Established in Saskatoon in 1986, Discernment House provides an experience of community, prayer and spiritual growth to young women who come to live with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. (Photo by Sister Lucie Hamel, PM)
SASKATOON — At Discernment House, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary offer a unique housing and faith experience to young women seeking a place to live while studying or working in Saskatoon.
“The living, eating, praying, working, playing together is a mutually enriching experience,” says Sister Cindy Lewans, PM. “This is all within a home, a house of hospitality.”
Sister Lucie Hamel, PM, adds: “Sharing our home and our lives with young women is a huge blessing for us. Each year the young women bring a newness to our community life and as we live and pray together, we challenge each other to ever fresher ways of responding to the challenges of living the gospel values.”
Located near the University of Saskatchewan, Discernment House becomes home every fall for a new group of young women who are seeking affordable rent, an experience of community, a homey atmosphere, and opportunities for faith growth through prayer, reflection, spiritual direction and service.
“Discernment House is first of all a community, companions on the journey of faith in Christ,” stresses Lewans.
“Weekday mornings begin with lauds and mass, shared not only with those who live within the house but also people from the city. We are nourished by the eucharist and the community which gathers, and a bond has grown over the years. Weekly community meetings give us the chance to pray with the Word, to build community, and offer a chance to help each other, (and) to laugh,” she says.
Ongoing spiritual direction is also offered to the young women who come to live at Discernment House, notes Hamel. This is “an opportunity to savour one’s experience of God’s love in a unique way. It is a privileged space for reflection, for growing in awareness of one’s deeper identity.” She describes spiritual direction as a “path to greater peace and freedom” that helps to “carry one’s experience of grace, of the divine, into all of life.”
Tram Nguyen, an international student from Vietnam who is working on her masters in educational administration, said she appreciates the spiritual benefits of living with the sisters at Discernment House.
“On my journey with God, which is by far reinforced by the Sisters of The Presentation of Mary, I find myself listening to God more,” says Tram, who is in her second year at Discernment House. “Now I know how to pray with the scriptures. I am starting to have my favourite gospels, as I feel like Scripture speaks directly to me. This is my very new experience that I never thought I would have.”
Community life at Discernment House has also made a big difference to Tram. “As an international student living far away from home, the Discernment House is truly my warm shelter, where I have a community living experience. We share our thoughts and concerns, enjoy tasty home-made meals all together, exchange gifts at Christmas, celebrate Thanksgiving and Easter, tell jokes, have fun, discuss the Gospels, share our living experience with God, and pray for people and for one another.”
She adds: “Many of my external and internal challenges are overcome thanks to my strong spirit fostered by prayer life in this house.”
Another student from Vietnam, Nhi Nguyen, is living at Discernment House while she studies English. “I came in September and I’m so happy and comfortable living here at Discernment house. We share our lives and work together everyday,” says Nhi.
“When I have some troubles in my life, I can share with them. Especially, one of the sisters helps me to study English so much. She is always willing to help me whenever I ask. The food here is so good — I really like the cookies and cakes, which the sisters bake. Sometimes we have parties and play games together,” she says. “For me, the highlights are that sisters always pray — they care about me and my family.”
Discernment House is also the location for other programs and retreats, including Advent and lenten retreats for groups such as Time Out For Moms and for Presentation of Mary associates, says Hamel. “These days offer precious moments away from busy active lives to pray, to share with each other, to be energized on our spiritual journeys.”
Weekend discernment retreats are also regularly offered “to young men and women who are searching to grow in their awareness of God’s action in their lives,” adds Sister Vivianne Gareau, PM. For example, “one retreat gives time and guided reflection on one’s personal stories, and how God is calling us to move forward.”
Testimonies from weekend participants illustrate the impact of the discernment retreats. One writes that it was “an energizing experience of faith and community,” while another says “the retreat showed me where I am at and gave me a direction forward.” Another states: “I experienced healing and peace.”
The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary are now taking applications to the Discernment House live-in program for the fall of 2017. For more information contact: Sister Lucie Hamel, PM, at (306) 244-0726 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see the website at www.presentationofmary.ca