Like their very quiet mission, held here and there, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd celebrated recently their 175th anniversary in Canada. Here is a portrait of women working behind the scenes with other women.
On June 7, 1844, four nuns of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd landed in Montreal, following the urgent request of the Most Rev. Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal. They had been called to help vulnerable women and children. As time and calls went by, other monasteries of the Good shepherd were set up in Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Merciful Love and Reconciliation
The congregation’s starting point lies in Saint John Eudes and Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, the founders, in their desire to reveal to the whole world God’s great love for us, through words and deeds. One of the characteristics of the congregation is to offer to its members the possibility to live an apostolic life or a contemplative one.
The Sisters of the Good Shepard are driven by a charism of merciful love and are called to a mission of reconciliation.
In Montreal, this merciful love reveals itself on a daily basis in support services to new immigrants, “in the way we approach people, help them get back on their feet and find joy again, and support them as the Good Shepard in the Gospel”, Sister Rita Bou Abboud explains.
As for Sister Noha Mykadi, the mission of reconciliation is lived in “the help we bring to everyone in order for them to find peace within themselves and with their family: nothing is possible otherwise”.
A charism helping women being integrated
In a small but cozy, clean and quiet house in Ahuntsic, Sisters Rita and Noha have welcomed more than 15 women refugees since the beginning of the year. With their mission partners, they support them with their living arrangements and integration in their new environment. “We are their compass, their voice,” says Sister Rita about these women who do not know how to fill out their papers, who often speak only Arabic and who own nothing.
Three bedrooms are made available to women waiting to find an apartment. They receive meals and can attend social evenings, coffee hours, afternoon cooking and francization courses. The sisters are constantly listening to them to set up relevant projects. Repeating Saint Mary Euphrasia’s words, “one person is worth more than a world”, Sister Aline, provincial superior, explains: “We are here with them, for them, and not only because they are refugees. Here, people find a welcoming home and a new family.”
There are 49 other sisters in Quebec. Many of them, due to their age, are now active only through prayers. Others are, however, on a mission : here to welcome those seeking silence and interiority, there with the Atikamekw first nations, in prisons or parishes, or to collect funds. “We are becoming increasingly young at heart and our serenity is steadily expanding, as well as our creativity to stay in mission,” Sister Aline specifies, smiling.
They are quiet in their mission which is reflected in the way they celebrated their 175th anniversary. They have all been called to a great “inner” celebration, smoothly and interiorly, during which they could pray and meditate on various themes. A wonderful combination of circumstances lead them to receive, however, an “event gift”. Horta Van Hoye, artist-in-residence for three months at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur (on Sherbrooke Street), has graciously given them three characters among her sculptures. “All that you went through, and was offered and given here can be found within these walls: it led me to meditate on my own journey,” she said to Sister Aline when she visited their house in Pierrefonds. Something to remember!