Citing financial difficulties, the Anglican Sisters of St. John the Divine (SSJD) and the diocese of Montreal have jointly agreed that the sisters will leave St. John’s House/ Maison St-Jean Montreal at St. Lambert, Que., when the lease expires this June, and move back to the SSJD convent in Toronto.
“The issues leading to this decision are complex; however, both the diocese and the sisters would like to see us better able to minister in the diocese without being housed in a large but underused facility,” said Bishop Barry Clarke of Montreal, in a statement issued on behalf of Sr. Elizabeth Ann Eckert, SSJD Reverend Mother.
“Over the course of the years, the Government of Quebec added school taxes which had to be paid on the property in addition to the lease, adding a further financial burden to the diocese of Montreal, already struggling to continue to minister faithfully to its people,” said Bishop Clarke.
Last February, the sisters marked the 10th anniversary of their “ministry of prayer and presence” in the diocese. The diocese rented the house for the order and four sisters were in residence, said Sr. Margaret Mary of SSJD in an interview.
Bishop Clarke said the diocese and the SSJD are exploring new ways for the sisters to make their ministry available to the diocese and to the whole Ecclesiastical (church) Province of Canada, which includes all dioceses east of and including Quebec.
Members of the order will be available in one- or two-week periods for retreats and other events, staying with associates and other friends, said Sr. Margaret Mary.
The new plan will also allow other sisters, in addition to the four who were in Montreal, to visit and minister and will allow the sisterhood to train more sisters in mission and retreats, said Bishop Clarke’s statement.
Before operating St. John’s House, the sisters conducted mission work in the parish of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Montreal from 1929 to 1963. The sisters returned in 1998 at the invitation of the diocese and offered a community “committed to being a praying presence.” They preached, taught and led retreats and quiet days. They also participated in ecumenical and inter-faith activities and served on a variety of diocesan committees at the Diocesan Theological College.
The SSJD was founded in 1884 by Hannah Grier Coome and is entirely Canadian in origin.