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Being Truly Aware of God’s Presence and God’s Call

Stéphanie Manseau

“I made profession in 1951. My name is Georgina MacInnis. I’m a very happy Congrégation de Notre-Dame Sister. I had a real definite conviction that that’s where I was to spend my life, and I never looked back.”

 

Sister Georgina did not always want to be a religious. She had decided after high school to go to Teacher’s College but, she says “I wasn’t even convinced after that that I wanted to teach!” She thought she would try it for a year. She was only 18, and taught in 8 grades in a small town along the Atlantic Ocean. None of the children in the school were Catholic: Sister Georgina had really opted for a situation that was different from all she knew. That radical choice lead her to an even more radical one after that, as she decided to enter religious life.

 

“I fought against being a religious. I really fought against it until I was in a situation where I felt really called to do something about a situation that I said: I’m called to do this! And that’s exactly what Marguerite was, called for something.” Sister Georgina adds that Marguerite Bourgeoys was, to her, “so many years beyond her time in her thought.”

 

So what happened to make her go up the big stone steps at Holy Angels, ring the doorbell and say: “I hear there’s an opportunity for people go to Montreal and see if they fit into this Congregation of Notre Dame” and never turn back? There was an awareness that yes, God really exists. Sister Georgina had the children in her classroom say a prayer every day, which was the Protestant version of the “Our Father.” One child in class questioned this, saying he didn’t believe in God, because his father was an atheist. She had said to the child that was OK – some people don’t believe in God, but she did. Of course she did. She had never questioned why, but how would she answer if people challenged her? Sister Georgina read and studied, became convinced, “and that really triggered in me the realization that so many people are out there and they don’t have the opportunity to become aware of God’s presence.”

 

Sister Georgina feels blessed to “carry the message of what the Visitation was to Marguerite Bourgeoys.” She will happily “delve into books and videos that put us in harmony with who we are,” attributing “a great deal of that to the leadership of our Pope, who is just open to everyone in the world because we’re all part of this wonderful universe.” For three years, Sister Georgina ministered at a Congrégation de Notre-Dame house of hospitality in Pictou. She also speaks fondly of the Renewal Centre in Mabou: “People from all walks of life go to Mabou and spend a weekend or a week in retreat or whatever. And when I went to Mabou, this past year, (…)  it was just a marvellous experience. I saw all these people. (…) I was able to show videos to them and chat in between about the significance of the message of Pope Francis. And it’s very enlightening.” 

 

Now that she, along with other sisters of the Congregation, lives in a retirement home in Sydney, she finds that “we live the Visitation when we care for one another… We’re not able here, in a sense, to be with the poor, but there are many, many situations where it’s like an in-house thing and you can find your poor right here: you can find the lonely…” Sister Georgina’s current ministry is thus one of presence; people have many questions, “and we can be a witness, we can be a presence to them.”

 

After spending 20 years as a high school principal in Sydney (Holy Angels), Sister Georgina had felt she missed teaching and returned to it for a few more years before she retired. She taught computers and was a librarian, an experience she truly enjoyed and which she still puts to good use. Sister Georgina is always available to anyone who needs help with their computers – another great way to just be “present.” “I feel we have a tremendous mission that’s very different from what we have lived most of our lives,” says Sister Georgina. While it is true she no longer lives in a convent, her means of presence may change but the mission remains, and Sister Georgina keeps answering her call.

 

 

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