Foundation Day Evening Prayer Reflection
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Phil. 1: 3-6, 8-11 and Forward by Bishop Alexander Carter to Mother Electa’s History (Blue Book), 1961
Legacy. What does the word really mean at this point in our Congregation’s History? Webster’s dictionary definition is ” Something handed down from an ancestor or from the past. It refers to various items, stories or works passed onto and built on by those who come afterwards. As the years roll by they may take different shapes and forms and are entrusted to others with like values to continue growing and flourishing into the future.
This afternoon, we are invited to listen and briefly ponder the words of St. Paul, Then those of Bishop Alexander Carter as he witnessed to this nurturing. Listen deeply as Paul speaks with evident love expressing deep confidence in the people who have served with him in his Mission in Philippi. Hear the sentiments of Bishop Alexander Carter verifying the statements by describing what he had witnessed in the Sisters.
Listen to Paul’s greeting, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying for you because of your sharing in the Gospel from the first day until now”. These words give us a glimpse into how this Community formed and grew becoming one which was cohesive and mission focused in their Compassionate care of the poor, sick, homeless, orphans and prisoners in their midst. By their way of actively living and putting into practice the teachings that Paul imparted to them with an open, welcoming, embrace of care and compassion deeply rooted in love. As he writes, Paul looks back visualizing with a humble sense of pride, how the good works are being carried on, filled with awe in how God has worked through him as an instrument, to show and encourage their continuance into the future, recognizing the fruitfulness of their legacy. He has come to a sense of real Trust that through their reliance on God, and their mutual love, the Faith and good works that have been started will flourish. Paul’s prayers are that what they accomplish will be considered primarily through a pure discerning heart and spirit which will be the source of the knowledge wherein they will find new and the best directions as the years unfold. They then will be able to look on the harvest of their efforts with a Peace knowing God, living and active in their midst will be their Legacy for ages to come.
Bishop Alexander Carter assists us to reflect on the intrepidness of the early Sisters who re-birthed in Mother Emilie Gamelin’s Canadian Foundation of Sisters of Providence of Montreal at the forethought of Bishop Ignace Bourget. Hardly ten years after her death with the collaboration and persistence of Bishop E. J. Horan, four Sisters arrived in Kingston on December 13, 1861, and the following year, Catherine Mc Kinley was received as the first member. Only five years after their arrival the Montreal Sisters were sent home and Catherine was elected first General Superior. These women expressed their love in the practical and effective work of the apostolate. In the words of Vincent, the work of God was carried on in the sufferings, hardships, teaching the poor, searching out the lost, of accepting privations, illness and other difficulties.
Bishop Carter goes on to say, “To all, you bring a human and deep understanding. You do not patronize the poor or the aged, you love them, because you love God, because your own spiritual life has taught you to see Christ in all his people. This is the only Foundation for true Charity which has borne and will continue to bear the test of time and effort. This dynamism does not peter out in discouragement, fatigue or frustration, but endures and draws strength through the Spirit of God which constantly animates and renews the Face of the Earth.
I have often, over my 47 years as a Sister of Providence shared meals and conversations with Sisters reminiscing about the lives of the early Sisters in the Congregation. Mine has been the privilege of praying, working with and enjoying the company of a number of Pioneer Sisters. I have been part of the closure especially of Providence Hospital and witnessed the new building of Providence Place in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I have been touched and awed at the way we were able to change and adapt to letting go of a very precious ministry after 85 Years to welcome the beginnings of a new and better way to serve the sick and elderly which has lasted for 23 years and moves into the future under the capable hands of lay people who have been schooled in our Mission and Charism.
I look out on each of you, Sisters and the stories you hold close to your hearts still being faithful and true to our Motto, “ Cor Caritati Sacrum”, a Heart Dedicated to Charity. I think of the special Men and Women, Companions on our Journey, our Providence Associates and Partners in Mission who have grown and flourished and who now can look back to Founding members whose efforts and courage have brought them to this day and those who now work to plan for a future of continuing to walk with us in the Mission of St. Vincent.
How often do we individually take time to look back at the Legacy that we have left as we have moved from place to place in our respective Calls. How many peoples’ lives have been touched as well as our own by the Gentle Guiding Hand of Providence making a difference. Today take a special moment to experience knowing we had a part in the Legacy of making Providence so visible in our World.
As we approach our Chapter 2019 , I invite each of us to ponder the Legacy that we have entrusted to our present Leadership to carry the Congregation into the future, as we TRUST in Providence and Continue to walk Together in Hope, strengthened by the Bond rooted in the Love of Christ we have with each other. In the Museum we can read the lists of Schools, Hospitals, Homes For the Aged, Orphanages, Prison visits, Convents and the Ministry of Missionary established over these 157 years with a quiet satisfaction.
At this point in time, our Legacy is one to be proud of, knowing that the Mission will continue through others in our name. We may be diminishing in number, but we will see the fruition of Providence Village housing a new Providence Manor, a Hospice and other possibilities to reach out to the wider population and the work of education provided by the St. Paul’s University Providence School of Transformative Leadership and Spirituality. We have the Legacy also of the Healing Violence Bursary, the Seed Sanctuary, the work of our JPIC office and PeaceQuest which will serve in many capacities for a long time.
One very special Legacy has been the past 6 years we have shared with the CND and RHSJ communities which have blossomed into a very close relationship of oneness as we each live out our individual Mission and Charism together. Catherine calls us even today to have one aim in life, the good pleasure of God and the maintenance of the Spirit of the Institute in the name of the needy.
I think the words of St. Paul speaking of having produced a harvest of Righteousness are like a Light Shining in the Darkness to those who come to us. No matter what their walk in life may be, the best we can give is a Love-filled Presence having been true to the Spirit of St. Vincent and the Legacy we have received and passed on to future generations. Bishop Alexander Carter echoes them by reminding us when we respond we can see Christ in all His people as we continue to steer the Barque of Providence in the unchartered waters trusting that our God will Provide.