Hello! My name is Sr. Suzanne…I am a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. I was born in Belgium and came to Canada with my parents and my two brothers (one older, one younger) when I was 10 years old. We were a very close family. The war years had made us so. Although we were not particularly religious, I was influenced both by my parents’ staunch faith and by my older brother’s desire to become a priest from the age of six.
When I got to Grade IX, I went to a boarding school run by the Sisters of the Presentation, and that was my first meeting with them. The first night, as I lay in my narrow little cot in the huge dorm with 30 other girls, I heard the Sisters singing the Salve Regina in the chapel just below us, and it was so angelic, that I had visions of being part of that heavenly court! It was the typical romantic dream of a lonely 14yr old away from home for the first time!
By the time I was in Grade XII, this romantic dream had become much more realistic. I admired the Sisters and loved them, especially my homeroom teacher, who was young, bright, fun, and totally dedicated to the Lord. She was the model of the kind of person I wanted to be, and community life attracted me a great deal. I therefore decided to join the Congregation. At the time, it was not so much a desire for a personal relationship with Christ that attracted me. It was especially community life and teaching.
When I told my parents that I wanted to join the Congregation, they were not terribly impressed! They thought I was too young at 17, that I had not had a chance to see the world, that I had been influenced by the Sisters, etc. They asked me to wait at least a year, so that I could grow up! However, when one is 17 years old, a year is a lifetime! So, I was actually thinking of leaving home without my parents’ consent, when my older brother convinced me to wait and test my vocation. I certainly did!
It was during that year, that I began to know and love Jesus as the Person I wanted to dedicate my life to, no matter what I would be asked to do. It was during that year that I was able to really choose Christ, not just drift with the flow. By the end of the year, my parents were convinced that I meant to become a religious, so they gave their consent, and I left with 6 other young women for the Novitiate in St. Hyacinth, Quebec.
During those years of formation and training, I grew to love our foundress, Marie Rivier, a young French woman, with a soul of fire, who was nothing and had nothing but who challenged the forces of the French Revolution and founded an Order at the very time that others were being dissolved. She stressed living Jesus Christ and living community. She had an unlimited trust in Mary, and did everything with the steadfast assurance that Our Lady would never let her down. And Mary never did!
In the last 52 years since my First Profession, I have had my share of tough times but so many more rewarding, fulfilling times. It is living the Resurrection mystery: the triumph of Life over the death of selfishness and self-centredness. It is loving Jesus Christ and recognizing Him in the students I taught for 34 years. It is failing and accepting failure as stepping stones to a greater trust in the One who never abandons us, and leaning on the Community, and finding the strength to start over again because of Christ and because of each one of my Sisters. It is choosing to love because I have been loved so infinitely first of all. It is a life I would not exchange for anything in the world!