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September 2023

Guest House

When you come to stay in the Guest House at St. John’s Convent, you are entering a place in which we hope you will experience our monastic way of life. Many people remark on the sense of peace in the Guest House which comes from years of prayer permeating the very fabric of the building. But more, we hope you will sense the monastic values and vows we take as Sisters of St. John the Divine.

The three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience are based on the evangelical counsels from the gospels. This month I’ll be reflecting on how the vow of Poverty relates to Hospitality in the Guest House.  From Matthew 19.21: we read,Jesus said to him,If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’”  This is where the Church derived the vow of Poverty as a way for some people to follow Jesus more closely in the consecrated life. In our Rule of life, the vow of Poverty calls us to be “grounded in the simplicity of life which Jesus lived and taught,” and is to be manifested in our lives as “contentment, simplicity of living, and joyful dependence on God.”  Living the vow of Poverty we are to “bear witness that God is our whole support.” (Excerpts from the SSJD Rule of Life) Simplicity of living, simplicity of life, is very much how we connect the vow of Poverty with the monastic hospitality we offer in our Guest House.

People come to our Guest House for rest and renewal, and for time apart to recenter and recharge their lives. People come wanting to listen for God’s voice. Jesus went apart to rest and pray in a deserted place. Luke 5.16: “But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” They come because they are following in the footsteps of Jesus who said to his disciples to, Mark 6.31: “‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Can you resonate with that statement in your life? What would it be like to take time apart from non-stop noise and constant advertising vying for your attention? The Guest House is a place apart where people can rest and pray, finding silence and peace for mind, body and soul. Now the vow of Poverty does not mean abject poverty but requires us to live simply. This means that the Guest House too is furnished simply. Each room has a bed, a desk, a comfy chair, and a reading lamp, and perhaps a holy picture on the wall. What more would you need? Some, when they come, choose to turn off their electronic devices and leave that cloying distraction behind for the time they are here. Imagine, a short fast from the lure of the telephone or computer! What strength of character you might develop by putting these portable distractions aside for a day or two while on retreat? They will still be there when you take them back up on your way back home.

Guests may join the Sisters in Chapel for the daily round of services, Morning Prayer, the daily Eucharist, Evening Prayer and finally, at the end of the day, Compline, the Church’s night prayer. The services in Chapel are replete with readings from the scriptures. The psalms form a significant part of the worship services and through their poetry, speak to the emotions and feelings in the heart. Guests often find when they share in the monastic rhythm of prayer with the Sisters that it is a means of hearing the voice of God in their lives. They’ll hear a word or verse from one of the readings from scripture or from the psalms that seems to be directed at them personally, speaking to the directly in their heart. They’ll chew on that word for the rest of the time they spend in the Guest House, pondering and praying with that one word. 

The guest house is a place apart, simply furnished, without the distractions of daily life, which affords people who are searching to simply rest and pray, and seek to hear that still small voice of God within. We hope that you’ll come and spend some time apart in the Guest House and be more aware of the simplicity of the environs and the rhythm of life which connect with our Vow of Poverty.

~~  Sr. Elizabeth Ann, 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 Retreats

God in the Urban Center:

Capturing images of the divine in the city through the lens of your camera.

Friday, September 29th - Sunday, October 1st, 2023.

*Limited registration

Led by Rev. Canon Mark Kinghan

As a spiritual exercise, we will take pilgrimages off-site to Toronto city neighbourhoods with eyes, hearts and souls open to experience the presence of God...

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Our Spiritual Autobiography:

Encountering God in Our Life

Friday, October 20th - Sunday, October 22nd, 2023.

*Limited registration

Led by Rev. Arthur Boers

Inspired by the Quiet Garden Trust in England, these are days to relax, renew, and rest in the beauty of God's outdoors, as well as to enjoy the Sisters' chapel and library. In case of rain...

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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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