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Prayer Service: Marguerite Bourgeoys and Liberating Education

CND Associates, Blessed Sacrament Province

“To be Christian is a journey of liberation. 

The commandments liberate you from your own self-centerdness,

and they liberate you because there is 

God’s love to carry you forward.” --Pope Francis

Leader:  This year, as part of our on-going formation as Associates, our focus has been on Marguerite Bourgeoys and Liberating Education.  We met earlier this year for Part 1--the meaning of liberating education and the liberating goals Marguerite had as an educator. Today we will read and discuss Part 2—what Marguerite said about what is required or necessary for our actions to be truly liberating. 

Let us take a few moments of quiet before we begin…asking the Holy Spirit, Mary, and Marguerite to be with us.   

Song

Opening Prayer:  Prayer to St. Marguerite Bourgeoys  

St. Marguerite, your trust in God, boundless enthusiasm, and missionary spirit inspires us. 

Pray for us …

--that we may be zealous in our vocations and our missions—trusting God 

  and following God’s will

--that we may be brave as you were in little choices as well as in big decisions, 

  not letting fear hold us back from accomplishing our goals 

--that we may be steadfast on our route to God, performing everything for the 

  glory of God.  Amen.  (adapted from www.warriorofgod.net)

Read Liberating Education (see “Marguerite Bourgeoys and Liberating Education” by Jeannine Sevigny, CND, below)

Reflection Questions

Use the following questions for reflection.  Please choose only oneto share for today’s gathering.

  1. Where do I need liberating in my own life so that I can more fully share in the liberation of others?
  2. Am I liberated enough to reach out and draw close to impoverished persons, to share something of the reality of their lives, and to support or comfort them in their difficulties?
  3. Does my way of being and acting inspire in others the desire to work at their own liberation and that of others?
  4. Do I have any skills, acquired through study or experience, that I could share with other persons to help them to free themselves from ignorance or slavery or oppression?

Sharing

Intentions

Closing Prayer

Jesus, Brother and Liberator, 

Set me free to love all people--not just those of my own “tribe”, those who share my prejudices, and those who simply make me feel good about me. Give me a greater love for the “least and the lost” especially those on the peripheries.

Set me free to love well in messy, broken relationships with courage and kindness. Set me free to live as an ambassador of reconciliation; a Spirit-filled peacemaker; a conduit of your restorative grace. 

Set me free, liberate me, so that I may use the gifts you have given me to share in the liberation of others.   We ask this in your Holy Name.  Amen. (adapted from www.thegospelcoalition.org)

Song


“Marguerite Bourgeoys and Liberating Education” by Jeannine Sevigny, CND

Excerpts from HERITAGE/NUMBER 19, August 1994. Pages 25 to 36

Note:  If you would like to read the entire booklet, you may find it on-line at: https://bit.ly/2FV3PD9

Requirements for a liberating education according to Marguerite Bourgeoys

First requirement:  to go out

When Marguerite and her sisters went on mission to educate in secularor religious matters, they went out to meet the people (adults or children) where they lived--often facing serious difficulties.

At first the Sisters went on temporary missions--leaving the house in Ville Marie to go out to where the colonists had settled in order to prepare the children to receive the sacraments.  Then, when the number of children grew and resources were adequate, the Sisters established permanent missions.  In each one, they opened a little school and an extern congregation.  After a few years, each Sister in turn went back to the mother house to renew her strength because living conditions on the missions were even more difficult than at Ville Marie.

Today, any work of liberating education still demands that we be missionaries in one way or another. Sisters and Associates who are able must go out to others because, more often than not, those who are in need of being liberated are people who do not come to us.  And that is exactly what Marguerite Bourgeoys wanted her Sisters to be:  missionaries, “wanderers rather than cloistered”, imitating Mary who “never excused herself from any journey on which there was good to be done or some work of charity to be performed”.  Sisters and Associates who are “behind the scenes” due to age, health issues, or retirement continue to share in this mission; they are a vital source of prayer, support, and energy for others.

Second requirement:  to love unconditionally

The requirement for truly liberating education most strongly insisted upon by Marguerite was an unconditional love of the person.  In the following passage from her Writings(p. 201), Marguerite speaks of doing one’s work: with purity of intention, without distinction between the poor and the rich, between relatives and friends and strangers, between the pretty and the ugly, the gentle and the grumblers, looking upon them all as drops of Our Lord’s blood.

This is her way of telling us to what extent she gave priority to loving the neighbor as God does, that is, unconditionally.  Marguerite Bourgeoys desired that love of neighbor be the rule of life par excellencefor the missionary Sister of the Congregation.

Third requirement:  to be personally liberated

Often in the Writing of Marguerite Bourgeoys, we find a beautiful old word which has to do with liberating education.  It is the word edification.  Marguerite wrote….”that we be singled out (not by particular clothing or some visible mark) but by the sound education of children…and by edification(the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually) of our neighbor…” (Writings, p. 82)

Our words, actions, and our very beings must give witness to others and contribute to their education and liberation.  In order to do this, one has to be liberated personally or at least to be moving forward toward one’s own liberation.  Marguerite Bourgeoys taught her Sisters how to achieve this liberation.  She encouraged them to identify obstacles to their freedom and to break away from these shackles. She spoke to them about obeying the interior rule rather than being slaves to the exterior rule, to follow the way of divine wisdom rather than that of human judgment, to become “little, humble, and poor”.  Marguerite stressed the importance of freeing one’s ear and one’s heart, in order to be able to listen, to accept “the invasion of the poor” into one’s life, to dialogue and to experience mutuality.

For Marguerite, it was only by liberating themselves that the Sisters in their missions would contribute to the liberation of others. She also realized how important it was for the group to have the status of an uncloistered Congregation so that the Sisters might be free to extend their mission by drawing close to the people, especially to those most in need. She struggled to maintain this status in spite of pressure from ecclesiastical authorities.

Conclusion

Our call to liberating education is not merely an individual call.  As a community, we must pursue the work of evangelization and humanization with the same liberating goals but in new ways since historical circumstances are different.  There must be a freedom to be constantly innovative in our educational activities; therein lies the creative fidelity to the mission of the Congregation of Notre Dame which is asked of us.

To summarize the elements that are essential for us…

We pursue the work of liberating education begun by Marguerite Bourgeoys each time our actions contribute to liberation:

--by liberating ourselves personally and collectively as a Congregation

--by loving others unconditionally

--by reaching out to others, especially the most deprived or those least able to come to us

--by offering them the witness of a life guided and liberated by the Gospel

--by helping them in concrete ways to liberate themselves from whatever is an obstacle to their

  dignity or to their Christian life and to help them commit themselves in their turn to the 

  liberation of others

--by being a source of prayer, support, and energy for the leaders (as we age and retire)

If Marguerite were with us now, she would encourage us to make every effort, insofar as we are able, to further the cause of liberating education in order to eliminate every obstacle to the growth and development of persons, since all is sacred and all should be consecrated.

 

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