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Reflection Day with the Catholic Women's League in  Windsor

Linda Parent (CSJ) was invited to give a one-day reflection day with 52 CWL members in Windsor. She chose the theme water because the season of Lent offers fitting opportunities to reflect and meditate on the significance of water, especially during Holy Thursday celebrations as Christians re-enact the washing of the feet that took place in the upper room. There was water, a basin and a towel. It was Jesus the Christ that wore an apron and demonstrated by his action how we too must wash and dry each other’s feet. Think of how refreshing it was to have their feet washed in order to continue the journey of life!

Linda also gave a session on the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Again, the theme of water is used to symbolize transformation in a personal encounter between Jesus and the woman. This water is spoken of as Living Water. Jesus offered Living Water that provided the Samaritan Woman with a life altering experience! An experience that changed her forever. She runs to tell the townsfolk of her God-encounter and wonders… can this be the Messiah?

The third session involved a specific call to action and addressed U.N. Sustainable Developmental Goal #6 -- which is Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

CWL members learned about the global movement of forming Blue Communities -- and specifically this Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph Blue Community. They learned about the mounting pressures exerted upon water resources and millions of people lacking clean and safe drinking water. We looked at 3 significant beliefs that require global attention: Water is A Human Right, Water is A Sacred Gift, and Water as a Shared Commons.

Many suggestions were highlighted for reducing consumption of water, studying, visiting and cleaning up nearby watersheds, becoming more aware of and taking actions with the issue of bottled water, plastics and the subsequent environmental/ecological adverse effects placed upon Mother Earth.

The reflection day was a growth filling experience with an integrative process of experiencing sacred water from a spiritual/contemplative place to a place of advocacy where we desire to express compassion and care for millions and millions of people denied adequate and safe drinking water. To this end, CWL members continue to be active in matters of justice by sharing their time and efforts to make a difference in the world.

by Linda Parent, CSJ


Weekly Pause &  Ponder

The truth is: the natural world is changing.  And we are totally dependent on that world.  It provides our food, water and air.  It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.

-David Attenborough  


With the help of friends and the grace of  God

I am seriously thinking about cancelling January 12.  Yes, every year from now on.  Why should February be the only month with a flexible number of days?  You may wonder what brought this on.  Well, let me explain.  Who would believe a quick trip to the library to pick up a book would end up in a trip to Emergency? That is exactly what happened to me on that fateful day, January 12, last year. I fell. No, not on the obvious place. Why fall on ice when you can trip over your own two feet in a public library?  What a place to fall.  In the public eye began the endless saga of a shattered wrist.

Fortunately, I was not alone.  My companion, as shocked as was I, drove me to Emergency in a nearby hospital. Nine hours, four x-rays, three casts, four attempts to set the bone later, the doctors were finally sufficiently satisfied to send me home.  My friend, who had stayed at my side throughout the night, drove me home at 3 am. What was to be a quick trip to the library to pick up a book ended up being a painful nine-hour stint.

At a follow up appointment, I met a wonderful orthopaedic doctor. By March, he decided my wrist had healed well enough to start physio therapy. During the next several months I was fortunate to see a very competent physio therapist at regular intervals. At home, I followed her regiment of daily exercises, and occasionally saw my doctor. However, by August it became evident that in order to regain greater mobility with less pain, I required surgery.

After what seemed like an endless wait, the long-awaited phone call came. On December 3, I was to have surgery which would hopefully result in increased mobility and no more pain. After the surgery, back for physio I went. Now, thanks to the skills of my wonderful doctor and therapist, I am no longer in pain! And what’s more, I have regained a considerable amount of mobility in my wrist. However, as you can imagine, daily exercises are still necessary to strengthen my emaciated muscles and further increase the mobility of my wrist.

You would think this is the end of my saga. Well, think again.  Would you believe, exactly a year later, in the evening of January 12, I find myself back in the same Emergency.  No, not after another fall.  Severe abdominal pain brought me there this time.  After several hours of probing and poking the problem was tentatively diagnosed, and I was sent home with antibiotics and pain pills. This time, recovery took only a few days and thankfully I needed neither surgery nor therapy. 

So, can you see why I am seriously thinking about cancelling January 12 next year?  No more visits to Emergency! No, thanks. Two years in a row is more than enough. So, what did I learn from all of this?  If nothing else, this past year has taught me to be a little bit more patient with myself and more aware of the kindness and generosity of those with whom I live.  Always, there was someone there to help this ‘one-armed bandit’ in one way or another. I also discovered how I, predominantly right-handed, could do so much, not only with just one hand, but with my left hand. During those long months, despite ongoing pain in my wrist, I lived life to the full, adjusting to what, for a while, became my ‘new reality’.  We never know what life throws at us, but I learned anew how, with the help of friends and the grace of God, seemingly insurmountable challenges can be overcome. What a valuable lesson to learn.

- Sister Loretta Hagen, csj


Amnesty International: 58 years on, collective action for human rights matters more than  ever

On May 28, 1961 a British barrister, feeling outrage at the injustice in our world, was inspired to act. Peter Benenson had heard of the cases of two university students – arrested, tried and sentenced during what was at that time a cruel military dictatorship in Portugal – locked up simply because they had dared to raise their glasses of wine in a toast to freedom.

Peter knew that what had befallen those two students was by no means exceptional, and that there were people in every corner of the world, jailed because of their political beliefs, their religious faith or the colour of their skin; prisoners of conscience as they came to be known.  Vitally, he also knew that he would not be alone in his sense of outrage. 

So Peter Benenson set out to harness that collective concern and turn it into a force for change; a force for justice. In 1961 he did not set out to found a global human rights movement.  Less ambitiously, but with a force of determination that soon involved countless others, he launched a year-long campaign for “amnesty” for those he called the forgotten prisoners, encouraging people to write polite letters to political leaders around the world, calling for freedom for women, men and young people who never should have been detained in the first place.

Critics and naysayers thought that Peter Benenson was delusional. Why would people want to take time to write letters on behalf of people they had never met and never would, who lived in countries they would never visit?  And why would cruel despots care what a plumber in Manchester, office worker in Helsinki, grandmother in Melbourne or college student in Vancouver had to say?

But Peter Benenson was not delusional; he and every activist who flocked to his campaign were in fact visionary.  People do care enough about the rights of others to write a letter; care deeply in fact.  And even tyrants worry about world opinion; not always, but frequently enough that we know that global pressure can and does make a difference in the face of grave human rights violations.

Peter’s modest ambition of sustaining a year long campaign did grow into Amnesty International, which has grown to become the world’s largest human rights movement, has been honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize, and is present on the ground today in all corners of our globe. 

Here in Canada Amnesty International has 400,000 supporters who actively take up cases close to home, notably the pervasive human rights violations experienced by Indigenous peoples in the country; and campaign for an end to atrocities in countries such as Yemen and Myanmar and protection for courageous human rights defenders in countries like Colombia and Honduras.

And 58 years later, sadly, Amnesty International has, in many respects, never been more important. 

Far too many countries continue to be devasted by the ravages of war and armed conflict, with an agonizing list in 2019 that includes Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Libya.

Far too many politicians – including in the United States, Brazil, the Philippines and a growing number of European countries – win elections by promoting policies of hate, fear and division; with the most marginalized in our societies being targeted for threats and violence.

Additionally, we know that the rapidly spiraling impacts of climate change pose what is fast becoming the most urgent human rights challenge of our time; yet continues to be met by denial and resistance by far too many governments and powerful economic interests.

It may seem overwhelming.  It may very understandably lead to the question, what difference could I possibly make? Just as it did in 1961.

And that is why the Amnesty International vision still holds true.  The problems are immense and may seem insurmountable.  But there is always one thing you can do right now to make a difference for one person, or for one community, or for one country.  And there is a friend, co-worker, neighbour, relative or fellow student who you can urge to join you in that effort; and another and another… 

That is where change comes from; it always has and always will. That is also the vision of the Sisters of St. Joseph community, a spirit of solidarity and collective responsibility that has been of such immense support to Amnesty International’s human rights efforts over the years.

Today, we cherish that close connection; and together we renew our commitment.  Together, tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come: we will press on and we will not relent until the glorious promise of universal human rights protection is a reality for everyone, everywhere.

Alex Neve, Secretary General,

Amnesty International Canada






Weekly Pause &  Ponder

Things good in themselves…perfectly valid in the integrity of their origins, become fetters if they cannot alter.

Freya Stark, The Lycian Shore (1956)

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