The world converges on Daly Avenue
Walk into the kitchen at the SCJs’ house on Daly Avenue in Ottawa and you can literally taste the international flavor of the community. One evening it is chicken filled with Indonesian spices. But on another night it could be food from Cameroon, Congo, the Philippines or Holland. The cupboards have the usual staples of flour and sugar, but all come marked in bilingual containers of French and English, the official languages of Canada.
The Canadian Region’s Dehon House has long been an international one. Even residents who hold Canadian citizenship are often naturalized citizens, transplants who have adopted Canada as their home.
Many of the community’s members have, and continue to be, SCJ students from around the world. Often they come for post-graduate studies in theology or scripture at St. Paul University. Some have studied canon law.
The newest SCJ to the Daly community is Fr. Yves Leopold Keumeni, a member of the Cameroon Province. In 2010 Fr. Yves graduated with a master’s degree in Semitic and Egyptian languages from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Now in Ottawa, he is just beginning work toward a doctorate in scripture at St. Paul University. “We need more professors in Cameroon,” he said when asked about his studies. “We need more African professors in all of Africa. That’s why I am here. ”
And while Fr. Yves is just beginning his doctoral work, Fr. Gustave N’dotoni Lulendo of Congo is nearing the end of his. He arrived in Ottawa in 2008 to first earn a master’s degree from St. Paul. He has remained in Canada for his doctoral studies.
Br. Yohanes Sismadi is an Indonesian SCJ who spent ten years as a missionary in the Philippines, as well as a year in India. He is now in Ottawa for a sabbatical program, also administered through St. Paul University.
“Not many people from tropical countries decide to do their sabbatical in a Canadian winter,” teased Fr. Herman Falke, who along with Fr. Peter Sanders, are members of the Canadian Region .
Retired, Fr. Herman is often found in his basement art studio. In February, much of that studio time has been devoted to developing a wood sculpture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The piece is being done at the request of OLG Houston’s pastor, Fr. Ed Kilianski, in honor of the parish’s 100th anniversary. The sculpture will hang in the church when parishioners celebrate their jubilee Mass on August 18.
Fr. Peter is also retired but still active at St. Paul University, where he continues to teach. He also serves on the Ottawa Catholic School Board, and remains active on the ice, playing in a weekly curling league whose ranks are filled with Catholic educators.
An SCJ house is always home
Getting back to Fr. Herman’s teasing comment, why would someone used to tropical temperatures choose Ottawa in winter for a place of renewal?
“I am not sure if I like the cold,” said Br. Yohanes, bundled up in a hand-me-down coat from a previous member of the Daly community. “But overall, I like it here.”
“I came because I want to know the congregation; I want to know other realities,” said Br. Yohanes. “I came here because it is not only a place for me to learn about SCJs in Canada, but about SCJs from Cameroon, Congo and many other places.
“I came here because it is home. I am an SCJ and wherever there is an SCJ house, that too is home.”