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Posted April 18, 2016 in MH Rimouski QC:
Notes From Near and Far: Rimouski, Quebec

by Irene Sullivan.

Last August, I was transferred to MH Rimouksi, which brought me into the heart of Quebec culture.

I soon discovered that almost all the folks in this area are 100% French Canadian and that, except for the occasional technological or music-related word which has crept in over the years, English is rarely spoken.

As a Montrealer, I have been reminded once again of the richness and vitality of the Quebec people, who have so much to be proud of. "Je Me Souviens" (I remember), the motto of the Province of Quebec, is quite apropos.

From the start, I was struck by the beauty of the land in and around this city on the St. Lawrence River, a city with a rugged coastline and magnificent sunsets.

Historically Rimouski was the home of farmers, loggers, and fishermen. Now however, though some small farms flourish, only a small number of people are able to continue these traditional occupations.

For the most part, technology has transformed this area, and there are many social and governmental services available in the city. Tourism has also become a flourishing industry.

Many young people come to Rimouski to attend the university, the Maritime Institute, the Music Conservatory and the CEGEP, a general and vocational college.

Interestingly, the CEGEP is housed in a former minor seminary, and the university in a former Ursuline convent. Considering the many changes that have occurred in Québec since the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, it is striking to see the traces left by the original founders who were steeped in the faith.

These changes—from a Catholic to a secular culture—have made it very important for us to use ingenuity and creativity to help people rediscover the treasures of the faith wherever and whenever we can.

As for our life and presence here, Jeanne and Jocko have continued their catechetical work, which include parental participation—a most beneficial approach—and their work with other groups as well. Jocko now also works with a formation program for the diaconate.

When I arrived, it was still summer, so it took time to discover where I could help. Rimouski has several nursing homes and the regional hospital, which serves a huge area, and it was soon discerned that there was a need to visit the sick and elderly.

Fortunately Gemma Voyer, a lay Oblate, a friend of our house, and a former working guest of Madonna House, was available to help me get started.

She has been involved in this work for many years, and just accompanying her on her visits was an education.

Now, I am visiting the hospital regularly and also Sacré Coeur Residence, a nursing home where we provide a variety of activities: arts and crafts, cooking and singing. Music seems to be the most popular one, especially when the songs are accompanied by an accordion.

I have also been reviewing my French with the help of Sister Madeleine Boulanger, an Ursuline sister who has taught school for over forty years.

Another big change in the recent months has been the legalization of euthanasia in Quebec, a change which came as a big blow to many here, so there is all the more need to continue to reach out. Hopefully, the more we do, the less people will even think of this as a "solution".

On the positive side, the local hospice for the dying is a wonderful testament to the belief that providing palliative care is the best way to respond to the needs of the dying.

Archbishop Denis Grondin, a great blessing for this diocese, is courageously facing many diverse challenges, such as the re-structuring of this diocese. There is much discussion and many decisions to be made in the coming year.

As a relatively new bishop, he is also making the rounds of all the parishes in this diocese, and it is wonderful to hear how he spends a few days in each area, getting to know the people and their concerns, and how he loves to be invited to their homes.

In summary, let me say that it is a privilege to be back in this province where I grew up and to share in some of its challenges and joys.

 

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