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Retired secretary embraces World Day of Prayer

  • Eleanor Arless looks through her mother's bible in the prayer corner of her home in Pointe Claire.
    Eleanor Arless looks through her mother's bible in the prayer corner of her home in Pointe Claire.
    Photo credit: John Mahoney, The Gazette

Retired Pointe-Claire school secretary Eleanor Arless makes a point of setting aside quiet time each day to reflect on life and draw closer to God.

But even by Arless’s standards, March 1 will be an extraordinarily prayerful day.

After reciting her daily prayers in a special corner of her Pointe-Claire home, Arless plans to pray several more times on Friday at several West Island churches.

The extra effort is for the World Day of Prayer, an international ecumenical event started in 1920 that now unites Christians in 170 countries around the world. Close to 3,000 communities across Canada are expected to participate this year.

In the West Island, St. Veronica’s Parish in Dorval, St. George’s Anglican Church in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Pierrefonds and St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Mission in Pointe-Claire are hosting services.

“The event has evolved beautifully,” said Arless, who retired in 2006 from Pointe-Claire’s Clearpoint Elementary, then Cedar Park and is now a board member of the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada, the organization behind the event in Canada.

She said she ordinarily prays 30 to 40 minutes every morning for family, friends and others in need of God’s love. The international event shifts her focus to the millions of women and children in need of support through prayer around the world.

“It makes me feel that I am embracing a reality greater than my life,” Arless said.

She said what’s special is that people around the world that day follow the same service, written in a different country each year.

This year’s was written by women in France and is titled I was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me. In addition to the Lord’s Prayer and hymns, it includes exchanges of dialogue between French women and immigrant women, among them: Marie-Leone, a Rwandan who escaped to France after her family was massacred, and Irena, who left Ukraine seeking economic opportunity in France only to find she had been sold by her countrymen into a prostitution ring.

Typically, event participants take on the speaking parts, this year, 14 in all. Proceeds go toward organizations supporting immigrant women.

Anglican minister Patricia Yarrow said she expects the service will resonate with members of the diverse congregation at St. Barnabas, where she preaches, as well as parishioners from the United, Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches that will join the event at her church.

Both Yarrow and Arless noted the voices belong to immigrant women who have suffered extreme injustices and, whose stories need to be heard and understood from a women’s perspective.

“You realize you have to help these people,” Arless said, “not only financially but by understanding what their lives are all about.”

The World Prayer Day services are scheduled for Friday at Dorval’s St. Veronica’s Parish at 11 a.m., St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Mission in Pointe-Claire at 1:30 p.m., St. George’s Anglican in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue at 2:30 p.m. and St. Barnabas Anglican Church at 7:30 p.m. in Pierrefonds.

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