Founded in 1954, the CRC`s history is full of vitality and surprising initiatives. For more than 50 years, the CRC has evolved and grown. Witness to the vicissitudes of the modern world, the CRC redefined its mission to promote justice, peace, and respect for human rights and the environment. Here is a brief overview of the marvellous adventure of the CRC.
Birth of the CRC
In 1950, Pope Pius XII invited the superiors general of the world to Rome for the first international congress on religious life. During the congress, Pius XII expressed his desire that religious congregations gather in national religious conferences.
In 1953, the Sacred Congregation for Religious decreed that a national congress for religious would take place in Montreal. The next summer 1,400 women and men religious attended. This was the birth of the Canadian Religious Conference. It goes without saying that CRC has evolved and changed over its 50 plus years. Here is a brief overview of this great adventure of CRC.
1955 – 1961
Since 1955, the CRC has kept in touch with its members through the CRC Bulletin. At the beginning, not everyone was convinced of the necessity of coming together in an association. Religious congregations were not used to working together. The fledgling CRC took on its leadership role through its contribution to reflections on religious life. In 1959, it published the first issue of the Donum Dei collection. The title was Religious Holiness and Apostolic Life. The Donum Dei series, which was published until 1993, was greatly appreciated. In 1961, the CRC was incorporated under the name CON-REL-CAN and its first office, located at 324 Laurier Avenue East in Ottawa, was inaugurated.
Second Vatican Council
The opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962 ushered in a period of great hope and enthusiasm for our Church. However, religious communities, particularly women’s communities, felt that religious life was not adequately addressed.
In October 1964, leaders of women’s communities received an invitation to express their opinions to three women religious auditors. They felt that the renewal of religious life should be founded on returning to the charismatic roots of each religious family.
Commenting on the auditors’ recommendations, Sister Irene Farmer, then superior general of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, wrote: “Instead of merely protecting our wonderful heritage, let us express our willingness to examine the essence of our religious life and to review the traditions, canons, and institutions that contribute to the shaping of religious women.”
The Creation of Regions
On the 10th anniversary of the CRC, the Conference expanded with the creation of four regions: CRC-Atlantic, CRC-Quebec, CRC-Ontario, and CRC-West. Creating regions allowed the CRC to incarnate the missionary spirit of our origins that gave hands and feet to the mission of the CRC, to foster a greater solidarity with local groups and partners, and to become more aware of the richness of our diversity. The emphasis on social justice became a common denominator.
In 2002, CRC members voted to restructure the Conference so as to maintain its prophetic voice and respond to new challenges. At the end of 2002, the CRC closed its four regional offices and moved its national office to Montreal. In January 2003, a new CRC was born and new services were created: Communications, Mission/Formation, Priorités dans les dons and Justice, Peace and Intégrity of Creation (JPIC). Following the General Assembly, which is held every two years, the CRC Administrative Council adopts the Declaration and priorities for action.
In 2010, a new Mission Statement was adopted: The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) is both a voice for and a service to leaders of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. The mission of the CRC is to encourage its members to live fully their vocation in following Christ. The CRC supports its members in their prophetic witness to justice and peace within society and the church. The CRC looks for audacious ways of interpreting faith and life so as to embrace the new vision of the universe.
A souvenir album, Past, Present and Future, was unveiled at the 30th General Assembly of the Canadian Religious Conference, held from May 29 to June 1, 2014, in Montreal. The album features the history of the CRC, in broad strokes, from its founding to the present day. A history of solidarity and mutual support, of engagement in Church and society, a history shaped over the past sixty years through countless celebrations, meetings, activities, publications and statements.
The Past, Present and Future album includes excerpts from archive documents interspersed with the testimonies of men and women religious who were willing to put down in writing what future they imagine for consecrated life. Click here to read some of these testimonies.