Sister Doreen McGuff is a member of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.
The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine is a contemporary expression of the religious life for women within the Anglican Church of Canada. We were founded in Toronto in 1884. We are a prayer-and-gospel centred monastic community, bound together by the call to a vowed life in intentional community. Nurtured by our founding vision of prayer, community and service, we are open and responsive to the needs of the Church and the contemporary world, continually seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry.
Called to be a sign of Christ, the Sisterhood witnesses to the power of God’s reconciling and forgiving love through the gospel imperatives of prayer, hospitality, spiritual direction, ministering to those in need, working for justice and peace, reverence for the whole creation, and promoting unity, healing and wholeness. Through our prayer and spirituality, outreach to others, pastoral and spiritual care, community life and stewardship, we are celebrating 138 years of prayer, love and service.
Having entered the Community in 1965, I have had a variety of jobs in nearly every area of our life. At present I am the director of western and overseas Associates and also fundraising. I am also on the Reverend Mother’s council.
The present work that I am doing provides deep joy and pleasure. The Associates are men and women who have joined us as part of our extended family following Jesus in a life of love, prayer and service. Keeping in touch with these committed men and women, lay and ordained, as they seek to deepen their spiritual life through following a rule of life, is for me a blessing and a joy. I write individual and general letters, prepare quiet days for Associates, and share weekly reflections with them and on our website. COVID-19 provided a challenge of learning to use Zoom to reach out, and it gave me, and continues to give me, the opportunity to reach out to many more Associates than ever before. I have been able to meet so many people and have seen how this opportunity enables folks from across western Canada (Manitoba to British Columbia), the western United States and overseas to share together and meet each other. It has been a means of deepening bonds across the distances.
The best thing about being a Sister is being able to answer the call to give my whole self to God in prayer and service within this intentional community of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, which I love and which is my joy. The most challenging thing about being a Sister is living within this intentional community of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, which I love and which is my joy, and learning to live together with differences
My father, Bruce, and my mother, Winne, were born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My father worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and so he was moved around quite a bit during my lifetime. I was born in Verdun, Quebec during World War Two. We moved nearly every four to five years, first to Winnipeg, then Calgary, then Medicine Hat and finally to Vancouver, where I went to university.
What led me to become a Sister with SSJD? When I was about eight years old, the family living in Calgary, our parish church of St. Barnabas invited a Sister to speak to the Sunday School class. What I saw and heard was someone who had given their whole life to God, and that made a profound impression upon me. I told my parents that I knew what I wanted to be, someone who gave their whole life to God! I really only knew the mystery of that, not what it really meant, until we moved to Medicine Hat and in high school. Our parish church of St. Barnabas, being involved in Guides and then Rangers, and surrounded by wonderful role models and Associates of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, I began to understand that giving my whole life to God might be a call to the religious life. I had my own dreams as well – to teach school, to marry and have children, and so was involved in many activities throughout high school and university, but always there was this inner call to give my whole life to God. After graduating from university in May 1965, I visited the convent in Toronto for the first time and knew that I had come home to the place where I could answer God’s call to give my whole life to God.
Five years from now, I would really like to be doing much the same as I am doing now – a life of prayer and service within this community in whatever way God seems to be calling me and us. Here is my greatest joy!
I have many favourite passages, but I think that at present my most favourite are Luke 1:28, 30 and 37 in The Message translation of scripture. I believe that we, throughout our lives, are confronted with many annunciation events; God has surprises for us throughout our lives.