Africa, Asia, North America

Sister Jeanne Davidson

“Wherever divine providence calls me there I am most ready to go.” 

- Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, foundress, School Sisters of Notre Dame

 

Living in community with the native peoples of Peace River, Sister Mary Jeanne Davidson (right) has been invited into their ceremonies and grown in deeper understanding of their culture and traditions.

 

Making joys, struggles of First Nation People her own

"When asked by Sister Delia Calis, SSND, and my provincial council to open a mission in northern Alberta in the Diocese of Grouard-McLennan, Canada, to work with Aboriginal People, I was overjoyed! Sisters Eileen Pautler, Louise Vanderploeg and I arrived in Peace River in August 2002 to form community together. Sister Eileen would visit the sick and elderly in the parish; Sister Louise would work with Sister Georgette Payeru, a Holy Cross Sister in Lay Formation, and I would begin walking with Aboriginal People!

"In these past 12 years I have been making the hopes and joys, struggles and anxieties of First Nation People my own. For me, solidarity has meant making a deliberate choice to enter into the world of the Cree Nation in Little Buffalo and Duncan First Nation Reserve, as well as befriending native families in Peace River who have been left on the margins of society. I have shared with them in a significant way their poverty, human struggle, spiritual needs, search for healing and reconciliation, and efforts to live a more human life."

Bearer of hope and presence of Jesus

"I have supported band and council in their untiring efforts to have their land claim settled and improve the third-world living conditions of their communities. The people are searching for self-governance and a sustainable future. As I work and minister among them, I have become a bearer of hope and presence of Jesus. 

"Over the past 12 years, a deep bond of trust has been built up and I have been welcomed in every home. I have become a presence of Church to the people who invite me to participate in their native ceremonies – pipe ceremony, tea dance and round dances. These experiences have opened my heart to the depth of love and presence of the Creator in prayer in the midst of his people. 

"I have experienced a real oneness with the people with God and with all of creation. Preparations for the sacraments and celebrations of the Word have all included elements of native spirituality, for example, smudging, prayer in the four directions, blessing with the eagle feather, baptismal candles with ribbons in the colors of the Cree Nation. 

"As I have been invited into their ceremonies and grow in deeper understanding of their culture and traditions, I have been led into new depths of meaning of solidarity and new ways of being in mission and evangelizing. When visiting the people in their homes, we always light a candle and open the scriptures before I leave. This ritual has become a very sacred time of openness when the people have often poured out their hearts and their struggles."

 
Living in community with the native peoples of Peace River, Sister Mary Jeanne Davidson (right) has been invited into their ceremonies and grown in deeper understanding of their culture and traditions.   Sister Mary Jeanne Davidson assists with preparation for the sacraments, including baptisms, and incorporates elements of native spirituality.

 

Accepting responsibility for Earth and her people

"The SSND Call to Solidarity urges me to accept responsibility for the Earth and her people. I do this concretely through Amnesty International and their documentary, “Our Land, My People,” which tells the story of the struggle of the Lubicon Nation to protect their land and save it from toxic waste and the ravages of logging. And I also listen deeply and have written letters to the Alberta Utilities to urge dialogue with the Lubicon Nation over TransCanada’s plan to build a jumbo pipeline through Lubicon Land. My ministry has included organizing along with members of the Aboriginal Interagency and a 60 kilometer walk to raise awareness of the lack of water and third-world living conditions in Little Buffalo.

"Healing and reconciliation from wounds of the past and painful memories of residential school abuses are weekly encounters and healing among the people. In my Call to be a Transformative Educator, I ground my ministry in the Gospel and infuse it with the spirit of Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND foundress. Wherever possible I teach the people through example. When children in poor families struggle in school, I teach them informally at home, helping them to read and sound through words. It is a joy to see their enthusiasm for learning grow and begin to see a transformation of their world begin to happen."

- Sister Mary Jeanne Davidson, SSND

Transforming the world through education