Canada, Montréal : The opening and closure of LSA communities
a vitality of presence within the world...
What is taking place in the territory of Canada is not in any way alarming but it is nevertheless a little surprising! When the first community arrived in Montreal in 1933, we were part of the Province of North America.
I, who entered the Province of Canada in 1958 that had just come into existence, discovered sisters and communities who were animated by a particular Charism and who carried out an active mission in several places in Quebec.
It was enough for us to recall the name of the communities of the Province, and of the whole Congregation every evening and we could feel a vitality of presence within the world.
Calling on my memory, I used to hear: Montreal-St-Hubert, Montreal-Lafontaine, Montreal-St-Henri, Valleyfield, Sherbrooke, Montreal-Ahuntsic… and Sudbury that became a future mission to a mining town…
Time passes quickly, too quickly – the form of the Mission was going to experience changes with regard to the presence with families. A little like nature moving from one state to another. When we observe a little: the tree has its roots in the ground, it gives some fruits; these fall and return to the earth so as later to recreate anew.
The missionary calls were inviting us to let ourselves be transformed, not only with regard to way we worked and the places where we would be, but above all in the way of working in the field. The State was becoming organized to respond to basic needs. We were consulted and we participated in the setting up of the CLSC –Local Centre of Community Services. And, in the light of the discernment, we saw that it was for us to commit ourselves in these new structures of services that were reaching out to the people with whom we were already working.
Much as was the case all over the world, the years of the l960s, 70s and 80s were like a historical passage filled with new questions that went very deep and led to other shores. … Today, we are fewer in number, rich with human and spiritual experience, most of us living in large Residences for the elderly where fifteen Congregations share the premises with two Congregations that own the properties – the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
The adjustment requires detachments but also offers oppor-tunities for openness and sharing that contribute to living our response to God and to others in a different way.
It is a different way of being a missionary, both within the house and outside, according to circumstances. The spirit of solidarity and of participation takes a different form.
We have it at heart to maintain a form of continuity with regard to the projects that were initiated with laypeople when we were living in certain places with them.
Among other projects:
- The opening in 1940 at Montreal-St-Hubert of the Habitations Jeanne-Mance Project
- The opening in 1942 at Montreal-Hochelaga of the Projects: Carrefour Familial + Chic Resto Pop + Maison Orleans
- The opening in 1944 at Sherbrooke of the Project Famille Espoir
- The opening in 1962 at Valleyfield of the Project Maison des 2 Pains + Mains de Femme + Économie familiale
- The opening in 1963 at Hull-Gatineau of the Family Centre Project
- The opening 1971 of the Indian Missions / Family Help Project for helping old people to remain in their own home
- The opening in 1985 at Verdun of the Station Famille Project
- The opening in 1987 at Montreal-Côtes des Neiges of the Boabab Family Project
Encounter Café for mothers
The family activities centre at Gatineau
This gives rise to joy as we think of those who are continuing the journey … Occasions for prayers and thanksgiving to the One who does not forget His people.
Sister Berthe Marcotte, who has been in the Habitations Jeanne-Mance since 1967, will soon be with the community 4D of Carrefour Providence. In leaving the place where various commu-nities succeeded one another and where she herself contributed to many initiatives and events in the life of this neighbourhood, we can say that it is the final closure of the places where we ministered.
“We do not doubt that we are involved in an immense adventure, that of Life” as is emphasized by François Cheng in his book: “Meditation on death, in other words, on life”. On the contrary, the solidarity with the Mission confided to the Congregation in the world and in the Church is very much alive.
Our outlook is still “attached”, open on the world that is in a continuous movement of change.
The preparation for the 2017 General Chapter promoted a specific review of what has motivated and inspired us while at the same time situating the present in a way that makes us see God at work in the updating of the Charism, in the past, the present and the future. Great is our hope …
Montreal, Carrefour Providence.
Madame Lucie Côté, from the Habitations Jeanne-Mance Corporation, wrote this article that describes very well our presence in the first HJM complex to be built in Montreal. These buildings replaced part of the housing in our mission area when we had a community in the Rue St. Hubert.
57 YEARS OF COMMITMENT IN THE HJM
The Jeanne-Mance Housing units came into being in 1959. The Little Sisters of the Assumption, for their part, living in the Rue St-Hubert, began their involvement with the inhabitants of the Jeanne Mance buildings. Their presence consists principally in helping the families in their own home. The sisters help out not only in times of illness but they also offer support to mothers who have just had a child by looking after the other children and the new baby.
The sisters were first of all in the residence of the White Fathers of Africa and helped the people of the area before it was demolished. When the house in the Rue St. Hubert closed, the community decided to return to Hochelaga. Berthe Marcotte then proposed living close to the families that the sisters were already helping. So it was that in 1967 four religious became tenants at Jeanne-Mance, continuing their work with the residents in this way. The first companions Berthe had were Colette Normandeau and Mireille Fortin, who also were home helps, and Francine Drouin, a nurse. Later there was the arrival of Hélène Bournival, a nurse, with whom Berthe was to live for 20 years.
During the nineteen sixties, before the existence of health insurance, Hélène drew up the medical files of the persons there and an agreement with a doctor enabled the residents of HJM to have access to free health care.
The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption was founded in France in 1865 by Father Pernet and Antoinette Fage.
From the beginning, their mission was directed towards the family. The domiciliary nursing care for patients who did not have the means to pay helped them to know the families of the workers. They advocate solidarity with those who are the most deprived and contribute to bringing about a world that is just and peaceable.
They arrived in Canada in 1933 and settled at Hochelaga, in Rue Ontario. Then they moved as the Congregation was increasing in numbers. The sisters went to other areas (St.Henri, Ahuntsic), and even to other towns (Sudbury, Sherbrooke, Hull). The mission offers nursing services, and social work with the families. It is now an international congregation.
Berthe has been living alone since 1988. On the eve of her 90th birthday she is leaving us to return to her community in Salaberry.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the benefits the the Little Sisters of the Assumption brought to the residents of the HJM and to the district. As regards Berthe Marcotte, to mention only the main points, with her sisters in religion she contributed to setting up the CLSC of the suburbs in the 1960s. Unremittingly, she encouraged and trained the tenants so that they would be able to defend their rights, with dignity. With the residents she set up the Association of the HJM tenants and was present with it during almost all the years of its existence. She set up the employment committee in 1995 with Gerard Talbot; it was the year during which she also undertook the 200 km. ‘bread and roses’ walk from Montreal to Quebec to pressure the government to adopt a law on just wages, to increase the minimum wage and to vote measures to diminish poverty. She participated in the Friendship Group in 2000 and later. In 2005, she trained Martine Chagnon, the first contributor to Action Centre-Ville.
On the 16th of June 2016, the Board of Directors acknowledged her commitment by making her a presentation as a sign of gratitude. A life of self-giving to the residents of the Jeanne Mance buildings!
Here are a few phrases that were an inspiration to Berthe during recent years:
When love makes a sign to you, follow it
When it talks to you, believe in it.
And when you are sad, go and look into your heart
And you will see that in truth you are weeping over what were your delights.
An immense ‘Thank You’
to the Little Sisters of the Assumption.
Au revoir, Berthe!