Perhaps you want to know how I, Aimé Van Thong Do, a friar who has always lived in the small fraternities of our Franciscan Province, now feels after being appointed the new guardian of the largest convent of the Canadian Province? This time, I am not coming as a visitor, but to live here and be the guardian!
When I accepted the position of guardian of the Rosemont fraternity, I knew that I was accepting to move twice: Once to the big convent of the Resurrection, which is now almost empty and ready to be sold, and then a second time to a new convent. It will be smaller but renovated and better adapted to the reality of our new fraternity. It counts only 9 friars, but all born in different cultures and countries: Quebec, Ontario, Congo, Germany, and Vietnam. The community will be a mix of friars from different cultures, ages and personalities.
I guess all this did not bother me! I hit the new ground calmly and at peace. I started to get to know the house and the brothers. I gradually learned how things are done in the house and what needs to be known of the house. I observed that the pandemic has left its traces. Many of the activities in the house had to be ended, and the preparations for the big move have led to an inevitable withdrawal from the public.
However, I arrive here with a lot of energy and dreams, even if, physically, I am diminished by diabetes. I sometimes seem to stagger when I walk and I feel the weight of the years, but I have lost nothing of my inner energy. I also decided—after several years—to leave the cigarettes behind and live fully in the big Rosemont convent, while waiting for the second move to our new house.
As I think about the new beginning that we experience together once we arrive at our new home at 6444 Lescarbot Street, I am encouraged. I thought about the name of the street where this new house is located. One of our brothers made a play on words, of which he speaks in this newsletter, and he speaks of beetles, les escarbots. For me, the name makes me think of snails, les escargots. Perhaps it is prophetic! For at present, we live like snails that move forward but with slow and silent steps, waiting for the arrival of a new day. We are coming out of our pandemic shell! Three years of pandemic have buried us as if in a tomb of fear and death.
On this year’s feast day of our father, St. Francis, before the move to our new residence, let us ask our father Francis to strengthen us, to revitalize us, and to rekindle in our hearts that which animated him and his companions of the early days. Accompanied by all the brothers and sisters of the Franciscan family, with our friends and regular visitors in our convent and chapel from before the pandemic, I want to climb the ladder—l’escabeau—not alone but with all my brothers (Georges Morin, Lionel Chagnon, Roland Desilets, Joseph Powers, Gerry Clyne, Benoit Bahati, Joachim Osterman and Marc Alarie) of the new fraternity to simply and humbly relive the vocation of this fraternity of the Resurrection, which will continue further, but in a new form!
Fr. Aimé Van Thong Do, OFM