Monette celebrates golden jubilee

By Francine Audy

SASKATOON — Sister Jocelyn Monette, NDS, recently celebrated 50 years of religious life as a professed member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion.

Born in Gravelbourg and raised in rural Saskatchewan, Monette’s journey through religious life began gradually. While attending Aden Bowman Collegiate and Sion Academy, she was very involved in athletics. Then one day Sister Ellen asked her, “Why don’t you become a nun?”

At her graduation, Monette told her mother, “I am entering; I will try it.” When asked why she wanted to join Sion, Monette answered: “I want to become holy.”

Monette joined the novitiate in 1962 and pronounced her final vows in 1964. The Sisters of Sion is an order whose primary mission is fostering Jewish-Christian relations. The Sion order includes priests, contemplatives, active sisters, associates and friends.

Monette attended Teacher’s College in Saskatoon (1964-65) and received her bachelor of physical education in Edmonton in 1970, one of the first two nuns in Canada to receive this degree. She obtained her bachelor of education in Saskatoon (1972) and her masters of religious education in Toronto (1984).

Monette has lived and worked in Saskatoon, Calgary, Toronto, Rome, and Jerusalem. From 1967-72, she taught French, religion and physical education at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. This was followed by a one-year sabbatical in Jerusalem. From 1973-74 she taught at Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary.

During her three years in Rome at Sion’s international headquarters, Monette worked as a secretary and English/French translator. She learned some Italian and helped pilgrims who visited Rome. She also used that time to hike and drive throughout Europe.

From 1977-82, Monette lived in Jerusalem. While working there, she managed a gift shop at the Ecce Homo site. “This exposed me to a wide variety of business and tradespeople in Israel.”

Monette has served as the executive director of the Catholic Biblical Association of Canada (1985 to the present). She has organized a three-year biblical spirituality program, lecture series and children’s Bible camps.

Monette has led Bible study workshops, facilitated parish missions, retreats and has escorted over 100 pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other biblical lands. She is also editor of a journal of biblical reflection, Word Is Life. While in Toronto, Monette served on a Holocaust Education Committee, the Canadian Bible Society Board and the ecumenical and interfaith commission for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

During the first Gulf War (1991), Monette, with four other Catholics, six Jewish participants, and 13 United Church ministers went on a week-long solidarity mission to Israel. A ceasefire was declared on the last day of their visit.

In 2009 Monette received an award from the Israel Ministry of Tourism, as “an ambassador of goodwill for tourism and recognized as a true friend of Israel for her continuing devotion and unwavering commitment to promoting pilgrimage tours to the Holy Land.”

Asked how she keeps her prayer life vibrant, Monette replied, “It has always been a challenge!”

For Monette, God is the creator, the parent (father and mother), judge, shepherd and so many names in Hebrew. Monette said, “God is all loving, all merciful, faithful — just awesome.” She adds that she also experiences God through her great love of nature.

Monette has also experienced hardship. Her parents and two siblings have died, and she herself has survived colon cancer and liver cancer. “I believe in miracles; I have seen physical, emotional, mental and spiritual miracles,” Monette affirmed. “My near-death experiences have made me freer than I have ever been in my life.”

At this moment in life, Monette gives God all the praise and glory because she has been so blessed. “I have planted many seeds in my life and am very grateful to Sion, family and friends who have journeyed with me.”

For those who feel God’s call to religious life, Monette said: “Take time to discern; gather information and investigate the many available options.” As Frederick Buechner wrote: “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”

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