July 2020

From 2020-07-13 to 2020-08-13

Freedom of Heart


It was in 1840, Rosalie Cadron-Jetté, a widow since 1832 decided to conse­crate her life for the welfare of young single mothers, who at that time were judged unfavorably and rejected by the society. Her mother, Rosalie Roy, was a midwife; therefore, the daughter had long been prepared for such an adven­ture. Taking upon herself a leading role, Rosalie Cadron-Jetté operated out of the attic of a house; an outdoor ladder had to be climbed to reach the dwelling. It is there that unwed mothers, in need of crisis accommodation and medical care, would come to receive protection and affection. Can we imagine the many diffi­culties Rosalie encountered? To cope with the unfriendly, adverse media coverage of those days, audacity was very much needed. Fortunately, there were some sympathizers. Funds began to trickle in and with this help life began to be somewhat smoother. Other women who felt called to this kind of work joined Rosalie and in 1848 she founded a religious community known as the Institute of Misercordia Sisters; this was the first Institution of a kind in Canada. Upon pronouncing her religious vows, Rosalie took on the name of Mother of the Nativity. Having such a maternal heart, could it have been otherwise? These are the fruits of the freedom to dare.


The well-known André Bessette, our holy Brother André, who as a doorman at Notre Dame College would contemplate the wooded area of Mount Royal, made an unimaginable dream come true. He could see a small chapel for his great friend Saint Joseph: a place where he could bring the poor and sick people to pray Saint Joseph; a shrine where people could come together to reflect, pray, or intercede for those in need. But that piece of land had to be bought; however, it was not for sale. In no way could it be purchased. Humble Brother André, the doorman, kept praying and hoping. His Community, the Brothers of the Holy Cross wished to acquire the land. In 1904 the sale came through. Immediately, Bother André’s request was put forward: Can I have a small piece of the land? The purpose is to build a small chapel for Saint Joseph. As usual, the “yes” had a price. No problem, Saint Joseph will take care of it. The work began, the small chapel was erected. From year to year, the multitude of people kept increasing; the little chapel had to be extended. The popularity of the site and the countless pilgrims that came once again outgrew the small chapel. In 1917 a larger church was built, called the crypt. Soon, it also became too small; in 1924 the construction of the great basilica began and was finished in 1967. Montreal now has the world’s larg­est shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph. Over the years, this shrine has become a mirror of the cultural diversity which makes up the Quebec society. Indeed, it is most fascinating to see people from all faith backgrounds, from diverse cultures, come together to pray in a peaceful atmosphere. From this unimaginable success has come forth an unexpected Spirit-filled togeth­erness. How true to this story is Carey Landry’s song: Surprise, surprise, God is a surprise!


Observing the various occurring disruptions which are rocking the Quebec society already aloof from its Christian roots for the past decades, a question is asked: How to express our faith in this context? Entering in relationship with Jesus while listening to His Word, the heart begins to feel its suffocation, its misery, its longing. The Samaritan at the well, went through such an experience. And Jesus said to her: If you knew the gift of God (Jn 4:10). After His teaching, the Samaritan replied: Sir, give me this water so that I will no longer get thirsty (Jn 4:15). This dialogue with Jesus is most inspiring. Like Him, under the inspiration of His Spirit, as we meet people along our way, we sometimes discover a non verbal search for the well­spring of Life. Proposing the person of Jesus and His Message can be the liberat­ing way as it was for the Samaritan at the well. This is being a missionary right here at home. Gratitude goes out to all those who allow their Freedom of Heart to be a source of love within a secular society,

Léonie Therrien, m.i.c.

From 2020-06-22 to 2020-07-22

I Shook Hands With God

Personally, I believe there are many others like Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier but little is known about them. Their good deeds never appear as spectacular, the kind that inspires us to change. No, these are the people who simply make little miracles happen every day, without publicizing them worldwide.

On Thanksgiving week-end, I had the joy of meeting this kind of person. He is Jean-Louis Lebel, originally from Montreal, a man in his 60s with an impressive smile, a tender look in his eyes and a gentle voice. Former teacher, who expatriated to Peru, he turned his attention  to the street children who parallel our street gangs. Often orphans, these young boys survive thanks to crime. Jean-Louis, as if born for this special mission, has willingly opted to care for these youngsters and their problems. He first began with one, then two followed by four others. Sixteen years later, more than 100 teen agers are being helped in becoming responsible adults; Jean-Louis works with a team of approximately 40 collaborators.

The CIMA (Integration Centre for Abandoned and Unloved Minors) looks like a permanent summer camp where respect and education are honoured. Love, discipline, sharing and work are all words and realities that are fearlessly promoted and translated into action. It’s in this small Peruvian community that they re-learn how to share and to hope for a better life. The Centre operates, thanks to public charity, from diverse foundations and a great number of individual donors. Jean-Louis and his assistants do not perform miracles; they are…a miracle!

One day, when I shook hands with Jean-Louis Lebel, I truly believed I shook hands with God, for He uses us as His instruments to transmit His Love. If ever you have the opportunity to shake hands with someone who is trying to help another person, you could also say that you are shaking hands…with God.


By Paul-Emile Trudeau