CRC Regional Gathering Held in Mississaugua, Ontario

Members of leadership teams and their JPIC representatives gathered at Queen of Apostles Retreat Centre in Mississauga on October 3, 2013 for the second of four regional meetings sponsored by the CRC across the country. They were joined by the CRC Administrative Council and Bishop Ronald Fabro, CSB, who represented the executive of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. 

Challenging panel presentations set the context for the day’s discussion of the theme “Who are we post-Vatican II religious now and where are we headed?” Jean Goulet, CSC, offered a leader’s point of view, Sue Wilson, CSJ, represented JPIC members, and Timothy Scott, CSB, spoke as a member of the CRC’s Theological Commission. In response, Veronica O’Reilly, CSJ, honed in on the key insights she had heard in the panel presentations and follow-up discussion and she offered her perception of emerging directions. The day concluded with a sharing on the group’s expectations and hopes regarding religious life in the future. 

Where we’re headed …
Insights regarding the future included: a greater pull to oneness in living and working together and energizing each other in one mission; inter-cultural congregations; becoming more contemplative; fear does not determine what/who we are and believe in; recognition of the need for dialogue partners; awareness that charism does not belong to us but to the Church as a gift of the Spirit for the people of God; recognition of the importance of being in conversation about the different ways that we are being called to live out our call; joy and fulfilment in living religious life; energy found in new ventures; the CRC can help us network to tap into energy, think outside the box and broaden our horizons.

Sue Wilson, CSJ, speaks during the panel presentation
A Group of Ontario leaders and JPIC representatives share insights

The Sisters of Saint Anne in Victoria, BC Share Their Transition Experience

At their Provincial Chapter in 2008, the Sisters of Saint Anne in British Columbia recognised the need to continue to downsize and to free themselves from the administrative tasks involved in property ownership. They focused on the necessary steps to dispose of their remaining properties in keeping with the principles they had determined. Sheila Moss, SSA, shares some reflections on the transition process the sisters experienced, mainly that of the closing and letting go of Queenswood Spirituality Centre and of the St. Ann's residence.

In conclusion, Sister Sheila writes, "we recognize that other congregations are, or soon will be, experiencing the same necessity of transferring sisters from congregational institutions to public facilities and we hope that these comments may be a help and a source of encouragement. In this Year of Faith let us celebrate our loving God’s continuing presence with us as we journey together into the future.

Open and download this PDF Document:
Reflections from the Sisters of St. Anne in Victoria, BC

Towards a Theology of Reconciliation
by Marie Zarowny, SSA

The historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (2007) mandated the Government of Canada to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. With this Commission, we are living a time of truth-telling about the history of Residential Schools and a time of reconciliation. It is an invitation to enter into a new relationship built on recognition, mutual respect, sharing and responsibilité. A time of grace! Based on a talk by Marie Zarowny, SSA, given at St. Joseph’s Parish, Ottawa, March 19, 2009. A shorter version of this talk was published in the CRC Bulletin, Volume 8, no.3 - Fall 2011, under the tile of: Towards a Theology of Reconciliation Between the Roman Catholic Community in Canada and First Nations.

Open this PDF Document.

Living the Vows in the Context of Universal Solidarity and of the New Cosmology

Universal solidarity and new cosmology are two dimensions of the same reality, because nothing exists in isolation. In that context, how can the vows of consecrated life brings us together in such a way as to participate in the growth of all life? This text written, by Jean Bellefeuille, is the complete version of the article published in the CRC Bulletin, Volume 8, no. 3 - Fall 2011 issue. Open this PDF Document.

Learning the Art of Sacred Dialogue:

Thomas Merton's Conversation with Buddhism
A shorter version of this text was published in the CRC Bulletin, Issue 5, number 1.

Thomas Merton's Conversation with Buddhism

Fewer Christian spiritual masters have explored the religious terrain of this planet so comprehensively and intimately as Thomas Merton. Though his religious appetite was broad and varied, Eastern spiritualities – and Buddhism in particular – were his great fascination. Merton's conversation with buddhism led him to investigation, experimentation, visitation, integration, and finally transformation toward more expansive horizons of experiential life in the Spirit. A text by Kathleen Deignan, CND. Open this PDF document.

Authority and Obedience in Religious Life

Father J. Rovira's article published in the UISG Bulletin, reflects on the 2008 Instruction The Service of Authority and Obedience (Faciem Tuam). It is being reproduced with the permission of the UISG.

'Father Rovira highlights three main points: the reminder that obedience is due to God alone and Christ is the model of obedience to the father; the emphasis on fraternity and community and on human maturity as the context in which this service is exercised; awareness of one's own limits, whether one is obeying or ordering.'

Open the PDF document.

Dialogue and Reconciliation

As dialogue is a learning experience that implies growth and change, it is always risky. It is important to enter dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.  Dialogue can only take place between equals and it is on the level of persons.  Dialogue is essential to reconciliation. A text written by Lise Barbeau, SCSL, CRC Mission/Formation Portfolio Director.

An “Interfaith Dialogue” Story
In The Life of Pi, Yann Martel brings three wise men, a priest, a pandit and an imam in the presence of Piscine’s parents in an attempt to clarify the boy’s religious allegiance. Frustrated, they blurt out insult upon insult on their companions in order to prove that they were right. Realizing that in their heated discussion they might come to blows, Mr. Patel, Pi’s father said, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, please! I would like to remind you that there is freedom of practice in this country.”  At this, the three wise men screamed in unison and also pointed their fingers in unison.

At last they had found some commonalities: Pi’s piety was admirable: a boy so keen on God!  They murmured in agreement as did Mr. Patel. It was Mrs. Patel who, nudging at Pi, broke the heavy silence that ensued: How do you feel about the question? - “I just want to love God,” was the boy’s reply.  Martel concludes chapter 23 of his book with Pi’s comment: This was my introduction to interfaith dialogue.

Win-Lose Situations

The above story puts us before a win-lose situation which contains some poignant lessons on what dialogue is not. This story is connected with conversation involving several persons; however, their intention was not to learn anything from one another. It was a heated discussion or you may call it an argument bringing together antagonists engaged in a verbal fight who wanted to “smash apart” the other persons’ views.

Arguments or discussions are closer to advocacy battles than to processes of consciously sifting through and examining different perspectives and they tend to promote fragmentation.[1]  This is not what dialogue is about. Neither is dialogue a debate. Its Latin roots dis=apart and “fight” imply the presence of adversaries and a desire to win.  Dialogue is not a win-lose situation.

A Win-Win situation

Dialogue comes from two Greek roots, dia (meaning “through” or “with each other”) and logos (meaning “the word”). It has been suggested that this word carries a sense of “meaning flowing through.” [2]  Dialogue is a learning discipline. The goal of dialogue is to open new ground by establishing a “container” or field for inquiry: a setting where people can become more aware of the context around their experience, and of the processes of thought and feeling that created that experience.

In dialogue, everyone is a winner. We pay attention to the spaces between the words, not only the words; the timing of action, not only the result; the timbre and tone of a voice, not only what is said. True dialogue creates conditions in which all those involved experience the primacy of the whole.

In 1914, the philosopher, Martin Buber used the term dialogue to describe “a mode of exchange among human beings in which there is a true turning to one another, and a full appreciation of another not as an object in a social function, but as a genuine being.” [3]

A Lofty Model for Dialogue

Dialogue is relational.  Its purpose is to achieve communion. In an address delivered at Trinity College in Washington on October 25, 2003, Bishop Michael Fitzgerald said:
“it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is belief in the Trinity that urges Christians to engage in dialogue. Through revelation we have come to know God as a Trinity of Persons among whom there is constant interchange and perfect communion.  This provides a lofty model for our relations with our fellow human beings, relations whom are to be imbued with respect for the identity of each person and at the same time a strong desire to achieve communion.” [4]

A Simple but Useful Definition

Dialogue always consists in a conversation between two persons or groups holding different views so that each one may learn from the other and grow in understanding and in willingness to change. As dialogue is a learning experience that implies growth and change, it is always risky. It is important to enter dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.  Dialogue can only take place between equals and it is on the level of persons. 

Types of Dialogue

There are several types of dialogue: between two persons, between a person and the community, between two communities or groups, with our next door neighbour; between parishes or Churches of different denominations; between hierarchical Church officials; between two nations.

We therefore speak about interpersonal, interreligious, interracial, intercultural, inter-national dialogues. For a long time, I thought that the great “dialogues” concerned only those who are in leadership positions. I was wrong. 

In 1965, Paul VI urged religious to recognize their role in these great dialogues in those terms: “Consecrated Life is called to make its specific contribution in all of the great dialogues opened to the Church by the Second Vatican Council. […] No Institute of Consecrated Life should feel itself dispensed from working for this cause.” [5]

A Necessary Step in the Process of Reconciliation

Dialogue is essential to reconciliation. As Canadian women and men religious who chose to develop and promote a spirituality of reconciliation, should we not feel compelled to improve our dialogical skills.
In her address to the 62nd Conventus Semestralis of the Unione Superiori Generali, Donna Orsuto offered six simple and very practical ways of promoting dialogue between cultures, between men and women, between people of different faith allegiances, among ourselves as members of the same community and with the poor:

  • cultivate friendship;
  • listen attentively;
  • treat others with an extraordinary respect;
  • consider others on their best behaviours;
  • nurture a love that makes fear vanish;
  • see others with the eyes of God.[6]  
A Sense of Dialogue or a Mission

Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself [herself], if the spirit of dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which will emerge some new understanding.

It's something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It's something creative. And this shared meaning is the 'glue' or 'cement' that holds people and communities, churches and societies together.
It is alright to exclaim with Pi: I just want to love God but we cannot love God whom we have not seen if we are not open to dialogue with our brothers and sisters whom we see. (1Jn 4:20)

[1] William Isaacs : Dia * Logos Institute, PO Box 120, Cambridge, MA 02142. Quoted in Peter Senge, and Co. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Currency Doubleday, 1994. p.  353.

[2] Idem

[3] Idem, p. 359.

[5] Starting afresh from Christ, # 40–41.

[6] USG, Rome, May 28-31, 2003, p.36.

    Traditional Communities, New Communities: Strengths, Challenges and Areas of Convergence

    On May 9, 2009 Rick van Lier, OP, gave a presentation to representatives of traditional communities and of new communities. He organized his presentation around three essential areas of religious life: spiritual life, community life and commitment to the mission of the Church. For these three areas Rick van Lier, OP, sketches a comparative portrait of the strengths, challenges and areas of convergence of traditional and new communities. Open this PDF document.


    New Emerging Religious Communities in the Catholic Church of Quebec

    Conference given by Rick van Lier, OP, at the Colloquium on The Consecrated Life in Canada. The Colloquium took place on May 11, 2009 at Mc Gill University.

    In this conference, Rick van Lier, OP, presents the makeup of the new emerging religious communities, some of their main characteristics and salient questions university researchers need to address.

    The conference is imade available in PDF format.

    Declaration on Behalf of Congregations of Women Religious involved in the Indian Residential Schools of Canada

    Rome, April 30, 2009: The Leadership of Women Religious involved in the Residential Schools had never given a collective statement about their involvement.  As we prepared for the 1st Nations/Catholic Church delegation to meet His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, at the end of April, 2009, it seemed this would be the appropriate time to make a brief collective statement regarding our experience.

    We were also conscious that Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), had worked tirelessly to honour the role played by Religious Communities. It was through his efforts that the Residential Schools Agreement, with terms acceptable to Religious Communities, was finally accepted by the Federal Government. He consistently supported and articulated the desire of First Nations Communities to have a continuing presence of Religious in their midst. As he worked through his own healing, he also reached out to members of the Religious Communities who had been involved in the schools where he was a student. He continues to make himself available to speak with, affirm and encourage Religious Communities involved with the schools. This statement also provided the opportunity for us to express our appreciation to the National Chief.

    Marie Zarowny, SSA
    General House of Oblates of Mary Immaculate
    Rome, April 30, 2009

    Father Guillermo Steckling and Members of the Oblate General Council, thank you for welcoming us to your home and for providing me with this opportunity to say a few words.

    National Chief Phil Fontaine, Elders, Chiefs and Representatives of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis, especially those of you who are former residents of the schools; Archbishop Pettipas and other representatives of the Catholic Entities; Ambassador Anne Leahy; other distinguished guests.

    As I begin, I want to say, as I did earlier today, what an honour it has been for me to have shared the profound experiences of these last few days with you.  I will carry this experience with me for as long as I live and will speak of its various meanings, some already spoken today and others yet to be discovered as we continue to contemplate and ponder its significance.

    As we draw to a close the formal part of these days together, It is a privilege for me to speak on behalf of the Congregations of Women Religious that provided, over a long period of time, hundreds of their members to teach and care for children in the Residential Schools.

    Some of these institutions, especially in the far north were started to care for orphans when almost all the adults of entire villages died as a result of various flu epidemics. We were invited to help the children, at least, survive.  In these instances and in the schools themselves in other parts of the country, we were motivated by a sincere desire to further the education, health and Christian formation of the Aboriginal Peoples in such a way that they would be able to achieve their rightful place in an evolving Canadian Society. We wanted them to grow into personal fullness, to be proud of themselves and of their giftedness and to be able to live with a sense of innate dignity.  For many students, however, this was far from their experience. How could our good intentions have had such tragic consequences!

    We were products of the times in which we lived, with the teaching methods, cultural misunderstandings, social attitudes and theology of those times. As well, some of our members suffered from emotional problems that they took out on the children.

    We now know that the residential school system itself, initiated by the Federal Government and in which we participated, was racist and discriminatory, bringing about a form of cultural oppression and personal shame that has had a lasting effect not only on those who attended the schools but also on subsequent generations. We carry immense sorrow for having contributed to this tragedy, a sorrow that is not momentary but that stays within our hearts.

    We also now know that many children in our care suffered unspeakable abuse and mistreatment.  Some Sisters have been accused of actual abuse; many others have been accused of not protecting those in their care. We are deeply grieved by all these revelations. Good intentions and genuine love on the part of many of our Sisters for the children in our care were not enough and in fact were often not experienced as such.

    At the same time, many of our members formed lasting friendships with the children in their care; we have all have been enriched by these relationships and are grateful for them.

    Our priorities in working on the settlement agreement were that suffering be acknowledged, justice be done through adequate compensation and that there be a way for us as women religious to both contribute to and to enter into a process of healing and reconciliation with you.

    Throughout the last 150 years or so, our involvement in the Schools has not been our only ministry with 1st Nations. We have served as pastoral workers and counselors on reserves and other 1st Nations communities, teaching; providing health care; visiting families; helping with religious education; supporting those in leadership of various kinds; and participating in community events.  Although our numbers are small now and we have withdrawn from several communities, to the extent we are able and at your invitation, we commit ourselves to continue to live and serve in your midst.

    Institutionally we commit ourselves to use what influence we have to continue to support your efforts to achieve justice within Canada, including adequate housing, education, health care, healing programs and land rights. We also commit ourselves to enhance our efforts to foster awareness and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians and to diminish in some way persistent attitudes of racism and superiority.

    Personally, I commit myself, to the extent I am able, to assist the continuing process of creating a new future in Canada and the Church, one in which all peoples are appreciated and live with dignity and mutual respect.

    And now a more personal word to National Chief, Phil Fontaine: You have been a brother to us, Phil, working with us each step of the way to first help us understand the depths of hurt experienced by you and your people and then to walk with us to new understandings. This has not been an easy journey for you or for us but we have traveled it together. As a result our bonds with you and your people have deepened. You have also consistently expressed the desire of many of your people that we continue to be in relationship with you, and you have helped that to happen.  We thank you for all the ways you have assisted in this process and we pray our Creator’s abundant blessing upon you.

    In closing, I return to an earlier comment.  Each of our involvements, whether educational, political, spiritual or other …has resulted in deep and lasting friendships between our Sisters and many First Nations people. We treasure these friendships and look forward to them deepening in the years to come.

    Refoundation as an expression of creative fidelity

    Conference given by father Josè Maria Guerrero, SJ, in Cali, Columbia. The event was organized by the Columbian Religious Conference.

    Refounding is not a fashionable slogan without depth, nor is it a matter that is dependent on the suspect will of a few discontents within an Institute. What is at stake is an imperative of the historic times in which we are living. Click here to open the document.

    Formation in Time of Refoundation

    Father José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, was asked to give a conference on formation in times of refoundation in the light of the UISG Congress which was held in November 2004. In his conference, Caballo presents some challenges with which religious formation is faced today.

    The development of these challenges is preceded by the pointing out of some basic principles of Formation. Caballo ends his presentation by referring to some methodological notes which he believe are important when responding to the above mentioned challenges. PDF Document.

    The CRC will purchase greenhouse gas credits through Planetair

    The Administrative Council of the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) has committed itself to purchasing greenhouse gas credits at the end of each year to compendate for the travel of CRC Council members and staff.  The greenhouse gas credits will be purchased through Planetair.  Religious communities are invited to take part in this effort.

    Uniting to reduce the CRC environmental footprint
    Last December, the Administrative Council of the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) made the decision to purchase credits, at the end of each year, to offset the non-reducible carbon emissions released by CRC Council and staff members’ travel. This decision is in line with the CRC’s commitment to promote concern for the environment and exercise stewardship over the integrity of Creation, as set out in its Mission Statement *1  and priorities *2.

    We are not talking about an astronomical sum, but combined with the amounts the CRC member communities would choose to pay to neutralize their environmental footprint, it could become truly significant and most certainly be a prophetic gesture which may well have a snowball effect.

    Obviously, many people believe that industries are the largest polluters and that the responsibility to repair the damage should rest mainly with them. We, on the contrary, believe that we all share in this responsibility. The millions of citizens, including ourselves, who drive cars, heat their homes, buy goods shipped over long distances, etc., are in fact at the root of the very existence of industries and the pollution that they generate.

    What to do?
    After having prepared an estimate of travel by plane and by car (based on the average community vehicle) that the members of the provincial and/or corporate administration will make, we add plane and car travel as well as the impact of home-related emissions. We then go to the Planetair organization’s Web site, where a small calculation table is available. The table gives the Canadian dollar equivalent of our footprint.

    N.B.: Trains and buses are not listed, because public transportation minimizes our environmental footprint.

    One can then use the services of Planetair *3 - – or any other offsets provider – to purchase offsets that are used to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects elsewhere in the world, mostly in developing countries. Thus, the emissions we produce can be offset by the reductions achieved by the project, which yields a zero-emission net balance.

    Join the CRC in this initiative and be among those who care about passing on to future generations a planet that is healthy, where it is good to be alive. It is a question of justice for all, but also a question of survival!


    1. “For the love of Christ urges us” (2 Cor 5,14) to show our solidarity with the poor, to denounce injustice, to promote concern for the environment, to work towards peace and the advent of God’s Kingdom.
    2. 2006 Declaration: Expressing renewed relationship with the earth in significant and appropriate liturgies.
    3. To find out more about Planetair, see the PDF document posted on the CRC’s web site: “Offsetting our greenhouse gas emissions”.