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November 2023

The Sisters of St. John the Divine take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Over the last few months the Home for the Heart reflections have looked at poverty and obedience and their relevance to our Guest House ministry.

Dean Peter Wall wrote about a theology of abundance and contrasted it with a theology of scarcity which says there is never enough. A theology of abundance declares, in God’s world there is always enough, more than enough. We are encouraged to claim our abundant lives and to share our abundance with others. Dean Wall wrote, ‘we can share resources that will make the renovations to the Guest House the exciting reality that we know it is for us all.’ SSJD’s Rule of Life states that, ‘In poverty we bear witness that God is our whole support.’

Sr. Elizabeth Ann reflected on the vow of obedience and how the root of the word obedience is ‘to hear’.The Guest House is a place where we welcome people to ‘come away for a while’, to rest in the silence, solitude and prayerfulness of a monastic community so that they might have the opportunity to hear God’s voice. Our Rule states, ‘In obedience we bear witness that God is our whole life.’

This month we conclude this brief series with a reflection on the vow of chastity. The Sisters of St. John the Divine live the vow of chastity in the celibate state. SSJD’s Rule of Life states that ‘In chastity we bear witness that God is our whole love’

Our Rule states that we are ‘to be open and responsive to the needs of the church and of the world.’ One expression of this is through our ministry of hospitality, welcoming people to our home to worship with us, to enjoy a meal with us or for a longer stay in our Guest House. Guests come to us for anywhere from a few hours to, in some cases, many months.

Hospitality has always been a part of monastic tradition going back to the Desert Mothers and Fathers of 4th century Egypt. The people who withdrew to the desert to be alone with God exerted such an influence and were such an example that people flocked to them for advice and guidance or to just be in the presence of these holy men and women. Today many individuals still seek out monastic communities for spiritual guidance, for silence, solitude and peace, or just to be in the midst of a praying community. And each person, each guest is, as The Rule of Benedict states, ‘to be welcomed as Christ’. Esther de Waal writes that to actually put that pious phrase into practice ‘means, warmth, acceptance, enjoyment in welcoming whoever has arrived.’ That is not always easy, but the vow of chastity is a help.

Chastity is a means for us to make a total commitment to Christ. In our total commitment to Christ we are enabled to be open and responsive to the needs of the world in a way we couldn’t be if we had spouses, dependents or exclusive friendships.  In loving God and accepting God’s love for us we are enabled to love and to accept others, to show warmth to and experience enjoyment in our guests.

The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, rather than being restrictive or limiting instead give us the freedom and the opportunity to be responsive to the needs of our church and our world as we claim God as our whole support, our whole life and our whole love.


~~  Sr. Wendy Grace, SSJD

When the Sisterhood recently received the final cost report for the Guest House renovations, it was far more than we had anticipated. Our initial design work had been done a year earlier, and the increase in construction costs in Toronto has contributed to an increase in the overall project budget. Because the total project cost is now at $6 million, the Sisters will contribute $2 million from their Endowment Fund rather than the initially planned $1 million. This means we need a total of $4 million from our donors. There has been tremendous generosity to date, but we still need your help more than ever!

For more detail about the campaign click here. https://ssjd.ca/capital-campaign-a-home-for-the-heart/

Exciting Fall and Winter Retreats

Fear Not:

Yoga Quiet Day

Saturday, November 25th, 2023

(Last Chance to sign up!- Deadline this Saturday, November 18th)

Led by Vanessa Wells RYT 200

A restorative day for anyone looking to engage with the quiet anticipation of Advent by yoking the mind, body, and spirit. SSJD's second yoga quite day will offer activities that harness the breath, movement, and reflection.

No experience necessary...

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Advent Quiet Day

Saturday, December 2, 2023

(Deadline Monday, November 27, 2023)

Led by Sr. Doreen, SSJD

Get ready to make room for God and the radical, countercultural message of Jesus!

Be ready!

Be Transformed!

Be steadfast!

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To Sing is to Pray Twice

Christmas Retreat

Saturday, December 23 - Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Led by Sr. Constance Joanna Gefvert

The music of Christmas expresses our heartfelt vision of God coming into our world, and our deep human longing for peace even as war seems to overcome our World...

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Ring out the Old, Bring in the New

New Year's Retreat

Sunday, December 31, 2023 - Monday, January 1, 2024

Led by Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas

Join Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas, Reverend Mother of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, in celebrating all that was good in 2023, letting go of what was not so good, and looking forward to the creative possibilities of 2024...

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To register for available retreats, please visit our website: www.ssjd.ca

Covid Protocols:

Please do not attend if:

  • you have any signs or symptoms of a cold or COVID or
  • you tested positive for COVID within 2 weeks of the event or
  • you have been in contact with anyone who has had COVID 10 days before the event
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