2021 is rapidly coming to an end and despite the scourge that is Covid, Communitas has much to celebrate!
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the celebration of 20 years of Open Door on 11 September 2021. In honour of this milestone, Communitas produced a book entitled Open Door: From the Inside Out – which contains more than 100 interviews with a variety of people who have attended Open Door over the 20 years, as well as other articles and photographs that illustrate this unique activity.
The Book Launch for the Open Door Book took place on Tuesday, 21st December on a wintery evening in the Rotunda and Square of the Open Door premises. Some 30 persons braved the cold to come and make their donations and collect their books, and although we had to cancel the hot chocolate celebratory drink that was planned (because of Covid restrictions), folks still hugely enjoyed a socially distanced encounter in the outdoors. We will be distributing the books from our offices in the New Year, and everyone is invited to use the Canada Helps Donate button on our website if they wish to support this Communitas fundraising effort. A minimum of $20 is the suggested amount.
Open Door continued unabated during 2021- albeit via zoom instead of in-person. Approximately 25-28 participants unfailingly tuned in every Tuesday night, and many new members joined Open Door so that we now have a significant number of members who have never actually experienced an in-person Open Door. Of course, sadly there was also some attrition as persons found it impossible or unsatisfactory to experience Open Door remotely. We trust that we will be able to resume the full Open Door experience post-Covid, in 2022 and that these members will be able to return. In the interim, we are working on developing a hybrid system where we can have both in-person and online participation simultaneously at Open Door.
Four Volumes of the Communitas’ signature quarterly Newsletter – The Sou’Wester were produced during 2021 to great acclaim as we made changes to our formatting, with a new more modern layout, and the usual excellent articles and cartoons. More and more people are discovering The Sou’Wester and we are getting their positive feedback – noting its excellent content!
This summer, for the second year in a row, our Annual Journee de Ressourcement at Marie’s had to be cancelled due to Covid restrictions. Instead, those who could gathered at the Old Port where we ate roast corn, watermelon and snacks and reacquainted or acquainted ourselves with what we all looked like physically. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon with many conversations and much laughter.
Our twice-monthly visits to the prisons for Chapel Activities were cut short by the restrictions imposed by the Correctional Service due to the Covid pandemic. Happily, we were able to return to the prisons in person for a few weeks – albeit with a restricted number of volunteers, where we were greeted with great joy by the inmates. Unfortunately, this reprieve was short-lived as with the onset of Omicrom, the prisons have returned to lock-down mode. We are hopeful that this will be short-lived and that we can soon be allowed back into the Chapel.
With the initial cancellation of our Chapel Activities in the prison, Communitas decided to move to Zoom and continue online with The Gospel Zone – where our usual Chapel volunteers could take part, and we could include men who are now out of prison and able to join us in this activity for the first time online.
This Christmas, Communitas was able to continue its activity – started last year, of writing Christmas cards and delivering them to inmates across the prisons in Quebec. A total of 338 cards were handwritten by Communitas members (some during one of the hybrid Open Door sessions) and these were delivered to the Prison Chaplains for distribution to English-speaking inmates. This was part of a larger effort led by Corporation Jean-Paul Morin.
We welcomed our new CoSA Coordinator Brent to Communitas. Brent quickly and seamlessly became a part of the team, making connections and forging relationships among our members and with CSC Chaplains.
Another new member joining the team was Natasha our Intern who immediately assisted us to get up to speed with all things technical in moving from an online-only Open Door to experimenting with a hybrid system.
A new Board of Directors was elected in April, and despite (or maybe because of) only being able to meet online, had a very productive period, meeting 8 times via zoom – including 1 Planning Retreat – to conduct the business of Communitas. We are blessed to have a very engaged and hands-on Board of Directors.
Our move from our Notre Dame Street offices to the Undercroft of Christ Church Cathedral not only saved us funds through lowered rent but also made us more visible and accessible to the Cathedral community, which has supported our Open Door programme for the past 15 years through the provision free of charge of Fulford Hall every Tuesday night.
As we look forward to 2022, we wish for our members a healthy and happy New Year, and trust that Communitas will only grow stronger and be able to accomplish more, with the support we receive from every single one.
Michele Rattray-Huish, President
Mouvement Communitas Inc.