Restoration

Restoration

Posted March 17, 2011 in MH Rimouski QC:
Our First Month in Quebec

by Jeanne Guillemette.

Madonna House opened a house in the province of Quebec this past November. Our foundress, Catherine Doherty, dreamt of doing this for many years, and now 25 years after her death, it has happened.

Catherine would have wanted our beginnings there to be humble, simple, poor, and so it is. We are starting with two staff in a small house someone lent us until the end of May. We are trusting God to find us a permanent house after that.

Jocko d’Ursel and I are two pilgrims listening to God. It’s up to him to let us know what he wants of us and where specifically he wants us to show his face.

So we are trying to open our eyes, ears, and hearts wide to discern his plan for us. At the present time, the mandate for our foundation can be summed up in two words: presence and prayer.

Jocko and I have been continually amazed and encouraged by the warm welcome we have received from so many people here.

I would say that Advent was the perfect liturgical season to start a house. In a Madonna House book of directives for our various customs and traditions, a new foundation is referred to as a "child." This seems fitting in so many ways, and this "birth" has brought us closer to the awesome mystery of the birth of Christ.

Advent also offered some great opportunities for making contacts. Soon after our arrival we were invited to Christmas parties with groups such as Cursillo, the Knights of Columbus, and Arbre de Vie (an organization which serves the poor in this city). We also attended a Christmas concert and were invited by new friends to festive meals at their homes.

Then for our part, we had the opportunity to participate in offering food and hospitality to others. This year, one of the priests had the idea of offering to those who would otherwise be alone for Christmas a chance to celebrate the feast with others in a Christian atmosphere.

We were asked to help organize this festive meal, Réveillon, at the cathedral of St. Germain. Réveillon is the traditional French Canadian family gathering, usually at home, after Midnight Mass.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience for us organizers (we had lots of help) and for the hundred or so people who dropped in between the three evening Masses.

People brought an abundance of food, including local festive dishes such as cipaille, tourtière, sucre à la crème, and creton. It was a great opportunity for us to meet some of our neighbours and fellow parishioners.

Jocko is Belgian, and I am an American of French-Canadian descent who served for 13½ years in our houses in Paris and Belgium. We are learning to live in this new culture—learning different vocabulary, another accent, another way of being. Sometimes it comes almost naturally; sometimes it takes a fair bit of effort, and once in a while …

Well, to give just one example: we were invited to Mass at the local prison one Sunday night. During the homily, the priest invited the seven inmates who attended to share some of their reflections on the gospel reading.

One man had so strong an accent that, try as I might, I could not understand a word he said.

At the end of Mass, we chatted with the men over a cup of coffee. Suddenly I found myself face to face with this very man, who began talking earnestly to me.

"Please, Lord", I begged, "Help me understand something, anything, so I can respond to him." Just then I managed to catch a few words: "Christmas… my son phoned… I wept." I got it!

At another prison Mass, one of the prisoners shared with us a word which he said gave him the courage and strength to keep on hoping. Courage! I am with you. One day he wrote it all over his cell. It was beautiful to see the light of hope that this man sheds in that jail.

As seems to be true everywhere, it is the new generation here that is the most difficult to reach. The young people are so drawn by the thousand and one attractions of modern life. We are already experiencing in ourselves the love and concern of the Québécois, especially for their young people.

We are praying and trying to be present to what is going on around us. Sometimes that leads us to surprising places. A few days ago we were invited (as a cultural experience) to a hockey game. It was fun, even though the Rimouski Océanics lost to the Québec Remparts!

In conclusion, I’d like to say that we are discovering that the light of the Gospel is very much alive here in Rimouski, and the thirst for God, too.

 

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