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Unlike any other place

Women’s spaces offer new perspectives and renewal

By Carolyn Pogue

I need a women’s space — one that rests in the feminine. I need this because most of the globe continues to careen out of balance, and going to women’s spaces helps me to see the world through different lenses. It helps me to remember who I am. This summer, I visited two such spaces in Calgary.

The first visit was occasioned when an old friend from Yellowknife came to Calgary. When Sandra left the North, she returned to the U.K. and there converted to Catholicism. I wanted to take her out during a beautiful afternoon to honour her new-found spirituality. The FCJ Centre (Faithful Companions of Jesus) seemed the perfect choice. 

The Centre is a welcoming, old, sandstone building surrounded by beautiful grounds, an outdoor labyrinth and a grotto. It's situated in downtown Calgary, on the banks of the Elbow River. My husband, Bill, and I have gone there often for ecumenical and interfaith events, women’s retreats and workshops, as well as worship with a L’Arche Community. It was first established as a convent school in 1885 by Mother Mary Green. Then, Calgary was in its infancy and still part of the Northwest Territories. 

A few years ago, it struck me powerfully that this place was — and always had been — a place of women. We go there with our wounds and gifts as mentors, teachers, students, friends and seekers. Men come too, of course, but they know they're coming to a place of women. In fact, there aren't many places like this in our world today. So it turned out to be the perfect place for Sandra.

We toured the Centre, met the director and learned history and hopes for the future. Afterward, we walked through the labyrinth and visited the grotto. This is a garden monument of stones that includes an alcove in which stands Mary, the mother of Jesus. In silence, we sat on benches in the sunshine and began to sketch (I’m not an accomplished artist, but sketching helps me to see.). We drew the grotto, Mary, flowers and rocks before stepping back to view what we’d done. Then suddenly, Sandra exclaimed, “Oh! Mother Mary is embraced by Mother Earth!” And so she was. Certainly, that afternoon will warm me in the coming winter months.

The other space I entered was at the University of Calgary. The Native Centre here opens its Red Lodge to students, their children, staff and the community for The Cree Grandmother’s Tea Ceremony. Kerrie Moore and Cheryle GreyEyes Chagnon host this two-hour oasis of peace every month during the school year. We drank Prairie tea and joined a sharing circle, where women offered teachings from their own traditions. For me, this was a time out of time, and I left with gratitude for such generosity. This, too, will carry me through when the cold and winter darkness descend. 

I celebrate these sacred spaces and wish more men had their own, too. After all, winters can be long and harsh.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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