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A letter from Stella

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Our fantastic volunteer Stella recently wrote recently wrote a reflection piece about her experience with us, and we are proud to post a translated version here. You can read the original French version below the English translation.

I came to Open Door unexpectedly and without particular expectations. I found friendly faces and kindly smiles. I was impressed by the relevance of the presentations that I found offered constructive initiatives and a broader world view. I particularly enjoyed the spiritual thoughts at the beginning of each session that inevitably led to meditation and introspection. Furthermore, I will fondly remember these non-judgemental contacts, the cordial discussions, the times of sharing which generate and create a true community: Communitas.

Entering the penitentiary on Thursdays was a way for me to be closer to the reality of the inmates by being in the environment in which they actually evolve. The Bible studies that I was allowed to join in this context were a real lesson of life and humility. These spaces of exchanges are a breeding ground to self-expression. I discovered men and women, volunteers and inmates, with the power to put themselves into words. Each of the testimonies highlights authentic states of being. These times of communion which give importance to interiority, to the family place in our daily life, to the projects that animate us are profoundly liberating. And this space thus created in us is now able to be filled and nourished by the reading and study of the Scriptures. I appreciated the open-mindedness of these Bible studies. Indeed, the values ​​advocated literally exceed the notion of religious affiliation. It is a question here of universality in the relationship to the Divine. Respect as a base, speech is free and listening, active.

During these few months working alongside Communitas, I did not see any prisoners. I saw Men as different, and as similar. Sensitivity, goodness, the art of speech or just silence, sarcastic humor, simplicity of being, soothing tranquility, welcoming sympathy and wisdom are qualities that I have noticed and have been able appreciate. I never wanted to know why they were there because I believe that it is not our experiences that define our true nature. We are much more than that and it is up to us to work to reveal our part of divine. I saw behind these walls only Light and Love. I am happy to see that many of us cultivate our inner world. I am convinced that each of us can contemplate beautiful landscapes. I may be far from the reality of detention but I feel that by looking inwards, it is possible to transcend one’s captivity, to access the liberation of one’s self and the true definition of resilience.

With love and deep gratitude,

Stella

J’ai franchi les portes d’Open Door sans le moindre à priori et sans attentes particulières. J’y ai découvert des visages amicaux et des sourires bienveillants. Je souligne la pertinence des présentations qui offrent un panel d’initiatives constructives et une vision du monde plus élargie. J’ai apprécié ces tours de table et ces pensées spirituelles en ouverture de chaque séance qui poussent inévitablement à la réflexion et à l’introspection. Et je garderai en mémoire ces contacts naturels et sans jugement, ces échanges cordiaux, ces temps de partage qui fédèrent et créent une véritable communauté : Communitas.

Intervenir au pénitencier les jeudis était une façon pour moi d’être au plus près de la réalité des détenus en étant dans un environnement dans lequel ils évoluent réellement. Les études bibliques auxquelles j’ai pu prendre part dans ce contexte ont été une véritable leçon de vie et d’humilité. Ces espaces d’échanges sont un terrain bénéfique à l’expression de soi. J’y ai découvert des hommes et des femmes, bénévoles et détenus, ayant le pouvoir de se mettre en mots. Chacun des témoignages met en lumière d’authentiques états d’être. Ces temps de communion qui accordent de l’importance à l’intériorité, à la place de la famille dans notre quotidien, aux projets qui nous animent sont profondément libérateurs. Et cet espace ainsi créé en nous est désormais apte à être rempli et nourri par la lecture et l’étude des Ecritures. J’ai apprécié, dans ces études bibliques, l’ouverture d’esprit qui y réside. En effet, les valeurs prônées dépassent littéralement la notion d’appartenance religieuse. Il est question ici d’universalité dans le rapport au Divin. Le respect pour base, la parole est libre et l’écoute, active.

De ces quelques mois à œuvrer aux côtés de Communitas, je n’ai pas vu de détenus. J’ai vu des Hommes aussi différents que semblables. Sensibilité, bonté, l’art de la parole et du silence juste, l’humour sarcastique, simplicité d’être, tranquillité apaisante, sympathie accueillante et sagesse sont autant de qualités que j’ai pu souligner. Je n’ai jamais voulu connaître les raisons pour lesquelles ils se trouvaient en ces lieux car j’ai la conviction que ce ne sont pas nos expériences qui définissent notre véritable nature. Nous sommes bien plus que cela et il ne tient qu’à nous de travailler à révéler notre part de divin. Je n’ai vu derrière ces murs, que Lumière et Amour. Et je me fais une joie de constater que nous sommes nombreux à cultiver notre monde intérieur. Je suis d’ailleurs persuadée que chacun de nous pourra y contempler de superbes paysages. Je suis peut-être loin de la réalité de la détention mais j’ai le sentiment qu’en tournant son regard vers l’intérieur, il est tout-à-fait possible de transcender sa captivité, d’accéder à la libération de Soi et à la définition même de la résilience.

Avec Amour et profonde gratitude.

– Stella –

Congratulations to Communitas volunteer Serena Lopes!

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A big congratulations to long time Communitas volunteer Serena Lopes who was recently awarded the Prix Claude-Masson for young volunteers for the region of Montreal. Serena was awarded the prize in part due to her volunteer work with Communitas supporting prisoners and former prisoners on the inside and the outside. Serena’s citation (you can read the full text HERE) also notes the fantastic work she does by providing care for children while their parents appear at Youth Court. We’re proud to have exemplary community-minded volunteers like Serena working with us as we build better lives by helping prisoners and former prisoners meet the challenges of reintegration!

Scholarship deadline extended!

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To allow for the most applications possible we are extending the deadline for the Communitas scholarship until 23:59 Eastern Time on March 10, 2019. An updated application form that reflects the new deadline can be found here: Communitas_Scholarship_Extension

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Thanks to those who contributed to our matching campaign in memory of Hugh MacCormack

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Dear Communitas members and friends,

We are thrilled to announce that as a result of our open invitation to honour our long-time member Hugh MacCormack who died last year, as of 31 December 2018 a total of $6,068.68 was pledged in support of Communitas.

With the matching funds pledged by a generous anonymous donor, this means that Communitas has gone past halfway to achieving its goal of raising $24,000 to make up the shortfall in its 2018-19 budget.

We give thanks for all the generous donations received in memory of Hugh.

Hugh’s contribution continues

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Dear Communitas members and friends,

Communitas lost a longtime member in 2018.  Hugh MacCormack, passionate about the work of bringing just solutions to incarceration, died before many of his dreams were accomplished.

We invite those who care for the cause to honour his memory by   making a donation to the work of Communitas.

THANKS TO ONE OF OUR DONORS, EVERY DONATION GIVEN IN HUGH’S MEMORY WILL BE MATCHED, THUS DOUBLING ITS IMPACT.

This offer ends on 31 December 2018

Below is a link to the Communitas site where donations can be made on-line.  Please label your donation ‘In memory of Hugh’.

https://communitasmontreal.org/donate/

Cheques should be addressed to Mouvement Communitas – with a reference to ‘In memory of Hugh MacCormack’.

Best regards,

Peter Huish

Chairman

Mouvement Communitas

Our new website

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Communitas is proud to announce the launch of our new website! In addition to a fresh new look the website now prominently features our new video about the challenges of reintegration, new ways to donate directly to Communitas and help us achieve our $24000 fundraising goal, an updated About us page that introduces our staff and board, and this space in which we can let you know about significant events or changes happening in our community. The improvements don’t end there, however; in the coming weeks we’ll be launching a reference bank for resources for prisoners and their families.

In addition to these exciting changes, some aspects of the new site will be familiar to long-time Communitas supporters, including information about all our activities, access to the Sou’Wester, our fantastic grassroots newsletter, and information on how you can get involved in our work.

We’re thrilled to be able to launch this new site as we look forward to providing ever more support to those returning to the community. Our sincere thanks to all the people who worked hard to make the new site a reality, and in particular the Social Service Society of Christ Church Cathedral whose generous grant supported its development!