I thank Jacques Théberge, I.V.Dei for inviting me to give a reading of my life by humbly witness to the Joy which, over the years, has taken root in within me.
As a young adult I joyfully become a member of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. As such, I am a consecrated layperson called to live and witness to the love of Christ in the midst of the world.
From the place they are called to be everyone has a mission to accomplish. We Oblates share in the mission entrusted to members of secular institutes, that is, to be a transforming presence in the world by making "a personal contribution to the fulfilment of the divine plan in the history of mankind" (Gadium et spes, no. 34), by being active in the temporal realities, animating and ordering them according to the spirit of the gospel. Accordingly, it is by our way of being and acting in our trade, profession – in all our engagements – that we live our consecration by vow and participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Missionaries wherever Christ has the right to be present, an Oblate can remain in her environment or go to any place or country. Personally, I felt called to be a missionary beyond the borders of Canada. What joy when I was offered the opportunity to go to Bolivia! For 25 years I lived on Oruro, a city situated at an altitude of 3 700 meters followed by around 10 years in the valley of Cochabamba. The Oblate Fathers, colleagues of our founder, Father Louis-Marie Parent O.M.I., welcomed us in their parishes where we worked according to our talents, professions and creativity in response to the needs of the milieu.
Being a teacher by profession, in Bolivia I worked in adult literacy, in social popular education and in establishing and facilitating Base Communities and more. The various activities, especially success stories, brought me the joy of satisfaction and personal fulfilment. But a specific event brought me to a deeper level.
One night in Oruro our Christian community, which was to visit a sick person, was faced with pouring rain and resulting muddy paths throughout the area. What to do? Go and risk getting the flu? I decided to go to the meeting point and, behold, little by little, others came to join me. Arm in arm in the dark and the pouring rain we went, singing on our way! Where did this joy come from? Surely not from the surrounding conditions. I understood then that joy is a state of the heart. It arises from love: I love these people and feel they love me. I felt with peaceful conviction that I was where I was meant to be at this time in my life – as you too have undoubtedly felt in your vocation and mission.
I was sometimes asked: You seem happy; how can you be happy in these poor surroundings and in such difficult socio-political conditions? After reflecting on that question I realized that I found strength and consolation through working with the people to create better living conditions and, in doing so, gave life to God’s project of love, that of respect for the dignity of every person and for justice and equal rights.
The Word of God and the teachings of the Church, as always, motivate and direct our engagements towards building a more just and human world.
Upon returning to Canada my service in the Institute led me to getting to know the Oblates and people in a number of countries. Next, I went to live and work in a batey in the Dominican Republic for a series of six-month periods. I presently live in an apartment in Montreal and continue my mission by being of service and helping others in accomplishing their mission. In so doing the Lord allows me the joy of putting my past experiences to good use.
In my life’s journey I rejoice in a spirituality based on love, service and serenity. It is the spirituality that Father Parent bequeathed to our Institute. It consists in 5 attitudes that all people can apply to their life.
• Welcoming the presence of God. Aware of His active and loving presence everywhere and in all things, I can keep calm and feel less stressed. I have the conviction that He is always at work within me, in every person, in the story of humanity and at the heart of events. (Marc 4, 26)
• Abstaining from destructive criticism interior and exterior;
• Abstaining from useless complaint interior and exterior; formed by these two attitudes I seek to find the beauty and the goodness in others and to view events with greater lucidity. Accordingly I can enjoy enriching interpersonal relationships and intervene more appropriately in problematic situations. Too, with Jesus as model, I can assume difficulties and suffering as my participation in the pascal mystery.
• Being of service in a spirit of gratuity. How liberating it is to respond to the real needs of others, to be at their service, expecting nothing in return. It is the joy of serving with love like Jesus, like Mary.
• Being a peacemaker. The peace that is born of love is a combination of unity, charity, forgiveness and reconciliation. I ask the Holy Spirit to transform me to live these values that bring about peace. By experiencing myself a tranquil spirit I become attentive to building peace wherever I happen to be. True Joyis called to be shared.
In the midst of our life and in light of all that is happening in the world, we witness that in difficult times joy can arise from solidarity between people. To live in communion with others brings small rays of hope and courage that increase the happiness sought out by everyone regardless of race and culture. In my case, a celibate consecrated layperson, I have the joy of having different networks where I can share the core of my life: members of the Institute, my Oblate team, my family members, my parish community, friends and good neighbors. For them all I am grateful to God.
Over the years, in the midst of my certitudes, doubts, successes, failures, laughter and tears, my encounter with the Lord enables me to base my joy on His love in all circumstances. Though the Word of God, the teachings of the Church and the Constitutions of my Institute I learn how to better exercise my freedom and better manage my feelings and reactions by making the best possible decisions. A beautiful gift of Life is to feel joy for no obvious reason. Joy is never acquired once and for all; each present moment is an opportunity to receive it, savor it and spread it.