In December last year, students in Year 5 & 6 spent time writing holiday cards in French to people who could not be with their loved ones over the Christmas Period. These cards were then sent all the way to Montfort Hospital in Canada. Brookside College recently received a heartwarming reply from the hospital sharing photos and messages of thanks from the patients along with a copy of a news article recently published in the local newspaper. You can read a translated copy of the newspaper article below. The link to the original article in French can be found at:


Love From Afar

Denis Gratton
Le Droit Newspaper – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Twenty years ago, every December, I would receive a hundred Christmas cards while working for the Le Droit newspaper. This year, I received only four. I take this opportunity to thank Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson, Mr. Ronald Caza, the MP for Hull, Maryse Gaudreault, and the communications team of the Montfort Hospital for their holiday cards. Thank you for thinking of me.

A Christmas card is a little bit like that isn’t it. It’s a thought for someone. A smile sent by the post office. A wink of friendship that warms the heart. And it’s 100 times more heart-warming than a virtual card.

A hundred young Australians understood that.

Have I confused you dear readers? What role do young people from the land down under play in this story? I’ll explain.

Erin Ritchie is Canadian. And for the last few years, this lady has been teaching French at Brookside College in Caroline Springs, about 20 miles from Melbourne, Australia. This school in kangaroo country welcomes students from kindergarten to grade 9.

This year, Ms. Ritchie invited students from grades 5 and 6 to write a holiday card in French to send to people who cannot be with their loved ones during the holidays.

Who will receive these Christmas wishes? Because there are not thousands of Francophones in Australia, as far as I know.

Let me remind you that Ms. Ritchie is a Canadian teacher. I presume she was here in Ontario about twenty years ago when the Montfort Hospital made regional and national headlines daily. At that time, Montfort struggled for survival as it stood up to the Ontario government to remain a French-language hospital.

Ms. Ritchie will be remembered in this historic struggle of Franco-Ontarians by choosing Montfort as the hospital to send her student’s Christmas cards. (I presume all this, please note, because it was impossible to contact Ms. Ritchie this week. Australians start their summer vacation in early January – lucky ones – and the school in question is closed until end of January.)

Ms. Ritchie contacted the Montfort Hospital’s management a few weeks ago, and last Wednesday, 115 Christmas cards, all unique and different, were distributed to the patients.

Lise Savoie is hospitalized in Montfort. As a retired teacher, she was delighted to receive a card from a student named Jennifer. This is what Jennifer wrote to her:

” Happy Holidays !

I wish you lots of happiness. I hope you will feel better soon. What falls from the North Pole and never gets hurt? The snow. Goodbye !

From Jennifer, I’m from Melbourne, Australia. ”

What a great sense of humour shown by Jennifer. Ms Savoie had a good laugh. “It makes me so happy to receive this card,” she said. “It made my day”, she added with a broad smile. Ms. Savoie asked for Ms. Ritchie’s contact information so that she can personally thank this young Jennifer who has warmed her heart from the other side of the world.

“Many patients who received a card want to respond to these students,” says Jacinthe McPartland, Spiritual Services Advisor at Montfort Hospital. “They were very touched by this gesture by the students in Australia”. Patients smiled while reading their card, some even shed a tear. For instance, a woman who was visiting her very sick husband said she cried thinking that these children from Australia only want the best for him and wish him health. “It’s a beautiful gesture that these students have done. They cheered up a lot of people. ”

It remains to be seen whether this exchange between this Australian school and Montfort Hospital will become a holiday tradition. It would be beautiful.

It’s such a wonderful gesture, a simple card, a simple smile, a simple “I’m thinking of you”.