Elizabeth Chun describes her experience at Opus Dei’s first conference centre in Canada.
The Manoir de Beaujeu in Montreal is the first conference centre in Canada. I felt very privileged to attend a week long workshop there. From an excerpt on the website you can understand its rich historical significance.
“In 1826, Sir John Simpson had a magnificent stone residence built on land situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, 30 miles west of Montreal. The design of the building was inspired by the French Renaissance style of architecture prevalent in the 18th century. The house overlooks the waters of the St. Lawrence near Coteau-du-Lac. On August 2, 1831, Sir John sold it to Count Jacques-Philippe Saveuse de Beaujeu (1770-1832). This is when the structure took on the name Manoir de Beaujeu. The Foundation for Culture and Education (FCE) purchased the premises on October 28, 1964, as the property’s 20th owner. FCE acquired the Manoir de Beaujeu as a retreat and conference centre”. www.manoirdebeaujeu.ca
The Manoir is a beautiful, old-style mansion situated on the St. Lawrence River. The property is large enough to take long walks. It also features a shrine dedicated to Our Lady. The entire site (not only the house, but also the property) is made for the silent contemplation of God and the beauty of nature.
What were some of the inspiring apostolic projects described in the get togethers?
There were many inspirational apostolic stories shared during my time there. Many of these were of a personal, one-on-one encounter. A nurse shared her story of how she was able to help convert her non-Catholic friend whose mother had asked for euthanasia. Her heartfelt and candid letter to her friend not only changed her mother’s decision regarding euthanasia, but her mother also received the sacrament of baptism ten days before she passed away. Another lady told stories about her friendship with peers at the seniors’ home where she arranges many fun activities for the seniors to enjoy. One project I found memorable was an initiative by a young mother of four who started a mother’s group at her parish that grew from four people to seventy-five. This group supports mothers through doctrine classes that help them grow in their faith, as well as classes on parenting and family matters. Four women who attended the mother’s group are now members of Opus Dei.
Describe some of the inspirational people you met while you were there.
I found many of the candid stories shared by the ladies very inspirational. Hearing their struggles, big or small, their sincere desire to do God’s will, and finding ways to make difficult things work, were all big encouragements for me. There was a lady from Mexico who married and soon after had to move with her husband to a faraway place in Quebec where they run a farm. She has to travel far to go to Mass since there are too few Catholics to have a parish anywhere near her. She also attends formation classes by driving for two hours one-way, whether it’s winter or summer. I remember her especially since her devotion to Our Lady was amazing. She would stop to bow to Our Lady every time she saw an image of her – and virtually every room and hallway of the Manoir has one. I was so moved by her devotion that after I came back to Vancouver, I now also do the same, not to miss my opportunity to give a “Hi” and a smile to Our Mother.
Describe what you got out of attending an event(s) at the Conference Centre.
I found the courses very helpful, and meeting all the other ladies from different parts of Eastern Canada very refreshing. Learning about the different lives that people of faith live, how they deal with things, how they love God was very encouraging and stimulating for me. It certainly made me reflect on my spiritual life. I also expanded my circle of friends as I had previously only attended workshops in Vancouver. Attending a workshop at a conference centre run by members of Opus Dei is definitely a more enriching experience. The environment in which we receive our spiritual formation matters. I saw that a conference centre of the Work really embodied the spirit of the Work, from a tiny detail of thoughtfully placed napkins, frugal yet elegant rooms, to the magnificent oratory. It was wonderful to immerse myself in the means of spiritual formation while staying in a place that inspires me to think about that even more. After this visit, I could see better why we need a conference centre in Vancouver.
Have others been positively affected by your spiritual growth at the conference centre?
After coming back from my workshop at the Manoir, my colleagues said that my face was glowing. I also shared what I learned with some of them: striving for holiness through professional work and the importance of helping each other to be the best versions of ourselves.
For more pictures visit http://www.manoirdebeaujeu.ca/h/Manoir/Photos/index.php/