Diocese Has Heart for SSJD’s Ministry

 on December 5, 2023

“This gift means a great deal to us, and it will give the sisters a big boost of energy in completing this campaign,” wrote Sister Constance (Connie) Joanna Gefvert.

Synod Council approved a $30,000 contribution to the ‘Home for the Heart’ capital campaign of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (SSJD) in support of their $4 million capital campaign to renovate and upgrade their Guest House. A ministry of the sisters, the Guest House offers a sacred and tranquil place in Toronto where people can come, stay, and be renewed for their vocations. The sisters will contribute an additional $2 million toward the project from their endowment fund.

“Many people from across our diocese will have received the gift of hospitality and spiritual refreshment in the Guest House at St. John’s Convent,” observed Bishop Susan Bell. “This community creates a space for so many of our clergy and lay leaders to deepen their faith while attending retreats or workshops.”

The convent and its retreat house serve as a spiritual home and primary retreat centre for Anglicans across Canada.

“[They] are a unique gift to the church and the world, especially in a time when we need places of refuge, rest and renewal in order to face the uncertainties of our times,” wrote Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate, in a letter of support for the campaign.

In addition to being a space for spiritual retreats and workshops, the Guest House is also open to family members of patients at the nearby St. John Rehab, hospital staff overnight during storms, refugee families, and others who need temporary accommodation.

While the building, constructed in 1956, has received loving care over the years, it also needs significant work. Plans for the renovation include the replacement of its roof, boilers, HVAC systems, and windows, as well as accessibility upgrades to its washrooms, meeting spaces, and entrance.

“The re-design of the Guest House is intended to reflect the openness of our hearts in receiving our guests, helping them to settle in, and prayerfully accompanying them throughout their stay,” says Sister Connie.

The diocese’s gift will help renovate and furnish a spiritual direction room for retreatants, as well as an additional meeting room for workshops.

SSJD traces its roots back to 1884, when Hannah Grier Coome, made her vows to the Bishop of Toronto, along with two other novices. Soon after the sisters had opened a hospital, a home for the aged, and a mission house. Today, the sisters continue to reach out in teaching, healing, caring, and loving the people who arrive at their doorstep.

To learn more about the Home for the Heart Campaign, or the ministry of the sisters, visit ssjd.ca.

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