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Communitas Looks Back at 2021 Achievements!

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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.

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.

Communitas Annual Appeal

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To our dear friends and supporters!

Communitas has undergone several significant changes in 2021, including moving office to the Undercroft of Christ Church Cathedral, and hiring a new part-time Coordinator, Brent Walker, for our crucial Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) operations.

Our signature Open Door program has continued virtually on Zoom and we have been very pleased with the weekly attendance of 25-30 persons.  We have started testing a hybrid Open Door (Zoom plus in-person attendance at Fulford Hall) and are hopeful that we can soon have more in-person participation.

In other good news, our volunteers have finally been allowed to resume penitentiary visits to participate in chaplaincy activities.  The palpable joy of both inmates and volunteers at that first visit after an absence of 18+ months was beautiful to see.

Other prison visits are taking place now that the Correctional Service (CSC) is relaxing Covid lock-down regulations.  We are reconnecting with men who want the support of a Circle when they are released, and we are offering one-on-one pastoral accompaniment to the men during their incarceration.

It is hoped that our volunteer drivers will soon be escorting incarcerated men on Temporary Absences once again to our Tuesday evening Open Door meetings.

While we continue to offer our services to the community, the national CoSA Canada five-year federal funding package comes to an end next March, and with it, the bulk (80%) of our funding. Coincidently, because of changes in the Federal government’s priorities, our funding from Montreal Community Chaplaincy (ACM) also ended this year after 21 years of support, leaving us wholly dependent on donations received from our members, supporters and the general public.

As we start our annual fundraising drive, Communitas welcomes your donations for our activities and appeals for your support of our efforts to reduce Covid’s aggravation of the already endemic isolation the incarcerated suffer during their enforced distancing from family, friends, and the community.

Donors are invited to contribute to  Communitas through the  Canada  Helps button on our website www.communitasmontreal.org.  Cheques are also welcome and can be mailed to the new Communitas office address which appears on our letterhead.

We also encourage you to become a monthly contributor to our Organization.  This will assist with our long-term planning, especially given the upcoming changes in our funding base at the end of this Fiscal Year.

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all members, supporters and well-wishers for your financial and moral support, without which, our work could not succeed.

 

Michele Rattray-Huish, President
Mouvement Communitas Inc.
1444 Union Avenue, Montreal QC, H3A 2B8 Tel: +1 514 244 6147 www.communitasmontreal.org

Open Door marks 20 Years since its first gathering!

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September 11, 2021Open Door celebrated the 20th anniversary of its very first gathering yesterday, September 11, 2001. Two dozen Communitas members gathered informally while practicing social distancing in Montreal’s Old Port. It was great to see old faces in the flesh and meet new ones that had only been visible on Zoom. Individual drinks and bags of chips along with slices of watermelon were handed out and participants took home cobs of corn to cook as Communitas once more had to forgo its annual corn roast due to Covid restrictions. It was a most enjoyable gettogetheOpen Door 20th Anniversary GatheringOpen Door 20th Anniversary GatheringOpen Door 20th Anniversary GatheringOpen Door 20th Anniversary Gatheringr.

Sou’Wester Summer Edition 2021

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Click on the image to read the Summer  2021 Edition of the Sou’Wester, Communitas’ quarterly newsletter.

Sou'Wester Summer 2021

 

August News at Communitas

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August ushers in some major changes at Communitas including moving office locations, and the hiring of a new CoSA coordinator to be part of a new dynamic coordination team aimed at serving Communitas members more effectively.

The Communitas office is moving from Notre Dame St. West in St. Henri to the newly refurbished Undercroft at Christ Church Cathedral, located at 635 St. Catherine Street West.  Communitas members are familiar with the Undercroft, our backup meeting place for Open Door when Fulford Hall is unavailable.  The move is effective August 1st and our new mailing address will be Le Mouvement Communitas, 1444 Union Avenue, Montreal QC, H3A 2B8.  The telephone number will remain the same: 514-244-6147.

Brent Walker will join the coordination team as CoSA Operations Coordinator, working with Circles of support and accountability and being in contact with those in prison and those who have left prison.  Brent has worked as a prison chaplain, a volunteer in prison ministry and in many faith communities across Canada.  He brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge that our members will find engaging.

Monika Barbe-Wenzel will continue in a part-time capacity, being the administrative link between CoSA Canada and Communitas.  Jeri Pitzel and Bill Kokesch will continue in their roles as part of the coordination team.   Peter Huish will temporarily take on the role of Coordinator, being the link between the coordination team and the Board of Directors.

Two new members were elected to the Board in May: Sabrina Tucci, a chaplain at the Federal Training Centre in Laval, and Gordon Pargelen, a long-time Communitas member.  Bill Kokesch resigned from the Board to devote more time to the Coordination Team.

For more information, contact: communications@communitasmontreal.org

Getting into Harvard or being admitted to palliative care

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In November, 2020, Communitas volunteer Marlyn Silverstone was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a part of the body’s germ fighting network.  Marlyn’s health journey took her from chemotherapy to failing organs and then transition to palliative care.

In this first of two articles, Marlyn shares her thoughts and emotions of this perilous time in her life.

Click here to read the pdf article

Communitas Membership Renewal, Nominations to the Board of Directors, and the 2021 Annual General Meeting

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DEAR MEMBERS OF COMMUNITAS,

Our Annual General Meeting will take place Wednesday, May 26th from 7 pm to 9 pm. Once again, due to measures in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the meeting will take place virtually on Zoom.  All the pertinent documents for the AGM will be sent out by email in the days prior to the meeting.

One of the requirements for the AGM is to have a quorum of members present. It is very important for you to respond to this email stating your intention to continue as a member.  Please indicate your intention by replying to this email. 

Membership will also ensure that you are able to vote at the AGM, including the election of members to the Board of Directors.

Any member can be nominated for the board after being supported by five voting members, according to the procedure set out in the linked document.  All nominations must be filed by the first Tuesday in May (May 4th). A link to the nomination form is also included.

If you have any questions, please direct these to our Coordinator, Monika Barbe, at your earliest convenience at coordinator@communitasmontreal.org.

Thank you,

Bill Kokesch
Board Chairman

Nomination and Election of the Members of the Board of Directors of Communitas

Nomination Form – Board of Directors

Your feedback is always welcome.

Communitas
Coordinator@communitasmontreal.org