Aldo, the doe-eyed liturgical donkey of the Anglican diocese of Quebec-a local celebrity in his own right-is featured on the cover and inside the diocesan 2014 calendar, the sales of which will benefit the diocese’s green ministries.
The calendar also features “Aldo’s friends,” including Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. The month of May has Hiltz performing “dung duty” with the Rev. Cynthia Patterson, co-ordinator of the national church’s suicide prevention program and the wife of Dennis Drainville, bishop of Quebec.
Drainville himself is the calendar subject for November, along with Aldo and his goat companion, Alli.
“The calendar is bilingual and promotes a theology of environmental awareness and action through quotations and ‘living well’ tips,” said Patterson. It includes verses, eco-tips, recipes and images “intended to incorporate earth stewardship” in daily life.
The calendar, which sells for $12, plus $3 shipping, is now in its second year
Calendar sales fund the diocese’s outreach mission with Maison Charlotte, which provides lodging and meals for women in need; outreach with members of the L’Arche community, which includes people with developmental disabilities; the construction, installation and planting of raised beds for community gardens; purchase of bike racks and the installation of benches and picnic tables.
The green ministries initiative, which began as a pilot project, received a grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Fund in 2013.
“In 2014, we aim to offer the good news of this model to encourage other parishes within and beyond our diocese to ‘green ministries,'” said Patterson. “As the project goes in 2014, we will shared the increased yields with the local food bank, and work to deepen links with low-income individuals and families, inviting them to garden here.”
Proceeds of calendar sales also fund the presence of Aldo and Alli in the Bishop’s Garden of the Cathedral Close for 10 months of the year. The animals join outdoor services and special liturgies and “engage daily in ministry and mission with dozens of people who visit them.”
Aldo and Alli have “changed neighbourhood life for the better on rue des Jardins,” according to the green ministries website. They moved beside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in late autumn 2011, and they have brought people together in unimaginable ways, the website states. “Where else but at ‘Aldo’s Wall’ would a senior servant talk with a homeless person; a parking attendant discuss with a waitress the role of a donkey in the Christmas story; a nun share treats of carrots and celery with a cleaning woman from the Clarendon?”
Aldo’s and Alli’s closest friends now include students from the Ursuline convent, street musicians and artists, and civil servants from various provincial offices, said Patterson. “Their most loyal friends include elderly people living on their own and homeless.” It is, adds Patterson, “the miracle of reconnecting with nature in the heart of the city.”
The story of how the unlikely pair became, as CBC called them -“the delight of Old Quebec”-has received a lot of press over the years.
Sarah Blair, a member of the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, recounted to the Chronicle Telegraph the serendipitous way in which Aldo came into her family’s life.
Years ago, they had gone on pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago de Compostela and had rented two donkeys for the journey. “The donkeys delighted other pilgrims, and we became known as the ‘donkey family.’ ” Upon returning to Canada, Blair said she wanted to have donkeys because she knew they would have the same therapeutic effect on people here.
Aldo came to Blair and her family’s life when a friend sent him to offer cheer to one of Blair’s children during an illness. Alli would have gone to the slaughterhouse had she not been rescued to provide companionship to Aldo. The two had been kept on a farm during the summer, but there was nowhere to shelter them for the winter.
Blair had thought of boarding the animals at the Cathedral but decided to conduct some research beforehand to see what role donkeys have played in the city’s history. “Donkeys were important here, long before horses. They go all the way back to 1632. Donkeys have been living in the old city since it was built,” she said. “In fact, the first donkey lived right where ours is now. Aldo is living history.”
In the calendar, Blair adds: “The Recollect Fathers and neighbouring Ursuline convent used to maintain gardens connected by a footpath in the heart of the city. Now known as rue des Jardins, little evidence remains here of this productive history.” Aldo and Alli-cared for by Blair, who comes twice a day to feed them- have brought the cathedral family closer and its neighbours together in a wonderful way, she said. “When I think about all the secrets of this city, like the bees and chickens at the Chateau Frontenac, it just fits.”
For more information on how to order a calendar, click here . Cheques can also be made to: Anglican Diocese of Quebec “Green Ministries” and mailed to: 31 rue des Jardins, Quebec, QC G1R 4L6.