Ministry Reflection – Xavier House
Xavier House, previously Xavier Convent, the home of our Sisters who lived and worked in the Corner Brook area, opened its doors to a new ministry in 1985. It is now a supportive home for women and men suffering from complex mental health issues. As the Leadership Report of 2020 states: “As part of our ongoing ministry among those made poor, this ministry creates an atmosphere of love, healing and joy, in which all receive respect, dignity and professional care.” This is the only ministry of its kind in Newfoundland.
Since 2017, Xavier House has been operated by lay leadership in compliance with Western Health, but under the umbrella of the Congregational Leadership. To quote from the Leadership Report of 2020, “we have enlarged the Board with directors of varying and necessary expertise and plan to move from the position of Chair as soon as we plan for our continued sponsorship of this vital ministry which has been close to our hearts for over thirty-five years.”
For over these many years, our Sisters worked and volunteered here at the House. It was work like none other as they built on the gifts of each individual resident. Cards, painting, bowling, darts, sing-a-longs, dancing, you name it, all is intended to involve the residents and make them feel good about themselves.
Birthdays, Christmas and other milestones are celebrated in great style. Some of the newer residents are emotional as they have never had a celebration of their birthdays before and they break down with tears of joy. As so many of the staff admit, they themselves come in with a smile and leave with cheerful hearts. There is a lovely positive air here at all times. We have our ups and downs, of course, that’s life, but staying down is not who we are here at Xavier House.
While I don’t work here, I’m involved with all their major activities and eat with the staff each day. That, too is something peculiar to Xavier House. They have their own Dining Room and after the residents are served first, they gather for the lunch that is provided for them. Sometimes, that’s where the most meaningful conversation takes place.
So, why would I share all of the above? I’m not part of the staff but live in the Convent area on the back of Xavier House. I mix among staff and residents and experience the above from day to day. Anyone writing up the purpose of Xavier House would probably not include these little touches but that’s what makes the House so special and different from other workplaces. Students who come here for their work terms just fall in love with the place and the residents.
When Covid restrictions are not in force, I’m ministering to the sick and elderly at the Long-Term Care Residences and other Senior’s homes, often leading a sing-a-long or visiting the sick in their own family homes. Being the choir director and organist at the Cathedral keeps me in touch with the lives and concerns of the choir members and the congregation at large.
When Covid is over, we’ll be able to continue with our plans for liturgies for the residents. One of the residents sings with the Adult choir and looks forward to Sunday morning. He has a nice voice and blends in with the other members. He just wandered up to the choir one morning and took his place among the others. Thank God, he can sing in tune and we could welcome him sincerely. So, that’s why my Presentation presence at Xavier House here in Corner Brook is so giving and special!
Xavier House is now separately incorporated with its own Board of Directors and operates as a charitable entity. While Xavier House is under the direction of Western Health, we as Presentation Sisters still hold the licence and subsidise the operation for the benefit of the residents.
Submitted by: Sr Kay Rex, pbvm
My Pastoral Ministry in Bishop Falls, NL Canada
Day to day life in Parish Ministry can bring a lot of variety, both challenging and gratifying, especially in these Covid times. I am always happy to serve and sometimes in ways that are quite unplanned or simply spontaneous and unpredictable. In Nano’s words, “if I could be of service…I would gladly do all in my power.”
In our Parish here in the small community of Bishop Falls, I primarily assist with our Catechists in coordinating the Religious Education Program Grades 1-8, including Sacramental Preparation. I am also involved in the Parish RCIA Program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). Serving in the Parish is truly a gift. The gifts go both ways, as with all our ministries.
The needs are very local and at the same time, the focus can become both ecumenical and global. That was the case with a recent World Day of Prayer Celebration when a Salvation Army Major was our guest speaker and the concentration was on the women of Zimbabwe with the theme, ‘Rise, take up your may and walk’. Our Zimbabwe connection as Presentation Sisters is very strong. We have been ‘twinning’ with our Sisters in Zimbabwe for more than twenty years and savour the connection.
During last Fall our local Knights of Columbanus members invited a group from the community to an Appreciation Luncheon to honour their community involvement. I was readily and happily counted among them along with the other catechists. In small communities like ours, Parish and community are so often synonymous.
This past Christmas, with Covid preventing our ‘Carol Sing-along’, we instead had a ‘Memory Tree’. I was again happy to participate with the Parish. The tree was decorated by our Parish Secretary with very touching white paper dove ornaments she had made bearing the names of loved ones. Families in turn made a monetary donation to the Parish which continues to be used to support Parish happenings and address Parish needs throughout the year.
Where I minister is nearly a four hour drive from our Motherhouse in St John’s. As weather and now, Covid allow, I also look forward to our gatherings with all of our Sisters from around the Province during the year ahead.
Submitted by: Sr Mary Ryan, pbvm