Christmas 2020


A Word from the Provincial Minister

Glory to God and peace on earth !

My Christmas greetings this year are inspired by Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Nativity. Rublev was born just a few years after the first wave of the Black Death, which killed millions of people across the globe from 1347 to 1352.

It was with this harsh and chaotic backdrop that the artist decided to depict this Nativity scene. It seems to me that this image can bring us comfort as we approach the end of 2020 and as we, in our turn, are in the throes of a global pandemic.

We can sense an agitation and a struggle among the figures in the icon: in the centre we find Mary, the Theotokos – the Mother of God – and Jesus her child, lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Against a black background, which symbolizes all of the world’s darkness, suffering and silence, our Saviour is born – so fragile.

I hope this icon, which beautifully illustrates the dynamic of the coming of Jesus into our world, offers us support and solace during these difficult times. As we contemplate it, we may find that the various characters that are featured reveal to us aspects of our own sacred history!

Perhaps we are a bit like the shepherds, who appear to the Virgin’s right. These simple, poor men, whose lives are closely intertwined with the cycles of nature, persevere in faithfulness as they await the Saviour’s coming. Or maybe we are like the rich and wise magi, in the upper left corner of the icon, who arrive from afar; they are not able to name their faith but are filled with a sincere desire as they seek wisdom. They recognize that there exist a kingship and a power that are infinitely greater than those belonging to the kingdoms of the earth!

There are also the midwives and deaconesses, at the lower right. These are the people who care for and serve others. They show us that it is in the practical things of daily life – especially in challenging times, such as the one we are going through now – that Christ leads us in his light of compassion and love. Finally, we have Saint Joseph, at the bottom left, beset by a demon who is whispering to him that the mystery of the Incarnation is not real. Saint Joseph does not give in to this temptation to doubt. He protects the child Jesus and his mother and participates in salvation history. Through his quiet strength and perseverance, he honours all parents, teachers and catechists, who witness in the shadows and announce the good news of the Saviour’s birth!

With Saint Francis of Assisi, the angels and all the saints, may we let our joy ring forth on this wonderful night of Christmas:

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad. For to us is given the beloved child most holy, born for us along the way and placed in a manger because there was no room for him at the inn. Glory to the Lord God in the highest and on earth peace to those of good will. Let the heavens rejoice and earth exult, let the sea and all that is in it roar, let fields and everything in them sing for joy. Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

(Psalm 15:6-10, from The Geste of the Great King: Office of Francis of Assisi, translated and with an introduction by Laurent Gallant, OFM)

Brother Pierre Charland, OFM 

Minister Provincial

Franciscans of Canada

Reasonable Faith and COVID-19 Vaccines
Joachim Ostermann, OFM

The world received a much-desired Christmas present: Vaccines that promise to halt the COVID-19 pandemic. It is astonishing that they were developed, tested, and approved within just one year. The first vaccines were made with entirely new technology, never before used in clinical practice. The vaccines are safe and highly effective. I cannot think of any recent success in biomedical research that is as dramatic. It is a powerful sign of the progress that has been made in understanding human disease through the biomedical sciences. It is a wonderful gift to receive right now, and very much needed.

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New postulants 

This year, three young men were invited by us to spend a year in our community in Trois Rivières as postulants. Postulancy is the first step into our way of life, the year prior to novitiate, and it is chance for them to get to know us. We asked them to introduce themselves and share their experience with you! Here are their responses.

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Franciscans: Support for people
Julie-Isabelle Baribeau

Some people know. Some are doubtful. Some don’t want to see it. Yet poverty, homelessness, precarious employment and food insecurity are very much with us here in Canada. The pandemic has only exacerbated this trend. Across the country, youth, families, workers and seniors are in survival mode. It’s a devastating fact: the pandemic brings with it more and more psychological distress for people.

Like many community organizations, parishes and religious communities, the Franciscans of Canada have adapted to the specific circumstances of this health crisis. In their humility, the Franciscans know how to act discreetly. They offer a reassuring presence to those who have nothing and welcome those who find that there is “no room in the inn.” The Franciscans have a deep commitment to the poor, to those left behind. And so we find Franciscans where few want to go, where a final line of defence is needed.

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Our Little Sisters Flowers Pray and Sing Christmas
Georges Morin, OFM

During my stay of a few weeks in South Korea, at the beginning of November 2011, I received a gift that pleased me very much. It was a Korean book on floral arrangements published by the Institute of Research on Liturgical Floral Arrangements for the Catholic Diocese of Daejeon. For us of the Franciscan family of Korea, Daejeon is a special place because it represents the cradle of Franciscan life in this Land of the Morning Calm. Furthermore, the Franciscans of Canada have the honour and joy of witnessing the birth of Franciscanism in Korea.

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New Provincial Secretary
Julie-Isabelle Baribeau

“Truly honoured.” Sitting in her new office, Martine Moquin is still moved by the appointment she received a few months ago. As a sign of their confidence in her, the Franciscans of Canada recently named Martine Moquin secretary of the province, a position that she holds jointly with Fr. Aimé Do Van Thong, who has become canonical secretary of the province.

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In Memory of...

Mario Cardin, priest, born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, † Montreal, July 12, 2020, age 85: 64 years of religious life, 57 years of priesthood. 

Gilles Nobert, priest, born in St-Luc-de-Vincennes, Quebec, † Montreal, July 17, 2020, age 89: 68 years of religious life, 61 years of priesthood. 

Bérard Charlebois, friar, born in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, † Montreal, July 30, 2020, age 91: 65 years of religious life. 

Michael Conaghan, priest, born in Donegal, Ireland, † Victoria, BC, August 20, 2020, age 83: 57 years of religious life, 52 years of priesthood. 

Louis Germain, friar, born in Batiscan, Quebec, † Trois-Rivières, Quebec, October 5, 2020, age 82: 62 years of religious life.

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