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The Eagle

Christmas 2009

All the Sisters would like to wish you the Blessings of peace, love and joy this Christmas season!

Merry Christmas!

He was born in a stable behind the inn, homeless, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counsellor God-with-Us. Like the men who sleep huddled on subway grates, the women living in cardboard huts, the children shivering in gasless cars He was born, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, homeless.

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, He said to us. Heal the sick, visit the prisoners said the Wonderful Counsellor, Son of Man, God-with-Us; house the homeless, He says to us. House the homeless, free the slaves, feed the children, comfort the dying; and somewhere deep within find a home in our hearts for Him. Sr. Sue, SSJD 1

Dear Associates, Oblates and Friends, Once again we are approaching the Christmas Season and the beginning of another year. For us, it has been a year of celebrating the founding of our Community on September 8th, 1884 — 125 years ago. The final event of our 125th Anniversary year was a Concert on September 27th celebrating both the Sisters’ creativity (past and present) and our joy in worship, music and praise. Poetry, hymns and music composed and written by the Sisters were featured in the concert program. Sr. Anne and Dan Norman, our organist, opened the concert with Handel’s Sonata No. 3 in F Major for piano and violin.

Two more of our Sisters have had knee surgery: Sr. Brenda had surgery on one knee in June and Sr. Patricia had double knee surgery in early October. Both Sisters are doing well. Sr. Brenda and Sr. Margaret Mary enjoying a conversation-on-wheels in the refectory. This fall we have been working on the gardens in the Guest Courtyard. The pond area has been enhanced with a small waterfall and the gardens readied for planting in the spring. (See page 6 for our exciting plans for the courtyard.)

One of the highlights was a dramatic reading by Mary Druce who took on the persona of our Mother Foundress, Hannah Grier Coome; to the great delight of both Sisters and guests she shared some of the highlights of her life.

The pond before and after Examples of the creativity of the Sisters over the years were exhibited in the chapel narthex and front lobby including historic embroidery work, calligraphy, pottery, carving, paintings and drawings, and many other forms of creative artwork. It was a delightful evening enjoyed by all who were able to attend. Upcoming concerts in the Music for the Soul series are listed on the back of The Eagle and posted on our website.

The Sisters in Victoria have also been working on the garden outside their new chapel to the delight of all. There is much healing both through working in the gardens and enjoying their beauty.


Here Sr. Elizabeth Ann is seen with Linda Elliott and Nora McDonald

The Women’s Roundtable this fall was well attended. Our theme was “Seven Sisters, Seven Stories”. Each of the Sisters related personal experiences of their work and ministry on behalf of the Sisterhood including

outreach to youth through music, pastoral visiting at the hospital, worship and our life of prayer, the summer program, “Women at a Crossroads”, the hospitality of the Guest House, stewardship, and the governance structures of the Sisterhood. Our chair, the Rev. Margaret Fleck, did a wonderful job of enabling the evening to run smoothly. We’ve had a number of visitors this fall. Continuing the tradition of the exchange between SSJD and the Order of the Holy Paraclete, Sr. Helen, OHP, from Whitby, North Yorkshire, came for the month of October bringing her oboe to the delight of us all! She played at several chapel services while she was here. Sr. Helen works at St. Oswald’s Pastoral Centre in England. While staying with us in Toronto, she was able to see some of the beauty of Canada including Niagara Falls, Algonquin Park, and the Scarborough Bluffs as well as some of the cultural highlights of Toronto such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Textile Museum and Kensington Market.

At the end of October, Sr. Teresa, the Superior of the Community of the Transfiguration in Cincinnati, Ohio, came for several days with one of their oblates, Toni Thomas-Feren, to look at our guest house ministry. They are planning to develop a similar kind of ministry in Cincinnati in the not very distant future. Finally, Sr. Margaret, CSC, the newly elected Provincial of the Sisters of the Church, came to the convent for her long retreat at the end of October. This fall the Sisters undertook a survey from Natural Church Development. In the photograph, Heather Steeves of the Diocese of Toronto is explaining to us the results of our survey. We are beginning to work with our results and also help parishes around the Diocese of Toronto in the area of Passionate Spirituality. The Sisters in Victoria, like the Sisters in Toronto, are in great demand for workshops, retreats, spiritual direction and preaching, and continue to be a prayerful presence in the Diocese in which they reside. Through the past year, we have become even more aware of the great cloud of witnesses which surround us (Sisters, Associates, priests and benefactors) and many others who continue encouraging us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Now as we look forward to the joy and wonder of Christmas, we marvel at the awesome humility of God — the Word of God which created the world, took on human flesh and walked among us on this earth, not only setting us an example of loving and self-forgetful service to one another, but giving himself totally, even to death on the cross, in order that we might have eternal life. God is continuing to call each one of us, Sisters, Associates, Oblates and friends, to this same level of loving and humble service to one another which we have seen through the history of our Community. Sr. Elizabeth Ann, SSJD The Reverend Mother


The Hidden Work of the Top Row: Sr. Doreen going through the files of Associates; Srs. Helen Claire, Elizabeth Ann and Anne preparing to share their stories of ministry at the Women’s Roundtable. Row 2: Sr. Sue doing “after-supper” work in the refectory; Sr. Jessica taking Sr. Thelma-Anne to chapel; Sr. Jean taking Sr. Constance to chapel. Row 3: Sr. Margaret Mary discussing administrative details with Sr. Elizabeth Ann; Sr. Brenda leading the “hymn sing” in the chapel at St. John’s Rehab Hospital; Sr. Amy being a guardian angel for Sr. Helen, OHP, visiting the convent from England. Row 4: Sr. Constance Joanna playing the keyboard in chapel; Sr. Patricia Marion loading the dishwasher with Oblate Doreen Davidson at B.C. House in Victoria; Sr. Margaret Ruth working in the finance office.


Sisters behind the Scenes Top Row: Sr. Elizabeth preparing to ring the Angelus in chapel; Sr. Anitra looking for a photograph in the archives. Row 2: Sr. Merle preparing the list of Bible readings for the Daily Office; Sr. Sarah Jean doing the cleansing in the sacristy; Sr. Louise signing out a library book for one of the Associates. Row 3: Sr. Joyce accessioning a new book for the library; Sr. Patricia recovering from double knee surgery in the infirmary; Sr. Wilma selling books at the used book sale at St. John’s Rehab Hospital. Row 4: Sr. Dorothy cleaning up after a farewell party for Sr. Helen, OHP; Sr. Beryl guiding Sr. Helena to the chapel; Sr. Jocelyn shovelling snow in Victoria!


PLANTING A SEED! In early October, Sisters and guests of St. John’s Convent watched with excitement as a team of landscapers (and their helpful dog) dug out the outline of the new gardens for the guest courtyard.

The gardens, designed by landscaper Skai Leja, are to provide the guests with a place for meditation and reflection. The section shown below is part of the overall landscaping plan for the whole property. This landscaping project is the final stage of what was envisioned when the new convent was planned and built in 2005. Originally, it was hoped that this would be completed at the same time as the convent was built, but insufficient funds forced the postponement of the landscaping. Now, you can join with us to make this dream a reality! We are currently seeking individuals and/or groups that would be interested in taking a leadership role in funding the landscaping project. While all donations are welcome, we would really like to build a relationship with one or two major donors to be a part of this exciting undertaking.

Within hours of starting, we could see the graceful, curved edges of a new garden area against the walls of the courtyard. This area was soon filled with rich, dark earth, ready for the winter months and the introduction of new plants, flowers and trees in the spring.


For more information, please call Sara Lawson, Director of Development at 416-226-2201 x340 or email at

“Who do you think you are?” “Who do you think you are?!” In essence, this is the challenge God puts to Job (Job 38:1-7; 34-41), answering his litany of lamentation and self-justification with a vast cosmological catalogue of questions which goes on for chapters, marking the vast gulf between what it is to be divine and what it is to be human: Where were you at creation? What great patterns have you set in motion? Do you provide omnisciently for the creatures of the earth? While it’s a great cascade of words and images, of which today’s reading is only a tiny sample, it’s also, paradoxically, a striking example of the via negativa, because almost all God’s questions to Job demand the answers “No” or “I don’t know”.

the craving for supremacy, is addressed to all the disciples. He knows, I think, that the sons of Zebedee have simply spoken aloud the secret, selfish desire which is really in all their hearts. Either they’ve completely failed to understand what Jesus has told them about what he will undergo in Jerusalem, or at some level they have taken in enough to make them afraid, and their fear has brought out the worst in them – a childish grasping after prominence, on the one hand, and a disingenuous self-righteousness on the other, two sides of the same debased coinage, both attempts to persuade or manipulate God. Jesus offers them not comfort, but a remedy: the pattern of service and selfemptying which he shows them in his own life and death.

“Who do you think you are?!” This is also, on a somewhat gentler and more personal scale, the question Jesus poses to James and John (Mark 10:35-45). Do you have any idea what it is you’re asking for, when you desire to be known for your intimacy with me? They think they do, of course, but Jesus realises just how feeble their understanding is.

Job, of course, is left with a realisation of his complete dependence — his contingency — upon the will of an utterly incalculable God (although the version of the story which has come down to us does provide him with a consolation prize in livestock and progeny). He will worship God the rest of his life from an utterly changed perspective, one which begins not with his own righteousness and religious observance, but with God’s glory and creative force, experienced in the collision of incomprehension and clarity. For the disciples, too, incomprehension and clarity mingle and spark, throughout the ministry of Jesus, but more particularly as the desolation of the cross unfolds into the mystery of the resurrection: “Maria” - “Rabbouni”; “Were not our hearts burning within us...?”; “My Lord and my God!” Unlike Job, however, the disciples are not simply returned to their former lives with a transformed understanding and bigger, better fishing boats. Rather, they are called into the risen life of Christ, and into the pattern of service and self-offering which they have seen in the life of the incarnate Word.

“Who do you think you are?” It’s also the question which faces us in prayer. We cannot, through the use of intellect, or language, or our physical senses, give any meaningful description of God. Whatever our mystical or affective experience of God may be, I think it’s safe to say that knowledge of God, in any cognitive sense, will always elude us — such knowledge as we may acquire is self-knowledge. The effort to be honestly ourselves in the presence of God may at least bring us to honesty with ourselves — honesty about who we are in relation to God, and what our real desires and fears are. In a way, of course, Job is closer to this sort of self-knowledge than his three would-be comforters, earlier in the narrative. He knows who he is, what he has and hasn’t done, and what he doesn’t understand, while his friends are confident that they can explain the workings of God and fate and sin and punishment. It’s Job with whom God speaks, and while it’s clear that his earlier assumptions about reward for righteousness and safety for sacrifice are completely overthrown in the encounter, and that he doesn’t get an explanation so much as a shattering experience of awe and wonder, it’s also very clear that the petty calculations and rationalisations of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are so much further from the truth that they’re not even part of the conversation. Reading today’s Gospel, it’s easy for us to share the disciples’ outrage at the effrontery, the sheer bloody nerve of James and John (asking Jesus if they may sit, one on his left hand and one on his right in glory), but we should also note carefully that the response of Jesus, warning against

So God calls all of us to participate in the divine life, and not only summons us but sustains us, with the joy of the resurrection, the shared story of our redemption, the mutual love and care which echo the love of God, and the sacraments which nourish us throughout our lives. We can live this life in God because God in Christ has become present in our human lives, present to us in the Gospel, present with us in one another, and present in us in the rhythm of the sacraments. We will continue to struggle with self-knowledge, in prayer and in community. We know we cannot fully comprehend or describe the mysteries of creation and the universe. But who do we think we are? Followers of Christ and servants of the living God, and that is more than enough. Homily preached by the Rev. Andrea Budgey, October 18, 2009, in St. John’s Chapel


Music for the Soul – 2010

Are you considering a career change? Are you looking for “something more” in your life? Do you have a thirst for God? A hunger for prayer? Do you desire to serve God in a new way? Would you like to experience life in community?

Sunday, February 14th, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. Jazz Vespers: a contemporary service built around Jazz standards and led by Tim Elliott. (Includes Evening Prayer) Sunday, March 21st, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. A concert celebrating music of the Renaissance period and highlighting the lute songs of John Dowland. Lorelle Angelo - Soprano, Juan-Carlos Luna - Guitar, Daniel Norman - Harpsichord. (Evening Prayer to follow) Date to be announced A keyboard recital centered around music of the French Classical period. Organ and Harpsichord music played by Thomas Fitches (unconfirmed) and John-Paul Farahat. (Evening Prayer to follow) Concerts are produced in association with

Are You at a Crossroads in Your Life?

Then you may be interested in attending a free four-week program (June 29 - July 25) to discern where God is calling you. At the same time you will have the opportunity to experience the life of love, prayer and service in an Anglican religious community of women. Women who are interested should contact Kelly Clark, The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, St. John’s Convent, 233 Cummer Ave, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8 Phone: 416-226-2201, Ext. 301. Fax: 416-222-4442 e-mail: Website: Applications for Women at a Crossroads, 2010 must be in by March 31, 2010.

Taizé Services at the Convent Join the Sisters at St. John’s Convent on the third Friday of each month, at 5:00 p.m. for a Taizé service. This meditative form of Evening Prayer includes prayer, repetitive chants, candlelight and anointing for healing to enable us to focus on our spiritual journey. Future dates for Taizé services are: December 18, 2009 March 19, 2010 January 22, 2010 April 16, 2010 February 19, 2010 May 21, 2010

Altar Linens Altar linens may be purchased from Sr. Jocelyn, SSJD, at St. John’s Convent. All linens are hand-sewn and made from Irish Linen. Items which may be purchased include Fair Linens, Credence Cloths, Purificators, Lavabo Towels, Baptismal Towels, Fair Veils, Palls on Plexi Glass, Corporals and Sick Communion Sets. For details, please contact Sr. Jocelyn: St. John’s House, B.C. Telephone: 250-920-7787 Fax: 250-920-7709

Map and directions at

The Houses of the Sisterhood St. John’s Convent 233 Cummer Avenue, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8 416-226-2201; Fax: 416-226-2131 e-mail:

St. John’s House, B.C. 3937 St. Peters Road, Victoria, BC V8P 2J9 250-920-7787; Fax: 250-920-7709 e-mail:

The Eagle is published several times a year by the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, St. John’s Convent, Toronto, ON M2M 2E8. An annual donation of $10 to help cover the cost would be greatly appreciated. Please let us know promptly of any changes of address. The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine is a registered charity. Our charitable donation number is BN 11925 4266 RR00001


The Eagle • Christmas 2009  

The Christmas newsletter of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine SSJD Toronto

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