A gathering of north and south

Meeting of the Inter-American Committee

Yesterday we finished our three day meeting of the Inter-American Committee Meeting held at the Providence International Centre in Montréal. CMSM (Conference of Major Superiors of Men) and LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) met with their counterparts in the CRC (Canadian Religious Conference) and CLAR (Conference of Latin American Religious). CLAR represents the religious conferences of Latin America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is an annual gathering with the CRC acting as hosts. Next year it will be the turn of CMSM and LCWR to do the same.

In addition to reporting on events in our respective regions a full day was devoted to the devastation wrought by the terrible Haitian earthquake. First we looked back at how it has affected religious communities and religious life; this set the stage for looking ahead as to how best to assist in the rebuilding that needs to take place, rebuilding not only structures but human life and spirit as well.

From the first word of the disaster both CMSM and LCWR were aware that the media would focus its attention on the devastation but no one would be telling the story of how it affected religious; their institutions and their members. A conscious effort was made to gather information on how religious were affected and to transmit that information to our members.

The Inter-American Committee looked at ways it might offer assistance through the religious conferences of our respective countries. There is no easy answer. However, past experience might prove to be a good teacher. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina through the auspices of LCWR and CMSM religious partnered with religious communities directly affected by the flooding in New Orleans (and other areas) to assist them in their rebuilding efforts.

Last summer LCWR held its national conference in New Orleans and viewed first-hand how their efforts helped religious and their ministries come back from those dark days.

We were greatly assisted in our discussions about the situation in Haiti by Sister Kesta Occident, CSC, superior general of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and a native of Haiti. In addition to speaking about the current situation in Haiti and what needs to be done, Sister Kesta also spoke about how the earthquake might reshape religious life itself.

Our gathering was not all work, however. We did take an afternoon to visit Notre-Dame Bon Secours Chapel, museum and archeological findings. It date back to 1655 and the founding of Montréal. The museum presents the story of the development of Montréal and the Notre-Dame Bon Secours. It is really the story of Marguerite Bourgeoys who was born in 1620 and came to Montréal in 1653. She founded the Congrégation of Notre Dame and was canonized in October of 1982 by Pope John Paul II.

Next March the Inter-American Committee will meet in the United States hosted by CMSM and LCWR. Though we have not pinned it down, most likely the meeting will take place in the Washington DC area since the two conferences are based in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland.

And now with the close of our international gathering I have moved to the Airport Wyndham Hotel where the Canadian Religious Conference will hold its annual four-day assembly. Due to my own schedule I will only be able to attend the first two days before heading home.

Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ

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