A dinner sponsored by the Province Canadienne on Friday, July 7, brought a festive, fraternal ending to The Strength of Our Vocation Renewal Program that had begun in Montreal, Canada, back on Sunday, June 25.
The Strength of Our Vocation was designed and organized by the Congregation’s Consecrated Life and Heritage Commission to provide a renewal experience for the Congregation’s middle-aged brothers and priests that was specifically rooted in Holy Cross’s history, charism, and spirituality and held at one of the Congregation's two patrimonial sites. It was made possible by the generous collaboration of the Province Canadienne, Saint Joseph’s Oratory, and Centre Le Pèlerin.
Fourteen religious—seven brothers and seven priests—from eight different jurisdictions participated in the program. They represented the internationality of the Congregation with two from Bangladesh, seven from India, three from the United States, and one each from Brazil and Peru.
The program began with four sessions prepared especially for the religious at this juncture in their vocational journeys by Le Pèlerin, which is a ministry founded by the Province Canadienne specializing in spiritual accompaniment. Led by Mr. Stéfan Thériault, Director, and Mrs. Barbara Martel, Assistant Director, the sessions explored our filial identity in God and how the religious vows are pathways to renewing and deepening this identity.
These initial days were also dedicated to getting to know St. Joseph’s Oratory, as for many in the group it was their first visit. Fr. Claude Grou, C.S.C., former Superior General and Rector of Saint Joseph’s Oratory, gave an informative tour. The group also prayed together at various sites in the Oratory, including the tomb of St. André Bessette, the outdoor Stations of the Cross, and the statue of Angels Unawares.
Thursday afternoon the program shifted to explore the historical, cultural, and religious context of Quebec, beginning with a tour of Old Montreal, which included visits to Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours (where the group celebrated Mass), Notre-Dame Basilica, and St. Patrick’s Basilica.
The following day the religious toured Old Quebec City, including a visit to the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral.
Saturday the group made the first of two trips to Saint Laurent, where Holy Cross first arrived in Canada in 1847. The program included a visit and prayer at the community cemetery, a tour of Saint Laurent Church with Fr. Pierre Labine, C.S.C., Associate Pastor, and talks on the early foundations of Holy Cross in Canada by Fr. Frank Wagner, C.S.C., Director of Formation for the Province Canadienne, and the history of the Sisters of Holy Cross by Sr. Chantel Desjardins, C.S.C., Regional Animator of North America.
Sr. Raymonde Maisonneuve, C.S.C., Animator General of the Sisters of Holy Cross, also graciously hosted a dinner for the group along with sisters from her congregation who had already arrived for their General Chapter, which was starting July 10.
On Monday, July 3, the program began to enter into the life, mission, and legacy of St. André Bessette as the source of renewal. They visit Mont-Saint-Grégoire, the birthplace of Alfred Bessette, with Fr. Laurent Landriault, C.S.C., former pastor of the parish where Alfred was baptized. They also were given a tour of Collége Notre Dame, where St. André served as doorkeeper, by Mr. Jean-Philippe Perron, Principal, and Mr. John Carey, Spiritual Life and Community Engagement Animator.
The group heard powerful talks on the early life of Alfred Bessette by Fr. Jomon Kalladanthiyil, C.S.C., Vicar of the Canadian Province; St. André’s sense of mission by Fr. Mario Lachapelle, C.S.C., Superior of the Canadian Province; and the legacy of St. André at the Oratory and around the world by Fr. Michael DeLaney, C.S.C., Rector of Saint Joseph’s Oratory.
The group also meet and talked with the Oratory’s core leadership team to learn more about the multidimensional mission of St. Joseph’s Oratory today in furthering the legacy of St. André and the mission of Holy Cross. They also heard two moving testimonies from Ms. Katia Jean-Pierre, Receptionist, and Ms. Nadgine Laurenceau, Youth Volunteer, about their moments of hope and conversion at the Oratory.
Stirred by those testimonies, the 14 program participants shared with each other the hope they had experienced during the two weeks and now carried home with them. To conclude the program, there was a moving prayer with the Major Reliquary of St. André led by Fr. Jomon and then a pilgrimage around the Oratory property, praying of the Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph and ending with Mass with Fr. Mario in the Community Chapel.
At the final meal, three religious gave testimonies of their experiences. They also presented shawls and thanked all of those who had made the program possible.