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With Open Arms and Open Heart… Marguerite Bourgeoys: A Woman of Love and Compassion


Prayer Service

October 2019



“ Several years later, there came to Montreal about 17 of the King’s wards. I went to meet them at the shore, believing that we must open wide the doors of the Blessed Virgin’s house to all young women. “

Writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys, p. 178

Marguerite’s openness was a gesture of human compassion towards a group of young women who must have been at least uncertain and in all probability lonely and frightened, however brash an exterior some may have presented. In the time spent with them, Marguerite presumably initiated them into the innumerable skills necessary for the mistress of a pioneer household. But even more important, she established a relationship with them. Whatever difficulties they later experienced, they had someone in whom they could confide.

(from Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal 1640-1665, pp 167-168, by Patricia Simpson, CND)


As we gather today, may we be inspired by Marguerite’s example to reach out to people in our midst who are weak or wounded, who are lost or lonely, who are excluded or exiled, who are hurting or hungry, who are unhappy or unwanted, who are broken or bitter, who are vulnerable or voiceless.


In this place, gathered in God’s name, we become quiet and still in the presence of the sacred

to reflect on how we can more fully love and serve with compassion. 




Opening Prayer

All:  Marguerite, woman of love and compassion, help us to deepen our understanding of what it means to love and serve with compassion.  Pray for us, so that like you, we may walk in the footsteps of Mary--going to others in the Spirit of Visitation, offering openness to the outsider, welcoming the unwanted, and giving solace to the stranger.  Amen.


Reader 1

A reading from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians. 


As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.

(Colossians 3:12-16)


(quiet reflection)


Reader 2

Adapted from a reflection written by Kathy Murtha, Associate, Visitation Province Toronto, Ontario, for the 400th anniversary monthly email reflection (August, 2019) Marguerite: A Woman Who Compassionately Lived on the Peripheries


In the powerful and poignant action of going to the shore, Marguerite truly fulfilled her burning desire and commitment to follow the journeying life of Mary who “arose and went with haste to the hill country” to greet Elizabeth.  In the above revealing passage of her memoire, we get a glimpse of a woman who remains firmly true to her guiding principles and vision, while humbly and graciously allowing room for those who saw differently and disagreed with her actions. (What a skill!)


What I admire most about our beloved Marguerite is her phenomenal generosity of spirit. She is love in motion with arms wide open. The renowned sculptor, Jules Lasalle, brilliantly captured this essential feature of Marguerite in his 1988 sculpture entitled “Hommage à Marguerite Bourgeoys.” Religious statues are normally static and not all that inviting. This one takes my breath away.  Marguerite traveled with arms wide open. And with a little help from Marguerite, perhaps I can, too.


(quiet reflection)


Reader 3

Excerpt from Here and Now: Living in the Spirity by Henri Nouwen, Crossroad, 1994, pp. 109-110, “God’s Heart”


It is very important to realize that compassion is more than sympathy or empathy. When we are asked to listen to the pains of people and empathize with their suffering, we soon reach our emotional limits. We can listen only for a short time and only to a few people. In our society, we are bombarded with so much "news" about human misery that our hearts easily get numbed simply because of overload. But God's compassionate heart does not have limits. God's heart is greater, infinitely greater, than the human heart. It is that divine heart that God wants to give to us so that we can love all people without burning out or becoming numb. It is for this compassionate heart that we pray when we say: "A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit" (Ps 51). The Holy Spirit of God is given to us so that we can become participants in God's compassion and so reach out to all people at all times with God's heart.


Personal Reflection and  Group Sharing (from 400th anniversary August 2019 reflection)

Please choose one question/response to share during the group reflection time.

  1. Recall a time when you have experienced the open arms of a CND Sister or Associate. How has that experience impacted your life?
  2. What hinders you from living life with arms wide open?                             
  3. What new shores are beckoning you to welcome and embrace?




Closing Prayer (adapted from


Loving and Compassionate God,

open our eyes to see,

our ears to listen,

our minds to learn,                                                              

our hearts to be accepting of others,

and our hands to be more giving toward all in need

especially as we continue to live the CND Orientation for 2016-2021…

Rooted in Jesus Christ, in love and compassion, we...

live interculturality,

go to the peripheries,

and honor and respect our common home.


You are among us as one who serves.

Each day, we desire to serve prayerfully with faithfulness,

so that we may come to a deeper awareness of Your loving presence.

Help us to serve intentionally with love and humility on this earthly journey leading to eternal life.

Teach us to serve genuinely with compassion that we may see You in all people, creatures, and things that you have created.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Song (optional)



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