality do I recognize in myself?

After a time of personal reflection, we shared in small groups and gathered all the wisdom to be presented to the larger group. At the same time we had to describe a symbol representative of our gathering.

For some, the experience was one of unity in diversity, Visitation, sense of identity and belonging to the CND after getting to know and walking in the footsteps of Marguerite Bourgeoys, simplicity, hospitality and welcoming, joy of being together. Others shared that love makes us communicate with gestures, smiles and glances. We were able to overcome the language challenges, obstacles and cross borders to get close to one another.

On the topic of leadership, we reflected on seeing Marguerite Bourgeoys exercising leadership and we were asking her: What would you do in my place? How would you exercise leadership today?

We must not be afraid of exercising leadership, there must be a balance between pyramidal and circular leadership.

The sharing was pleasant, dynamic and enthusiastic. Everyone made their voice heard in the different working groups, we listened to each other closely, we responded to each other’s concerns. The dialogues from the heart are strengthening.

After the sharing in groups, we evaluated our gathering, then we had the farewell prayer. Here, Sisters Claudia and Idalia read a Psalm that took us back to the reality of our lives and missions. Later we had some spontaneous prayers and a special blessing. Each of us blessed the sister beside us and we ended by singing “Mary of the Way.”

Next, Sister Andrée proposed drawing and painting some pictures. She had brought everything we needed to create great pieces of art. And so everyone, using their own creativity, expressed what they had in their mind and heart.

We made a toast with champagne, as a farewell and in appreciation for participating in the gathering. Then we enjoyed a good meal. At the end, some sisters handed out souvenirs and we exchanged our goodbyes with joy and happiness.

Our hearts were full of gratitude and joy for having seen, known and met each other in the steps of Marguerite in Troyes.

Idalia Nieto, CND, in collaboration with Claudia M Juárez, CND

 

 

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