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18 January 2017

Marie Rivier House of Prayer: a collaboration between associates and religious unique to Canada

On December 18, a small, but important, event occurred in the history of the Marie Rivier House of Prayer in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, the passing of the torch between two religious communities. Created in 1973 by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, the House of prayer is now under the responsibility of the Monastic Community of Jerusalem (Fraternités monastiques de Jérusalem – FMJ). This transferal is the result of almost two years of evaluation of the two communities, in collaboration with the dioceses of Saint-Hyacinthe and Montreal.

However, this project belies a feature unique to Canada, that of having lay officials in charge of a house where monks, nuns and lay people all live under the same roof each with their own rhythm and rules of life. Respecting the monastic community structure in a project managed by lay people is very challenging. The coordination of the house mission is carried out by two laypersons, Colette Bouchard and Dominique Garrel. This is a new kind of relationship between lay and consecrated people, which springs from the great trust, mutual wonderment, and recognition of the different charisms.

“Christ leads to new paths!”, said Ms. Colette Bouchard, the house of prayer coordinator. “This sharing of life between lay people, monks and nuns must be adjusted while respecting their respective identities and rhythm. Therein lies the novelty. Moreover, it can still be a house of prayer with only lay people and a priest who visits occasionally, or a house of prayer with religious where lay people provide support.” This house of prayer is like an extension of the FMJ mission to Montreal. Colette coordinates the life of the house with another layperson, Dominique Garrel. Four religious (two monks and two nuns) and one other lay person complement the permanent staff of the house. “As coordinator, I love working in a convivial atmosphere together with the whole team in dialogue.”

Brother Antoine-Emmanuel, FMJ, is part of the religious present in the house. He was delighted to take charge of pursuing the mission of welcome, prayer learning and spiritual renewal of the place. “The founder of Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (Marie Rivier) dreamt in the time of the French Revolution of having a house of prayer and spiritual renewal for the teaching sisters of the community. Nearly two centuries later, in the 70s, the community was able to achieve this dream. They managed the house for 40 years with a strong sense of prayer and hospitality.” The heart of the mission of the Quebec community members and lay fraternities remains the shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Montreal like a burning bush in the city, a sign in the middle of the urban world. The Spiritual Healing house complements this so that all those who wish it may come renew their spiritual forces in silence, beauty and prayer with the testimony of a small staff. The monastic spirituality of the house is centered on worship, prayer and liturgy, in service to the dioceses of Quebec.

“We have a difficult church situation in Quebec, there are few Christians who are in high demand, sometimes attacked, but deeply blessed. To live this church mission whether one is lay or religious, we need prayer, to rejuvenate in the heart of Mary, to whom this house is dedicated”, testifies brother Antoine-Emmanuel. “One reason that led us to accept is that today many homes of religious communities have closed in Quebec. It is a necessity for the Church of tomorrow that lay and religious can renew somewhere. We remain vigilant so that the lay associates do not a substitute themselves for consecrated life given to the Lord which is a necessary and different sign.”

The bishops of Saint-Hyacinthe and Montreal, Bishops François Lapierre and Christian Lépine, were very open to this project just like the two priors general of the community in France which is carefully observing how it all unfolds.

This past Sunday, January 8th, Bishop Lapierre had the opportunity to celebrate a mass to underline the continued role of the House of Prayer. “I want to thank the Sisters of Presentation of Mary that have been here for over 40 years, and have admirably upheld this place”, shared Msgr Lapierre. “They had the courage to not hang on, but to pass the torch. They were able to find continuity, which is not always easy today. The FMJ came in a spirit of service with a desire to take over and continue the work of this place of healing. I am very pleased, because this place fills a need and this will give new energy to this experience that has lasted for more than 40 years.”

The Marie Rivier House of prayer has twenty beds to accommodate retreatants, religious and/or lay people. To view the schedule of retreats scheduled for in 2017, click here or on the picture opposite (in French only).

For more information, visit the House of Prayer’s website: www.maisondepriere-jerusalem.ca

Few photos of the place

For more photos, click here.