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Visitation East Associates

35th Anniversary of Associate Relationship Update

Submitted by Marjorie Allison-Ross

The 35th Anniversary Committee invites groups to think of activities that they can do to commemorate this special milestone in the life of the Congregation de Notre Dame. One idea that has been encouraged is for groups to plant a tree, shrub, flowers or vegetable garden. This would be a symbol of solidarity with the tree planted at the mother house. A Facebook page called, “35th Anniversary Living Network” was launched on February 11. It is a place where we can inform others about our 35th Anniversary activities.

March 27 Letter from Central Office of Associate Relationship

Our invitation to you is an invitation to connect to one another by connecting with the earth. We invite you to grow where you are planted; to seed, to cultivate, to tend, to raise a crop, to conserve, to promote, to protect the environment, to live green. You might be able to plant a tree, if not in your own neighbourhood, then by donating to a charity that plants trees (through Plan Canada you can donate fruit trees to families). You may be able to help with spring planting at your Church; to start a vegetable garden and share the produce with your friends.

You could think about using your balcony or windowsill to grow herbs for cooking, or adding butterfly and bee friendly flowers to your street. You might prefer to sponsor those who work to protect endangered environments, wetlands or ecosystems. Some might even go so far as doing a bit of “guerrilla gardening” by sowing seeds in abandoned spaces. But where ever and whatever you do we ask that you do it with intention, that you do it with love and with compassion for the earth and each other… And then we want you to take pictures and write stories that we will post and share. Together we can will make this a special 35th year of celebration and commemoration.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day From the Linden Associates in Charlottetown

We take every opportunity to celebrate. During our February meeting, we celebrated Saint Valentine. Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.

Life is indeed a celebration worthy of gratitude and hope. Every gathering brings us support and love from one another.

How graced we are!

35th Anniversary Pilgrimage to Marguerite’s Montreal

41 people have registered for the Pilgrimage to Montreal to walk in Marguerite’s Footsteps. The dates for the Pilgrim-age are July 6-11. From Visitation Province, there are 8 Associates attending from the East, 14 from Central, 10 from West/North and 9 from Blessed Sacrament Province.

POLL: Which Canadian woman should grace the new bank note?

Nominate Marguerite Bourgeoys

On 8 March 2016, International Women's Day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced that a new bank note featuring an iconic Canadian woman will be issued in late 2018. The Bank is conducting public consultations as part of the selection process. To kick this off, an open call for nominations is underway from now until April 15, 2016. Canadians are invited to contribute names of women they feel are deserving of this recognition. In order to qualify for this stage of the process, nominated women must meet the following criteria:

  • The nominee can be any Canadian woman (by birth or naturalization) who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement, or distinction in any field, benefiting the people of Canada, or in the service of Canada.
  • The nominee must not be a fictional character.
  • The nominee must have been deceased for at least 25 years (before April 15, 1991).

Please note that the goal of the open call for nominations is to establish an initial list of qualifying candidates. Further steps will be taken to determine which of the nominees will be shortlisted for consideration.

If you have any questions regarding the selection process and nomination criteria and to vote, please visit the Bank of Canada's website at or contact

ARCAN Beginnings and Report of the October 2015 Meeting

This article is the second in a series of three articles written by a member of The ARCAN Communications Committee. The first article, written by Cora Shebib, sc Associate, was circulated to the Atlantic Religious Congregations and Associates Network (ARCAN) in the fall of 2015. This article repeats some of Cora’s reflection, takes a brief look at ARCAN’S beginnings and shares with you the fruits of the October 2015 meeting at The Barat Residence, Sacred Heart Convent, Halifax, N.S.

ARCAN first met in the Congregation of Notre-Dame’s Stella Maris Convent in Pictou, NS, in 2002.The following congregations and associates were represented at that first meeting: PEI Marthas, Antigonish Marthas, CND’S, SCIC Saint John, SC Halifax, Assumption Sisters, Yarmouth and Filles de Jesus, Moncton. Thirteen years later at our October 2015 meeting, five congregations of religious and associates were represented, CSM PEI, CSM Antigonish, SC Halifax, Mercy Newfoundland and RCSJ, Halifax and representing the CND’S are two Associate co-coordinators. Might this be the future of other associate groups?

Peg Madigan, Congregation of Notre-Dame Associate and co-founder of ARCAN, suggested that the goal at our first gathering was to share where we have been and where could we go. Could it be a worthwhile gathering? And so we continued to meet. Our focus has changed over the years to meet the changing needs of the religious communities and associates. We wanted to build a strong and self-reliant network that will help enrich and sustain the Associate experience in Atlantic Canada. To this end, The Steering Committee, usually comprised of a religious and associate, meet in Halifax twice yearly to facilitate sharing among sisters and associates. The Executive committee, comprised of Chair Margie Gillis sc, Secretary Peg Gorman, rcsj Associate, and treasurer Cora Shebib, sc Associate, coordinate work between meetings. By 2015 the Steering Committee had worked out a vision and mission statement. They bear repeating.


ARCAN’s vision is to be a mutually supportive network of associates and sisters in Atlantic Canada living a new and dynamic expression of religious life and spirituality for the 21st century, supporting and inviting each other to a wider embrace of Gospel values, and living a commitment of Love, in relationship with all creation.


Rooted in Gospel values and inspired by the charism of our religious congregations, the mission of ARCAN is to provide a supportive network for sisters and associates from Atlantic Canada that is devoted to learning, seeking, diversity, inclusive actions, and aware of the new truth that all life is sacred and connected.

And how we live our mission is shared at our twice yearly meetings in Halifax. This networking is a valuable aspect of our gatherings as we share the highlights from our individual monthly Associate gatherings. Some highlights expressed at our October 2015 meeting were: 1) Prayer: (a) Prayer flowing from Book Study of Merton’s Bridges of Contemplation; (b) Pope Francis Laudato Si; (c) Enzler’s, My Other Self Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith. 2) Dr Nuala Kenny’s DVD On Aging. 3) Reflection on Charism of a particular congregation and how it is lived. 4) Retreat and Re-flection days. 5) Outreach Projects. 6) Building associate leadership with book “Rookies Rock”. 7) Prayer partners for sick and elderly. 8) Attending congregation’s assembly. 9) Creation Spirituality. 10) Monthly newsletters.

At our October 2015 meeting we continued to focus on three areas of our Strategic Plan ie. Executive (Succession), Communications and Finance.

EXECUTIVE: Maureen O’Keefe, rsm, joined the group. Some topics discussed were: a) how do we replenish the executive, b) orientation for new members c) what role each member plays, d) how do we connect with members at large so that ARCAN is a visible, viable organization, e) how do we create an environment where the history and the strategic plan are widely known, and f) the need to create a membership list.

COMMUNICATIONS: Anna Rowley, Congregation of Notre-Dame Associate, joined the group. We are working to increase awareness of ARCAN with articles from each member of the Communication group, through a blog, through newsletters, and with large group conferences. We would like to attract younger members. Would youth respond if we had a justice issue?

FINANCE: The Steering Committee talked about the various ways costs are covered for associates to attend semi-annual meetings. Some congregations give Associates a budget. Others pay to send Associates to Assembly. Still others make a donation to Associates and some have access to a Legacy Fund. We do need a long-term sustainable policy. Our short-term goal is to send a letter to congregational leaders stating the need for financial support with a follow up letter requesting funds.

ARCAN faces some challenges. Geography can be a challenge. The CND Associates Co-Coordinators travel to 3 provinces to visit the Associate groups. Newfoundland and Cape Breton groups have geographical

challenges as well. The turnover of The Steering Committee needs to be addressed. Another challenge is financial. The aging of Associates is also a concern. We will be looking at these challenges at our June 2016 meeting.

CONFERENCE PLANNING The CP Committee comprised of Cora Shebib, sc, Associate, Peg Gorman, rscj Associate, Margie Gillis, sc, and Claudette Gallant, csm, Antigonish, were successful in booking Delores Hall, a Spiritual Director and an Associate with the Iona Community in Scotland for June 2/3, 2017 at Mount St. Vincent, Halifax. Delores shares the Iona’s Community’s passion for peace, justice and oneness of creation.

And so I ask blessings on each of us as we gather to address the challenges, to reap the fruits of each gathering and to thank you for your support as we live a commitment of Love in relationship with all creation.

Submitted by:

Aline Reid, csm PEI Associate

For the Communications Strategy Group: Cora Shebib, sc Associate; Norma Heffernan, rscj; Anna Rowley, cnd Associate

CND Calendar quote for April 2016

Reflection: “We are playing Russian roulette with features of the planet’s atmosphere.” – David Suzuki

Question: How long are we willing to gamble?

Book Review

By Marjorie Allison-Ross

Recently I was given this book, “The Seed That Became a Garden, The Story of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys”. The author is Louise Finn, CND, with illustrations by Francis Back, an historical artist. On the back cover, it states, “Sr. Louise Finn, CND, a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame, has been a lifelong teacher and administrator. More than half of her sixty-plus years of ministry have been on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, at a seminary in Cameroon, and in an inner-city Nativity school in New Haven, Connecticut, where she served as librarian. Presently she works with staff and students at Villa Maria Academy , an elementary school in the Bronx, New York City.”

This 84-page book is another great read about the life of Marguerite Bourgeoys and the many life events that helped her to found the Congregation de Notre Dame. Chapter titles used words associated with gardening and seeds which piqued my interest. Chapter titles include: The Soil; The Seed; The Seedling; Time to Transplant? The New Soil; Growth Spurts; Standing “on its Own”; Darkness and Light; Slugs and Snails; Soft Rain and Sunshine; “Unless the Seed”; The Garden. The book is well written and easy to understand and I would encourage it for anyone wanting to learn more about the life of St Marguerite. It was published in 2015 by the Society of St Paul. Cost is $9.95 US.

Fran of Mexico

Frances Connell from the Miramichi Group has been keeping us updated about her travels in Mexico. She sends the most beautiful pictures and I’m going to share a few with you in this Newsletter. We can all visualize ourselves visiting with her there and feeling the warmth of the sun and experiencing her visitations with the Mexican people. During the month of March, she sent many pictures and descriptions of what was happening so we’re including her notes and some of the photos as we thought you might enjoy learning about how people there celebrate various events. Thanks Fran for sharing your trip with us! Marjorie

In Fran’s Own Words…

Every year, 2 weeks before Good Friday, hundreds of native people from all over Mexico dance and drum in the streets in San Miguel making music and celebrating the triumph of the lord of the conquest. This goes on for hours in the hot sun and is very colourful and impressive. The story goes that in 1560, King Phillip of Spain for whom the Philippines are named, gave the native peoples of Mexico a gift, a large crucifix, called nuestra señor de la conquista – translates, our lord of the conquest. The crucifix has been preserved in the parish church in San Miguel for hundreds of years. You have only seen a tiny fraction in these pictures. Wish you could have heard the sound of clicking nut shells on their feet, the drums, musical instruments made from armadillos, the smell of incense and sight of feathers everywhere. You are learning about a very rich and ancient culture and it's all good.

This is the centre of San Miguel. There is a picture of Starbucks, where I send messages to you. Notice there are no stop signs, traffic lights or any garish or neon lights. These are not allowed since this is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was all planned and built by competent Spanish urban planners a long time ago. It has not changed since then and provides a very pleasant environment for people today as it did a long time ago.

A sarape is a kind of woven blanket in Mexico traditionally used by men. Rebozos were women's garb. This exhibit was here at bellas Artes, a centre for the arts. Sarapes. are woven in bands of different colours. These have a design in the centre representing the Eye of God which is found in other art forms in Mexico. Most of these are over a hundred years old. Today's serapes are mostly factory made and do not have centre design.

My friends Angelo and Tom and I went on the bus to the old historical holy place of Atotonilco. Because it has hot springs all around it, it was always considered a healing, purifying place long before the Spanish arrived. The church was built in 1710. Since 1810, the statue of our Lord of the Column (pictured) has been carried to San Miguel once a year, 7 miles, with hundreds of people walking in procession, singing, dancing and stopping to eat. After a week it will be carried back to Atotonilco with 100’s walking.

Early morning sunrise at San Juan de Dios church and people were waiting. Women were cooking for the hordes soon to arrive. The procession arrives after an all-night walk. There are 3 large statues - Jesus, Mary and John on heavy wooden platforms laden with flowers. They are each carried by 8 men who worked in relays all night to carry the heavy loads. Roman soldiers keep back the crowds. It was very solemn and most impressive. I was out of bed before 6 am to see the arrival. If I were really ambitious I would have walked all night or at least part of the way as many of my friends did. It is one of San Miguel's many camino walks.

Buenas Dias from beautiful San Miguel de Allende where all is good and the living is easy. This place is a popular wedding

destination. They come from all over Mexico and southern USA. We who live here like to go to the jardin on Saturday and watch the brides. This one was especially beautiful and extravagant. They were certainly affluent with money flowing all over. The bride arrived with her father in a carriage drawn by 4 black horses. She entered the church, filled with flowers and candles to the sound of a full piece orchestra. Trumpet and orchestra played, choir sang as bride walked down aisle. A large silver rosary was draped around the couple and remained until communion. Lots of style and fashionable wedding apparel. I was just a poor little church mouse taking

pictures. At communion the oboe player played the sound track of the movie “The Mission.” The choir sang Ave Maria. One of the clerics read a message from the Vatican with blessings from Papa Francisco. The bride had 2 bouquets - one of tulips which she placed before Lady of Guadalupe and the other one was of expensive orchids which she carried down the aisle. The orchestra played a triumphant recessional and ended with a lively rendition of "Can't you feel the love tonight." Outside the church a calypso band played. The guests were given paper

parasols and fans for the hot sun and also Popsicles made with tequila. The bride and groom left in their carriage with 4 black horses. The rest went to the world class Rosewood Hotel for a reception for 950 guests. A lovely time was had by all. I hope you had a lovely time read-ing this. Hopefully the happy couple will long be happy.

St Patrick’s Day at the parish church of San Miguel. St Patrick and the Irish are loved in Mexico. Google Saint Patrick's battalion in Mexico for an interesting story. May the bright sun shine warm upon you, The wind always at your back and God hold you always in the palm of his hand.

A happy Palm Sunday to all of you. There were hundreds in the streets early today behind a man on a donkey at noon. Hundreds more marching into the parroquia/parish church, carrying intricate palm branches, bands playing, people singing. Now we are in Holy Week. People come here from all over Mexico because San Miguel is known to follow customs, traditions and rituals that are no longer found anywhere. Religion is more important to Mexicans than anything. God is everything, everywhere and totally in charge. Their deep and strong belief gets them through the worst, terrible, awful things. Next in importance is Family, Food and eating together. Fun and fiestas - music, song and dance are also very, very important. Also courtesy, respect for one another and good manners are important. They are always cheerful and friendly. Most homes and businesses, bus stations, dentists, doctor’s offices and all places where people gather have little household shrines of favourite saints or spiritual helpers. We are surrounded by reminders.

Picture of shrine to San Jose (Joseph) which they carried to church on his feast day (March 19) for a blessing. They will take them back home to their sacred corner. It's a different culture than we are used to. They have much to teach us. Lots of church bells ringing and praying and observing customs going on all week.

Mexicans believe the life journey of mothers is a sad one with lots of struggles and tears as well as joy and happiness. The sorrowful aspect of motherhood is represented in shrines to the Mother of Sorrows in homes and businesses and streets for one night. This happens every year on the Friday night before Holy Week. Everyone travels through the streets singing mournful dirges and having food and drinks at each stop. They decorate with oranges and coloured sawdust. At midnight all the shrines are dismantled.

The streets of San Miguel are settings for all kinds of theatrical drama. Life on the crowded sidewalks is played out daily in with all kinds of characters, situations and plots. This Holy Week is the great magnificent portrayal of the highest theatre. Today hundreds will solemnly march in their finest attire, black suits and ties and high heels in the annual Good Friday procession carrying dozens of heavy statues, banners, musical instruments, flaming torches, Roman armour. The pics I am sending are of lesser events on Wednesday and Holy Thursday.

Enjoy your small corner of the planet and celebrate in whatever way you see fitting. Oja de Dios— Means God is always present, ever caring, ever loving. Love and sunshine to all, Fran of San Miguel

The author herself, Fran



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