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Visitations at Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

Sister Louise Finn, CND

“Visitations” at Bon Secours Church—

Reflections on My Week of Volunteering as an “English Presence”

Asking if this was their first visit to Bon Secours, I zeroed in on the Anglophone tourists as they entered the church. Their names escape me, as do most of their faces, but they came from every continent, spoke English with every accent. Most were open to hearing the “five-minute version” of Marguerite’s life. The young woman from Taiwan listened thoughtfully, murmuring “Cool!” at each of my pauses. The tall blonde German girl was wide-eyed, completely surprised at nearly everything she heard. The confident young woman from Vancouver, backpacking across Canada, exuded deep appreciation of Marguerite’s courage.

Most of their questions I could answer; a few I had to pass on to the attractive and quite knowledgeable young guides in 17th-century attire. If necessary, I asked Sr. Joyce Roberts for her help, which she gladly gave: “Yes, Jeanne Le Ber’s bones are buried in the east wall of the chapel. They were brought here from the Westmount Avenue mother house in 2005. Before the process was begun, the doctors and canon lawyers had examined the bones: definitely female, knees very worn from kneeling, front teeth worn from cutting threads.” 

All the visitors seemed intrigued by the nine small ships hanging above the aisles in this “Sailors’ Church, especially by the latest one donated in 1945 by the sailors who had safely escaped the Nazi U-boats that prowled the Atlantic during World War II. The dozen young energetic guys from Japan were happy to know that we have CNDs in Tokyo, and were delighted to receive the leaflets of Marguerite’s life written in Japanese. The serious man in black from a secular institute in Ethiopia wanted his leaflet not in Italian, but in English, as did the visitors from South Korea and Australia, and from all corners of the U.S. 

The small picture/prayer-cards also evoked much interest—e.g., in the story of Marguerite’s first voyage to Ville-Marie, when she became nurse and chaplain to those on board who were ill with the plague. Eight died and were buried at sea. Many visitors were also fascinated by the Filles du Roy and Marguerite’s loving care for them. Most took time to sit and absorb the prayerful spirit that pervades the Chapel, entrusting their own needs to this powerful woman. Some stayed for the noon Mass on Tuesday and Thursday.

My most memorable visit was rather unexpected. A very tall gentleman from Florence, Italy introduced himself, and on learning I was a CND sister, asked me to pray with him in Latin. He then grabbed my arm in his, gripped my other hand in his large paw, and whisked me up to the altar rail, where together we recited an Ave Maria, quietly, fervently. By the time we returned to the entrance, my hands had certainly lost their usual clammy chill. Of course, he smiled and bowed graciously before he left.

Other conversations—relaxing, stimulating, broadening—with sisters and workers at the Motherhouse also enriched these grace-filled days. For all and to all, a heartfelt Deo gratias!

 

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