Before the summer fades completely, we wish to share a few highlights with our readers of our summer activities. This article includes an account of the novitiate pilgrimage to Canada, followed by a brief reflection on pilgrimage from the mistress of novices.
The Pilgrimage to Canada
During our community trip this year, our mistress of novices led the novices and postulants on a pilgrimage to Canada to celebrate the 15th year of our Novitiate under the patronage of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. In the three day pilgrimage, we visited many churches, shrines and saints in Montreal and Quebec, while learning more about North American saints and the history of Catholicism in Canada. Throughout the trip, the Novices gave presentations on Canadian saints. To make the best of the long car rides, we organized competitions between the two vans, including a Bible quote search, a scavenger hunt, a picture game and a song-writing contest.
We left New Hampshire on Wednesday, August 6, with breakfast and plenty of snacks in the vans. After about a three hour drive, including crossing the border into Canada, we stopped at the Precious Blood Monastery in St. Hyacinthe, the original foundation of the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood. After a picnic lunch, we visited the tomb of the foundress, Mother Catherine Aurelia and had the opportunity to talk (a little French and mostly in English) with a few of the Precious Blood sisters. This was especially meaningful since our contemplative sisters in New York are in residence at the historic Monastery of the Precious Blood on Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn alongside three Precious Blood sisters.
Next we traveled to Kahnawake to visit the shrine of our patroness St. Kateri Tekakwitha, where we participated in the Holy Mass. Following mass, we venerated her relics, received a blessing with sacred oil and prayed at her tomb giving thanks for her protection. We ended the day with dinner and singing at our homes of gracious host families.
Thursday we took a pilgrimage through Downtown Montreal on foot, beginning at Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, a down-sized proportionate replica of St. Peter’s Basilica. We had some time for personal prayer and then made two more stops at St. Patrick’s Basilica and the Notre Dame Basilica. At the end of our morning’s walking pilgrimage, we went to a mass in French at Notre Dame de Bon Secours where we also venerated the relics of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620 – 1700).
Next, we drove to edge of the city where rises up the impressive St. Joseph’s Oratory built by St. Andre Bessette (1845 – 1937) who is also buried there. We ended the visit by listening to sacred music coming from the carillon bells outside of St. Joseph’s Oratory. On our way to Quebec City, we made a quick stop at Notre Dame du Cap (“Our Lady of the Cape”), the Marian patroness for all of Canada. Finally, arriving at our lodging in Quebec, we were ready for dinner and a restful night at a retreat center run by the Redemptorist priests.
Celebrating the Feast of St. Dominic on Friday, we spent the morning on a walking tour of Old Quebec, making our way to visit Notre Dame des Victoires, St. Marie of the Incarnation (1599 – 1672), and Bl. Marie Catherine of St. Augustine (1632 – 1688) (her relics are next to a significant relic of St. John de Brebeuf who was her spiritual director).
We arrived at the Notre Dame Cathedral in time for mass at noon in French where another important saint is buried: St. François de Laval (1623 – 1708), first bishop of Quebec, canonized recently by Pope Francis in April 2014. The Cathedral also had a jubilee Holy Door which is open this year in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the first parish in Canada, passing through it we were reminded of its symbolism of boundless God’s mercy, as we throw away our past sins and start anew.
Our last stop of the pilgrimage was to St. Anne de Beaupre which has the tomb of Ven. Alfred Pampalon (1867 – 1896), Redemptoris priest and patron of those seeking freedom from addiction. This pilgrimage spot is only about a thirty-minute drive from the Cathedral past the beautiful Montmarcy Falls. Before our Holy Hour with the Blessed Sacrament, we prayed the Way of the Cross and Scala Santa (Holy Steps, which are a replica of the original ones next to St. John Lateran in Rome). For a special evening dinner, we walked down the street for pizza and got back to the shrine in just in time for the candlelight procession at St. Anne’s. After the beautiful procession, we had the grace of venerating the arm bone of St. Anne and the sacristan told a few miraculous stories from pilgrims visiting St. Anne de Beaupre.
We give thanks to God for the many blessings and fruits from the pilgrimage trip to Montreal and Quebec. Through the intercession of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, we ask for her continued prayers and protection forour Novitiate House of Formation.
SSVM Sister of the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Novitiate
Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Honoring Our Patroness Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Meeting New Canadian Saints
This October are praying a novena prayer each day of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which will take place in Rome October 5-19th. During the Synod, there will be a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Peter’s for the equipollent canonization of two Canadian saints St. Marie of the Incarnation and St. François de Laval who were declared saints by a decree of Pope Francis in April without ceremony. As described above, we were able to honor these new saints and ask their intercession as we prayed at their tombs over the summer.
Learning about new regional saints is part of our missionary spirituality as we evangelize the culture wherever Divine Providence leads us. For this reason, the novice sisters often prepare presentations on North American saints. We are edified by learning about their lives and following their example of holiness. Also, our desire to follow their example is shown through pilgrimages where we visit their shrines to learn more about their lives and especially ask their intercession.
Our Directory of the Novitiate begins with the Gospel words, relictis omnibus (Luke 5:11 “having left everything, [they followed him]”). Each of the twelve apostles is called from a distinct place, but each responded the same way: they left everything behind completely.
The religious follows this example by conforming her life to the evangelical counsels (the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to imitate Christ deeply). However, the purpose of totally abandoning all is the essential element: they do it to follow Christ. In his commentary of the Gospel of Matthew, St. Thomas Aquinas explains, “Abandoning all things is not enough for perfection. It is necessary to abandon all things to follow Christ.” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 19, 27). The manner of life that each apostle lived before he followed Christ was different; however, they were united under their common purpose: imitation of Christ. Similarly, the souls that come forth to consecrate themselves for love of Christ vary in their past lives; yet, they are deeply united by their desire to follow Christ.
The Novitiate is the time to train our will to grow in virtue as we deepen our love for Christ and the love for our vocation. Community life provides many moments for the postulants and novices not only to work together, but above all to pray together. One of the ways we do this is by traveling together on pilgrimage. From the early tradition of the Church, pilgrims have brought intentions and overcome many obstacles in order to pray in a holy place. This travel reinforces that we all journey together to our heavenly homeland where the holy souls will behold their Creator face to face.
Certainly, there were many beautiful and also eventful moments along the way (from navigating the French Canadian maps to crossing the border in a van full of sisters, snacks, and luggage!) but the moments that stood out the most were the ones that made the trip into a pilgrimage. The novices and postulants went into churches in order to pray. A few times the churches buzzed with tourists led by guides, but the environment suddenly turned upward to God with a presentation on the life of the saint, by a simple genuflection, kneeling down to pray in the pews, and ending the visit with a song to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Also, our group entered each church seeking first to find the Blessed Sacrament. Each day we made a Holy Hour together, gathering before the Holy Eucharist “the source and summit” of our life. At one very large shrine, the Blessed Sacrament was in a tiny chapel in the lower level. Still, we packed in the sweltering chapel to spend the hour in the Real Presence of our Lord.
The Novitiate is a time to seek God; therefore, we give thanks to God that during the pilgrimage we were able to seek God in the example of His saints, in the Blessed Sacrament, and living with our eyes fixed on heaven.
Mother Maria Aeiparthenos Berry, SSVM
Mistress of Novices