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    Jen Boyes-Manseau

Many threads of my life weave together in my interest to serve as a Life-Cycle Celebrant to co-create and officiate ceremonies across the life span with and for individuals, couples, families, and communities.

In my 20’s I studied two of my greatest passions at the time – French and Theatre. My BA in French at the University of British Columbia included one year in Dijon, France where I experienced living in a very different culture and was enriched by many cross-cultural exchanges with international and French students. This sparked a lifelong interest in different cultural practices and traditions and empathy for people who move or migrate to live in cultures different than their own. I also became fluent in a second language and began a life with a foot in two cultures.

In this same period of my life, I hurled myself into the study of Theatre and all that this art form provides as a way to explore human beings, their purpose, and their place in the universe.  Concretely, at the bilingual University of Ottawa, I was trained in performance, script writing, theatre creation and direction – how to shape the movement of bodies, objects, images and words in space to create meaning, and how to reach out to and engage a group of people who have come to be part of an event and moment in time – all skills needed to create theatre and to create and officiate ceremonies.  Through my training in the movement-based pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, I quickly recognized my deep interest in the sacred ritual origins of theatre, and in what Peter Brook calls “Holy Theatre” that seeks to render visible the invisible.

I married in my late 20’s (my husband and I co-created our wedding ceremony, officiated by a Unitarian Minister in a circle in my parent’s back yard in 1989), and thus began the next chapter in which I gave birth to and began raising two daughters and shifted into birthing work. As assistant midwife, doula and prenatal educator I supported women, their partners and families and learned about how to serve both the woman and her partner wishes for the birth of their child.

During this time, I was drawn into ceremonial work as clients or members of the community asked me to co-create and facilitate a variety of ceremonies such Mother Blessing, Entrustment of a child from the biological parents to the adoptive parents, Funeral of a stillborn child, First Blood, Coming of Age, Croning, Home Blessings and the Closure of Community Organizations.  I quickly learned how important it can be to honour and mark both joyous and tender life milestones.

Also, during this time, my husband and I joined the local Unitarian Fellowship to provide ourselves and our children with an inter-generational spiritual community, I served as facilitator of the children programs, and soon was invited to train and serve as a lay Chaplain and officiate Child Dedications, Weddings, Memorials and Celebrations of Life for members and people of the wider community seeking alternative, personalized, interfaith or non-religious yet spiritual ceremonies.

In 2001, my family and I returned to live in Quebec where I worked for the next decade at the Canadian Museum of Civilization as the Artistic Director of the Museum’s in-house theatre company. I honed my skills in leadership, coaching, group facilitation, writing, translating, public speaking as well as the creation of engaged, arts-based learning experiences and meaning making.  During this period, I also co-created and officiated ceremonies across the life span as a freelance Celebrant and became a facilitator of Sacred Circle Dance.

In 2017, I chose to study with the Celebrant Institute and Foundation and completed a rigorous program of study to become a Life-Cycle Celebrant certified in Funerals and Weddings and joined a growing tribe of Celebrants across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia who are dedicated to serving people’s growing interest in personalized, interfaith, intercultural, alternative ceremonies.  In addition, I was ordained as a contemporary spiritual minister with the Canadian International Metaphysical Ministry, and my name now appears on the official list of Wedding Celebrants in the province of Quebec. I also teach the Funerals Course and serve as Quebec Chapter Facilitator for the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. I have a growing interest in Green Burial and the Home Funeral movement. I participated in a Home Funeral Practicum in Wakefield, Quebec in November 2018, and am a member of Community Deathcare Quebec.

One thread is constant. At the root of all my work is a strong desire to reinvent the role of the arts in our lives and to explore its potential to explore the meaning of life, to foster connection, and to encourage transformation. All my training, my professional experience and my spiritual thirst are combined in my calling to empower people to create meaningful ceremonies that mark and celebrate joyous and tender life passages. Together we can adapt traditional ceremonies and create new ones that do not exist in today’s society.