An online welcoming

Our second Easter apart.

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, an Anglican convent in East Toronto, lost its three major ministries: our ministry of being a praying presence in Victoria, B.C.; our ministry of hosting quiet days and retreats in our guest house in Toronto; and our ministry of spiritual care at St. John’s Rehab, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

We were 26 people living together in this convent and so formed our own bubble. However, we still needed to establish new patterns of behaviour; for example, sitting farther apart both in chapel and the refectory and being even more diligent about washing our hands before going to the buffet. One of our sisters made hundreds of cloth masks for sisters and staff to wear.

Pre-pandemic, we had the Eucharist six times a week and enjoyed the privilege of having many clergy in the Diocese of Toronto come to preside in our chapel. That ended with the lockdown. However, we are very fortunate to have one sister who is also a priest, though it’s a lot of preaching for one sister so many of us have taken up the challenge to ease her load.

Our personal retreats, workshops and spiritual direction are open to everyone and have always been popular, and have become even more so over the last year. Some of our retreat leaders now lead events on Zoom and more courses have been added to our “Food for the Soul” programming. Spiritual direction also happens online. It seems as if all of us are learning new skills!

Perhaps our most exciting new program is Companions Online. This 11-month program, beginning in June 2021, is for women who would like to cultivate a life of prayer and spiritual community in the midst of family, study or career responsibilities. We’re hoping it will be a welcome respite for those who are overwhelmed amidst COVID-19 isolation and confusion.

The past year has been a challenging time to be sure, but it has also brought us many blessings.

Read the other stories of our second Easter apart:


  • Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas

    Sister Elizabeth is Reverend Mother at the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, Toronto. She entered the community in 1997 after two years of teaching in Japan and 26 years of teaching high school in Vancouver, B.C. Visit ssjd.ca for more on their programs.

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