Mission and Ministry.

Meet some of our FCJ Sisters in the Americas
         and learn a little about who they are and what they do

Crucifix made in El Salvador.As FCJs we are companions
faithful to the Lord and to each other ...

According to place and circumstance we may engage in whatever work
... in the manner which appears most conducive to the service and glory of God
and the good of God's people ...

We seek to find in prayer the mind and heart of Jesus
so that we may find God in all things
and be to others messengers of God's saving Word ...

Strong in companionship with Jesus and with each other
we work together in the service of the church
to build the body of Christ ...

Above all we are Companions of Jesus
whose lives must reveal Jesus to the world.      
(cf. FCJ Constitutions)

Margaret Benoit, fcJ

Photo of Margaret Benoit fcJ>.Hello! My name is Margaret Mary Benoit FCJ. and I have been living in Edmonton since July 2004. I feel challenged by the call “to live our identity as Faithful Companions of Jesus with enthusiasm and to choose life“.

Prior to coming to Edmonton , I was in ministry in Kitimat, in the northern part of the Province of British Columbia , a mission area, where I was involved in RCIA, hospital ministry, ecumenism and all the various activities and life of the parish. Although not as actively involved since moving to Edmonton, volunteer work contributes to making life interesting and rewarding.

y work with L’Arche has impressed me with the happiness and contentment of the residents in spite of their limitations. Being with them and witnessing this is an inspiration and a call to gratitude for my own abilities.

My other volunteer work is with a Literacy Program for developmentally disadvantaged adults. Presently, I’m tutoring Erin, an 18 year old who is reading and writing at approximately Grade 2/3 level. Erin is motivated by a strong desire for improvement; her goal is to be able to read well enough to get her driver’s license. She also likes cooking and wants to read recipes. Erin needs much help and encouragement.

Living in a small group of three, there are always many contributions to community living that are needed. I am the local bursar here, too. Not being mathematically gifted this is a challenge!

Lois Anne Bordowitz, fcJ

What gets me up in the morning?

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor".

Photo of Lois Anne Bordowitz fcJ.This passage from Luke 4:16 is part of what I like to call the Nazareth Manifesto. It is how Jesus described his ministry, and as a faithful companion of Jesus, I want to also bring good news to the poor. I have been very fortunate in the ministries I have had over the years. In most of them it was easy to see how I was bringing good news.

I have always had a strong belief in the Incarnation. I know that what I do for others I do for Jesus. I am also an activist. What gives me life (that is my spirituality) is being involved in life.

I also see that what I became involved in was usually a response to an invitation. The first time it happened was during my first year of teaching (back in the seventies). A teacher asked me to come and listen to a presentation from a farm worker from California. The farm workers were trying to organize a union and negotiate for better working conditions. They really appreciated the support of church people, and since I was wearing a veil at that time, the farm worker asked me directly if I would help. At this time, helping meant forming a picket line in front of a grocery store and asking the people not to buy grapes and lettuce. Thus my career as a social justice activist began.

My teaching career was short-lived. I taught math and religion at Madonna High School in Toronto for four years and then went to St. Joseph’s elementary school in Coaldale, Alberta for four years. After a year in the tertianship (a spiritual sabbatical) I answered an invitation to work with parishes in the Calgary Diocese who were sponsoring Vietnamese boat people. This was my first involvement with refugees, and it was a very satisfying ministry.

My next invitation was to start a community in downtown Toronto. This was the seed that developed into the Hamilton House Refugee Project where I am now working, 14 years later. My ministry at this time was at the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice where I learned to do social analysis as a tool for justice.

All the above was a preparation for my next big invitation to go to Sierra Leone, West Africa. The ten years I spent there have left an impression on my heart that will never be erased. There I was involved in a training program for adults that hopefully had a lasting effect on the lives of many Africans. The inconveniences I may have experienced there were nothing compared to the good experiences I had working with very dedicated missionaries, fine outstanding women and men from various countries in Africa, and colleagues who were supportive and fun to be with. Unfortunately the war in Sierra Leone forced us out, and I now have my multi-cultural experience working with refugees in Toronto, at the FCJ Refugee Centre. Here we welcome people from many countries and help them get settled in their new country. Again I am working with very fine colleagues who continue to be an inspiration to me. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Marcella Bresnihan, fcJ

Photo of Marcella Bresnihan fcJ.When I made my first vows, Mother Catherine told me that I would be going to the university in Dublin to get a BA degree. Shortly after that plans changed and I was on my way to train as an elementary teacher in Sedgley Park, Manchester. At that point God was already steering me to a ministry which has brought me immense joy and has allowed me to touch the lives of innumerable children, their parents and school staffs. I have found that I am at my best with children and I am stimulated by their questions and responses. Staffs and their concerns have always been a priority for me.

Now that I have retired from classroom teaching and principalships in many schools, I volunteer as a religion resource person for children and their teachers in St. Sebastian Elementary School . The method which I use in my teaching is that of story telling. Only a little child can tell you that “I talk to Jesus when I’m lonely” or ask as profound a question as “Jesus rose from the dead; will he now have to die again?”!! There is a very tangible desire in the hearts of children to hear about faith and values. Another area of my present ministry is that of accompanying FCJ Companions in Mission . Preparation of monthly sessions with them takes time and good planning. However, my own vocation in the Society, my appreciation of our charism, my love of Marie Madeleine and of the Society have all been renewed by the enthusiasm of these women who are certainly open vessels desirous of being filled.

A Book Circle at St. Michael’s University gives me the opportunity of sharing and discussing with other people themes in modern literature. The group chooses the books which are clustered around specific themes. In community I look after temporal administration as well as sharing in the chores of everyday life.

This time in my life is abundantly rich. I am wiser because of life’s multiple experiences and am enriched by the people who have been part of who I am.

Mary Bresnihan, fcJ

I retired from professional ministry, chaplaincy in Palliative Care [hospice], some years ago. Then I was attracted to offer support to those grieving the death of a parent, spouse, child or sibling through suicide. This traumatic grief respects neither the bounds of profession, culture, race, age or religious affiliation. It is also a grief steeped in myths and taboos. Photo of Mary Bresnihan fcJ.The image that comes to mind when I reflect on the effect of suicide on those who are left to survive is of a luscious plant in full bloom suddenly uprooted by a violent storm from a rich irrigated soil in the sun and carried to a dark rubbish heap where it wilts and withers. There it remains until it attracts the attention of a caring gardener who picks it up, takes it to nourishing soil in the sun and encourages the diminished life within, telling it that it will survive the shock and devastation, that the life force is still within.

After eight sessions of counseling, people who have experienced a suicide in their family or social milieu speak of experiencing a new sense of purpose in life, of being amazed at how their sense of compassion has attracted others, of having the foundation of their very existence restored. A regular question is how can they prepare to be a support to others who will find themselves grieving a similar form of death.

I am also available to help theology students, particularly priests from other cultures, to prepare and submit assignments in English for their various courses. I will never be a missionary in Korea , but I can support priests returning there to be qualified for pastoral ministry. I know the experience of finding myself in a culture very different from my own and how the sense of being 'lost' and struggling to survive is very real. I can be a welcoming, caring presence. I find that they love a home-cooked meal and it is a pleasure for me to prepare such when one of them comes for weekly Mass in the house! Jai-Don Lee recently wrote in his acknowledgments for his Doctoral Thesis: "I acknowledge with gratitude ... Sisters Mary Bresnihan fcJ and Marcella Bresnihan fcJ who not only helped me with English but also took care of me with sisterly love".

I am more aware now than before of having a ministry to myself at this stage of my life. I have to rest more, be more aware of my bodily needs, be attentive to my creative talent that I neglected during my active years, and take time for solitude and prayer.

I feel challenged by the call 'to live our identity as Faithful Companions of Jesus with enthusiasm and to choose life'.

Therese Dyer, fcJ

For many years my ministry has been that of Hospital Chaplain at Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River . Having been involved as a teacher and administrator in secondary education for over twenty years, I found this new ministry both challenging and rewarding in ways I never would have imagined.

As a teacher I did the planning. I knew what I wanted to accomplish with the class each day, week, or month. As a chaplain I never can be sure what the day will bring. In both ministries, however, one aspect remains the same.

It is not I who accomplish the work, but God who works through me, with me and in me.

Photo of Therese Dyer fcJ.What is involved in a day at St. Anne’s Hospital? There is the ordinary routine: visiting new patients and assuring them that pastoral care is available to them; supporting family members and nursing staff through presence and prayer; attending patient care conferences on the various units to become more familiar with patient needs; making sure that those patients who wish the ministry of a priest or reception of Holy Communion are provided for.

Then there are the crisis situations: the call to be with the patient who is dying and to minister as well to the grieving family and friends. Sometimes this is expected and sometimes it is a person who is brought to the emergency room in cardiac arrest. While the medical staff attends to the physical need, they count on the chaplain to provide for the spiritual and emotional need of patient and family. It is at a time like this that I am reminded of St. Teresa’s Prayer “Christ has no body now but yours…” He is using my body, my words, my presence to bring comfort and courage. I know it is Christ who does this, but it is an awesome feeling to be His instrument.

Finally there are the multiple other calls that come. It may be as serious as helping someone with an ethical decision, or it may be the routine of witnessing a Health Care Proxy. Sometimes it is responding to some person who walks in off the street looking for food, or the doctor in the Emergency Room asking for help for a patient who cannot afford his/her medication. The hospital has a Compassionate Care fund and does help those in need with vouchers for food, medication, taxi.

Yes, one never knows what a day at St. Anne’s Hospital will hold, but I love every minute and thank God that He has seen fit to entrust me with this ministry and that the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus have missioned me to do so.

Photo of Jane Galvin fcJ.Jane Galvin, fcJ

The Greening of Spirit

Touched by the miracle
of Spring the inner self grows
Trancscendence happens
True life flourishes
Dreams are realized
Earth is in tune with spirit.

You can read something about Jane's ministry and read more of her poetry by clicking here.

Photo of Gemma Tucciarone fcJ.Gemma Tucciarone, fcJ

I work at Blessed Sacrament School as a part time aid to Kindergarten. I also teach crochet and knitting to a group of high school students on Monday afternoons after school from 2:30 to 4:00pm.

I go to Rhode Island College for their Sunday night Mass at 10 pm and meet with the students after the Mass for a little social. We have a snack and share about courses and vocations etc. for a short time. Last year for Lent they decided to come early to say the rosary together before the Mass.

As a service to the community I do the accounts for our house.

Joanna Walsh, fcJ

Photo of Joanna Walsh fcJ.My life as a Faithful Companion of Jesus has brought me to Durham , North Carolina . Having grown up in an mostly Catholic environment in Rhode Island , I find myself among Protestants of various denominations. At Duke Divinity School I am involved with the spiritual formation of (mostly Methodist) seminarians. Students, professors and administrators appreciate the strong background in spirituality which a Roman Catholic woman religious can bring to the formation of future pastors. This has made me realize and be very grateful for the training and education which is a priority in our Society and which formed me for my present role of service.

Another aspect of my ministry is spiritual direction. Throughout my life as an FCJ I have been encouraged to avail of regular spiritual direction. Therefore, I have years of experience, as well as more recent training in this practice. My directees include a secretary, professor, physician, lawyer, pastor,graduate student, lay Catholic leader,deacon candidate, campus minister, and a member of the Catholic Worker. It is a great privilege to be entrusted with their stories and their struggles to live out their faith. I know that my being a woman religious helps them to trust me. Their sincerity and goodness challenge me to live my own vocation with integrity. I particularly like praying with them.

More recently I became co-director of a program entitled The Pastor As Spiritual Guide. A long-time friend and colleague who is a retired Baptist pastor designed this program to help seasoned pastors re-focus their ministry through the lens of spiritual guidance. This year there are 12 participants from 5 different Christian denominations. The one woman participant is a ordained Presbyterian minister. It is interesting to see how my life as a vowed woman religious differs from that of an ordained woman pastor. I enjoy encouraging these pastors to deepen their spirituality through times of retreat, group spiritual direction, and input on teachers such as Thomas Merton and Teresa of Avila. The Director of the program has a strong commitment to the joint leadership of a man and woman, and I am very grateful for this opportunity to experience healthy collegiality in an ecumenical setting.

"Companionship" is a very simple, yet very profound reality.
In living it, the meaning becomes clearer to me.
Being genuinely present to another person and
opening myself to the uniqueness of his/her presence
is transformative for both of us.
Mission , ministry and conversion are interwoven beautifully
in the mystery of becoming a "faithful companion of Jesus"

You can read more stories of FCJ Ministry here.